If the events of Dublin's rebel past were transported to the modern capital, the result would have a Flann O'Brien touch of the surreal. The Irish Volunteers would be ensconced in the Ambassador cinema, which is now a gig venue; the 1916 leaders fleeing the GPO would emerge from the Swarovski crystal shop on Henry Street; and Cathal Brugha would be shot coming out of Burger King on O'Connell Street.
While walking tours might be seen as one of the naffest of summer pursuits, a tour of 'Rebel Dublin', as mapped by Sinn Féin, has an edge to it. Departing from the Sinn Féin bookshop on Parnell Square, the walk costs €5 and sets out to show how many of the north city's streets and buildings figured prominently in republican history.
The tour lasts two hours, taking in the square, O'Connell Street and lanes connecting to Moore Street. A quote on the leaflet, allegedly from someone called Tony Blair, reads: "Don't go on this tour. It attracts the wrong sort of people". This may be fictitious. But the leaflet's subheading, 'Dublin: the City that fought an Empire', has resonance. Attention President Sarkozy! We looked around but the visiting French premier was elsewhere.
My guide for the day (I am the sole tourist) is Pádraig from the Sinn Féin office. He says the tours attract city dwellers and tourists from America, Australia, Germany and England. There are, he explains, three versions of Irish history: Irish, British and revisionist. Usually people have a grasp of one of the first two. Safe to say we will not be getting the third version on this tour.
First up on the rebel map, on what was formerly Rutland Square, is number 41, where the Nationalist Foresters used a back room for training pre-1916. Number 44, Kevin Barry Memorial Hall, is now Sinn Féin head office. Number 46 is where the Gaelic League was formed in 1893.
Michael Collins, riding around the city on his bike with a price on his head, is the ideal subject for tall tales. And maybe he wasn't such a Big Fellow either, as he was able to squeeze through the skylight of number 29 Parnell Square to escape British soldiers on the night before Bloody Sunday, 1920.
This Georgian building, and the adjoining two houses at Granby Row, is the site of the former Vaughan's Hotel where Collins and his 'Squad' regularly met during the War of Independence. An underground tunnel runs from No 29 across the square to another Collins safe house at Cavendish Row, we're told. At Nos 26 and 27, which became Coláiste Mhuire, the 'Supreme Council' of the IRB fixed the date for the Easter Rising. Just off the square is Gardiner Row, with a plaque marking No 6 as the Dublin IRA headquarters 1919-1921. The Garden of Remembrance, opened in 1966, marks the spot where the 1916 leaders were held before being brought to Kilmainham Gaol.
Political diversity marks this side of the square: No 10a is the former headquarters of the Orange Order; No 5 is where Eoin O'Duffy founded the Blueshirts. Near the Ambassador is a monument marking the foundation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913. Back in 1922, the block of buildings that include the Hammam at O'Connell Street was taken over by anti-Treaty republicans and a plaque marks the one from which Cathal Brugha emerged to meet his fate.
The GPO is where our tour is finally pitched into the fighting, although now it's an armada of Spanish students blocking the entrance. From there, it's around the corner into Henry Street. Just behind a stallholder is Henry Place, down which the leaders fled from the burning GPO and towards 16 Moore Street. The O'Rahilly gave his name to O'Rahilly Parade here. The spot where he was shot is marked by a plaque with the words of his dying note to his wife Annie.
The two-hour walk passes surprisingly quickly. As this is a republican tour, there is the Ronseal effect to consider, and it certainly does what it says on the tin. Burger King will never look quite the same again...
The tour of Rebel Dublin departs 11.30am from Sinn Féin Bookshop, Parnell Square
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