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Posted 07 June 2011

Stained glass window commemorating Kevin Barry relocated to UCD Belfield

76 years after its original installation in Earlsfort Terrace, a stained glass window commemorating the life of Kevin Barry, an IRA volunteer who was executed by the British Army during the War of Independence, has been unveiled in its new location on the UCD Belfield campus.


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The relocation of this historic artwork marks the final stage of UCD’s move from Earlsfort Terrace to Belfield which began in 1970.

Kevin Barry Memorial Window

The Minister for Education and Skills, Mr Ruairí Quinn, TD, who unveiled the memorial window in its new location at University College Dublin said:

“The Kevin Barry Window depicts the long struggle for Irish Freedom and the many people who laid down their lives for this cause.  We would not be the nation we are today without their sacrifices and without their example.  It is important that we protect monuments to the past such as this window to remind us all of where we came from and what we can achieve as a people even when faced by the hardest of times.”

Kevin Barry was a first year medical student at University College Dublin when he was arrested by the British Army during the War of Independence for his part in an ambush on a British army vehicle in which three British soldiers were shot. He was subsequently charged with murder, and executed by hanging in 1920. He was 18 years old.

In his last letter, written on the night before his execution, Barry wrote: "Well boys, we have seen some good times. It's the only thing which makes it hard to go, the fact of leaving you chaps and other friends behind." The letter sold for over €100,000 at auction last year.

Pictured at the official unveiling the Kevin Barry Memorial Window at University College Dublin: (l-r) Kevin Barry's nephew, Kevin Barry Junior; the President of UCD, Dr Hugh Brady; the Minister for Education, Ruair Quinn TD; and Kevin Barry's nephew, Michael O'Rahilly

In the years following his execution, Kevin Barry’s fellow UCD students raised funds for the creation of a memorial window, but it was only when Richard O’Rahilly, was elected to the UCD Governing Body in 1932 that the window was finally commissioned.  Graduates once again began involved in 2007 when the university appealed for funds to restore, converse and transfer the window to Belfield.

Dr Hugh Brady, president of UCD, said:  “The final decision to bid farewell to Earlsfort Terrace prompted plenty of discussion and opinion in relation to the fate of the Kevin Barry window.  Perhaps because I was myself a medical student in the Terrace, I felt strongly that the window was – and is – an integral part of the heritage of the university. 

We have a role to play in providing the next generation with not just the symbols of our past, but a context in which to understand our history.    I believe that this wonderful piece of art provides an important touchstone for that understanding. “

Designed and worked in double-glazed glass by Richard King at the Harry Clarke stained glass studios in Dublin, the memorial window was unveiled in Earlsfort Terrace in 1934 by the then President of Ireland, Eamonn de Valera.  Before Ireland achieved independence, Eamonn De Valera was one of the leaders in the 1916 Easter Uprising, and president of Sinn Fein (1917 to 1926).

Pictured at the official unveiling the Kevin Barry Memorial Window at University College Dublin: (l-r) Kevin Barry's niece, Ruth Sweetman; his nephew, Michael O'Rahilly; his great great nephew, Richard O'Rahilly; and his nephew, Kevin Barry Junior

The Kevin Barry Memorial Window depicts images of prominent people and events associated with the Irish nationalist struggle.

The cultural resonance of the window is emphasised by its links with the University and the importance of Kevin Barry’s association with UCD is shown by the inclusion of the UCD crest at his feet.

A collection of Kevin Barry materials are also held in the archives at University College Dublin including: copies of charge sheets, witness statements and summary of evidence relating to his court martial and execution, letters received by Mrs Barry after his execution, and personal memorabilia – his college cap, athletic suit, and a sliotar.

Kevin Barry's grandnieces, Sinead Barry and Niamh Barry viewing the stained glass window

The Kevin Barry window has been installed in the new Charles Institute.  Funded largely by the City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital Charity (Hume Street Trust), this is the first national institute devoted to dermatology in Ireland and links the UCD health sciences teaching centre with the Conway Institute for biomedical research.

Richard O'Rahilly, age 12, views the stained glass window featuring his great great grandfather Michael Joseph O'Rahilly, known as The O'Rahilly. The figures in the stained glass window from left to right are: Tom Clarke, Padraig Pearse, Joseph Plunkett, Sean Mac Diarmada, and The O'Rahilly

The Kevin Barry Memorial Window was removed from its original location in Earlsfort Terrace in 2010 under the direction of a conservation architect using specialist methods and equipment.

It has since been conserved and restored with minimal intervention and all work is in accordance with recommendations of the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi, the international body for historic stained glass.

Extra lead added to strengthen breaks was removed, no glass was repainted and re-leading was kept to a minimum.


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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Stained glass window commemorating Kevin Barry relocated to UCD Belfield