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Dublin, Ireland

The Proclamation Sculpture

A particularly disconcerting tribute to Irish martyrs. 

It has been argued that no one remembers like the Irish, and this startlingly morbid memorial sculpture located across the street from one of Ireland’s most infamous prisons definitely lends to that claim.

Proclamation” by Rowan Gillespie is a permanent outdoor sculpture honoring the leaders of the Easter Rising, and the authors of the Irish proclamation of Independence.  It stands solemnly across the street from the notorious Kilmainham Gaol where the proclamation scribes were executed in 1916.

It features abstract and faceless bronze statues standing in a circle around a pillar, the words of their proclamation engraved into the metal. These eerily blindfolded statues each have an execution order or a verdict carved into their base, and their torsos are riddled with holes to represent where they were hit by the firing squad. Each torso has a different bullet pattern, which is one of the only varying characteristics of the figures.

Rowan Gillespie is known for his startling sculptures. Another of his most famous works in Dublin is the equally disturbing and widely photographed Famine Memorial. He is greatly inspired by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch and that influence can be seen in many of his pieces, though perhaps it is most apparent in the abstract and almost alien nature of Proclamation.

These statues have no names, faces or limbs. They are meant to represent the rebel leaders who were the seven signatories on the Proclamation. There are fourteen figures in total and the other seven were donated to the piece by the artist himself in honor of the total number of executions involving the rising and in memory of his grandfather James Creed Meredith.

The disturbing figures stand in front of the courthouse where Meredith presided as a judge for many years. In a coincidental irony, it is nearly impossible to photograph this sculpture without either the courthouse or the jail where the executions took place in the background.