Republic’s first non-denominational cemetery reopens

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales ahead of a wreath laying ceremony at Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, last week.
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales ahead of a wreath laying ceremony at Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, last week.

The Republic of Ireland’s first non-denominational cemetery has reopened after nearly a century and a half.

The “garden” graveyard at Goldenbridge was founded by Catholic emancipator Daniel O’Connell in 1828 and welcomed those of all religions and none following the restrictions of the Penal Laws.

It was closed 40 years later after a dispute with the British military authorities which operated at nearby Richmond Barracks but reopened on Sunday to mark the 170th anniversary of O’Connell’s death.

John Green, chairman of organisers the Glasnevin Trust, said he was gladdened.

“A hundred and eighty nine years on from the first burial and 148 years since its ‘closure’, the Trust sees a renewed role for the cemetery.

“Not only will it be open to new burials, but the cemetery is inextricably linked with the local community’s efforts to revitalise the area.”

Unlike churchyards, garden cemeteries were independent of a parish church and were located outside the city in what were then quiet suburbs. These cemeteries became known as garden cemeteries.

Set on two acres of land, Goldenbridge incorporates many of the classical features that were to dominate the 19th century. Its delineated pathways and high walls create an oasis of tranquillity in what is now the heart of a busy suburb. according to the Trust.

From the time of the Reformation, Catholics were not permitted to have any cemeteries of their own.

Controversy over the restriction involved O’Connell, who succeeded in establishing a cemetery open to all religions and none.

Following a dispute with the British War Office it was finally agreed that Goldenbridge would remain open to burials for those who already had plots but would close to new burials.

Burials have continued at a slower rate since then and today Goldenbridge holds the graves of many historically significant figures

Among those buried there are WT Cosgrove, first head of government of the Irish Free state and one of the most influential political figures of 20th century Ireland.

The reopening of Goldenbridge was marked just as it was for its original opening in 1828, with a ceremonial concert.

Events included a re-enactment of O’Connell’s founding speech, music and a wreath-laying ceremony.