Clair Wills, professor of Irish Literature at Queen Mary, University of London, focuses her latest book on Ireland's iconic building – the General Post Office on O'Connell Street in Dublin. She calls the Easter Rising 1916, which in many ways was a disastrous failure (the insurgents executed, the building destroyed), ‘the world's first anti-colonial revolt’, and an inspiration to rebellion throughout the Empire, in India above all. Its literary legacy was almost as powerful – from Yeats to O'Casey, Beckett, Brendan Behan and Seamus Heaney.
The domed three-storey neoclassical building, says Wills, lacked the martial significance of Dublin Castle, the centre of British rule. The portico of the GPO was used for shelter by prostitutes as well as shoppers: ‘It stood for control but it was also where you bought your stamps.’