Dons Dublins – Irish Parliament House

by Gazette Reporter
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The Irish Parliament House on College Green was the first bicameral (two chambers) building in the world.

The foundation stone was laid by Thomas Wyndham, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, on 3rd February 1729 and construction took almost ten years. It was designed by renowned Irish architect Edward Lovett Pearce who sadly died in 1733, aged thirty-four, and never lived to see his most famous work completed.

It was built on the site of Chichester House (owned by Sir George Carew) and used as the Parliament House since 1673 although the place was in bad condition and lacking in space. However, Pearce’s plan addressed these issues, and the building was also appreciated for the elegance of its fine Palladian lines. 

From the 1780s, after Henry Grattan had secured a number of concessions from London, allied to the dangerous influence of the French Revolution and the 1798 Rising, Westminster decided that Irish affairs should be in its control. A vote in late 1799 went against Westminster’s wishes, but a second one in February 1800 where there was widespread bribery and awards of peerages, won the day and the House of Commons voted for its own abolition. The last sitting of the House was took place in August 1800. The new law, the Act of Union, came into effect on 1st Jan 1801 with all authority now in the control of Westminster. This soon led to an exodus of peers and wealthy merchants that had a major negative impact on the Irish economy and a sharp decline in Dublin’s status. 

In 1803 the building was sold for £40,000 to Bank of Ireland. In the House of Lords all the original fittings, including the engraved oak fireplace, are in use, and the Woolsack, which the Chancellor of Ireland sat on during debates, has now been restored. The magnificent 1,233-piece chandelier is original, and its counterpart from the House of Commons can be seen in the Examination Hall, across the road in Trinity College. 

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