Kilmainham Gaol was a working and silent prison that housed men, women, and children, and was in operation from from 1787 until 1924.
The youngest child imprisoned at Kilmainham was believed to have been just seven years old. In the years of the harshest famines, people would intentionally break the law to enter the Gaol, in the hope that they would be fed while incarcerated, which led to severe overcrowding.
Women and children were forced to sleep on the floor in the corridors with no blankets while men were squeezed into cells that held up to five people at a time.
Kilmainham Gaol became notorious for its rebel prisoners. Irish Nationalists were sent in great numbers to the prison and almost every Irish Republican leader had been housed within its walls at one time or another, during its years of operation.
Many were executed there as well.
In 1916, during an event called the Easter Rising, Irish republican rebels took over the General Post Office and other locations in the heart of Dublin to protest being ruled by the British.
They held their positions for six days before surrendering. When they did surrender, the leaders were sent to Kilmainham Gaol. Once there, they were tried in secret, found guilty, and executed by firing squad in the yard.
All seven signatories on the Proclamation of Independence were shot at Kilmainham, including one who had just been married in the prison chapel and another who had to be tied to a chair due to his injuries.
But the executions, intended to quell the nationalist uprising, had the opposite effect. A movement that had before been the interest of only a few gained momentum and strength as word spread about these martyr-like executions, eventually leading to independence for the majority of Ireland just a few years later.