The first burial takes place at Glasnevin Cemetery in Glasnevin, Dublin, on February 22, 1832.
Prior to the establishment of Glasnevin Cemetery, Irish Catholics have no cemeteries of their own in which to bury their dead. The repressive Penal Laws of the eighteenth century place heavy restrictions on the public performance of Catholic services, forcing Catholics to conduct a limited version of their own funeral services in Protestant churchyards or graveyards. This situation continues until an incident at a funeral held at St. Kevin’s Churchyard in 1823 provokes public outcry when a Protestant sexton reprimands a Catholic priest for proceeding to perform a limited version of a funeral mass. The outcry prompts Daniel O’Connell, champion of Catholic rights, to launch a campaign and prepare a legal opinion proving that there is actually no law forbidding praying for a dead Catholic in a graveyard. O’Connell pushes for the opening of a burial ground in which both Irish Catholics and Protestants can give their dead a dignified burial.
Glasnevin Cemetery is consecrated and opened to the public for the first time on February 21, 1832. The first burial, that of eleven-year-old Michael Carey from Francis Street in Dublin, takes place on the following day in a section of the cemetery known as Curran’s Square. The cemetery is initially known as Prospect Cemetery, a name chosen from the townland of Prospect, which surrounds the cemetery lands.
Originally covering nine acres of ground, the area of the cemetery has now grown to approximately 124 acres and is the final resting place of some 1.5 million people. The cemetery consists of two parts. The main part, with its trademark high walls and watchtowers, is located on one side of the road from Finglas to the city centre, while the other part, called St. Paul’s, is located across the road and beyond a green space, between two railway lines.
Glasnevin contains historically notable monuments and the graves of many of Ireland’s most prominent national figures. These include the graves of Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Collins (pictured at right), Éamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith, Maud Gonne, Kevin Barry, Roger Casement, Constance Markievicz, Pádraig Ó Domhnaill, Seán MacBride, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Frank Duff, Brendan Behan, Christy Brown, and Luke Kelly of the Dubliners.
Glasnevin Cemetery remains under the care of the Dublin Cemeteries Committee and the development, expansion, and refurbishment of the cemetery is an ongoing task.
The Catholic Mass is celebrated by members of the parish clergy every Sunday at 9:45 AM. An annual blessing of the graves takes place each summer as it has since the founding of the cemetery in 1832.