Dublin’s Shawshank Redemption

Big Gay Al does his best Andy Dufresne impression at Kilmainham Gaol.

Big Al does his best Andy Dufresne impression at Kilmainham Gaol.

Before we embarked on hair-of-the-dog at the Guinness Storehouse, Big Al and I began our last day in Dublin visiting Kilmainham Gaol, visible across the road from our hotel window.

In the process of checking out from the hotel, I managed to drop my camera and as a result spent much of the tour round the gaol trying to listen to the guide while unsuccessfully attempting to unscrew the protective filter lens on my camera that had shattered.

Having once visited San Francisco’s Alcatraz, I recognised the bleak and foreboding interior which once had over 9,000 inmates crammed into only 100-odd cells during the potato famine of 1845-1850, because people had a better chance of survival if locked up for a petty crime–such as stealing a loaf of bread—and thereby gaining access to relative sustenance and hygiene.

At the tour’s conclusion we were shown the bleak courtyard surrounded by 30-foot-high walls where the 14 leaders of the Easter Rising were shot. One of them was still injured and had to be carried in on a stretcher and strapped upright to be shot—not Britain’s finest moment. (Though at least we no longer execute people, unlike the U.S. In 2011, the State of Texas executed 13 people out of 43 nationwide.)

Kilmainham closed in 1924 but was used to film “In the Name of the Father” (1993), starring Daniel Day-Lewis as one of the Guildford Four, four people falsely convicted of the IRA’s Guildford pub bombing in 1974.

We departed the prison with Ireland’s tricolour flag flying behind us: green symbolising Irish Catholics and the republican cause, orange symbolising Irish Protestants, and white symbolising peace between the different factions.

Nice sentiment, shame about the reality. Listen carefully enough and you can hear the ghostly cackle of incredulous laughter from deep within Kilmainham’s empty cells.