This building was built in 1729 to house the Irish Parliament, and it did so for less than a century. Then, in 1797, the British Prime Minister William Pitt became convinced that the only way to bring an end to religious violence in Ireland was to close the Irish Parliament and merge it with the English. However, since the Parliament members had purchased their seats at great expense, it was difficult to convince them to agree, so Pitt bought them off with a combination of cash, titles, and promises that anti-Catholic rules would be ended if they only voted themselves out of existence. In 1801 they agreed -- one of very few Parliaments ever to have done so -- and passed the so-called "Act of Union." However, King George III disagreed with Pitt's plans to end the anti-Catholic laws and forced Pitt to resign before any such legislation could be passed. The Irish lost their independent government and got nothing in return. After standing empty for 2 years, the building was sold in 1803; the bill of sale required that it be physically altered so that it could never again be used for governmental gatherings. Today it's a bank, but it still has many architectural elements dating from its heyday. Highlights include the windowless front portico, built to avoid distractions from the outside when Parliament was in session, and the grand House of Lords chamber with its Irish oak woodwork, 18th-century tapestries, golden mace, and a sparkling crystal chandelier.
This is also the home of the Bank of Ireland Arts Centre (tel. 01/671-1488), accessible via the entrance on Foster Place. It hosts art exhibitions, concerts, and literary readings. Entry to readings, lunchtime recitals, and exhibitions is free.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Recommended 2010