Tourist Information Dublin

The Four Courts, Dublin

The Four Courts ("Na Ceithre C├║irteanna" in Irish) in Dublin is the main court building of the Republic of Ireland. The Four Courts building houses the Irish Supreme Court, the High Court and the Dublin Circuit Court. The building was also the location for the Central Criminal Court until 2010.

The Four Courts was built between 1786 and 1796 by architect James Gandon, while the finishing touches to the arcades and wings were completed in 1802.

The building originally housed the four courts of Chancery, King's Bench, Exchequer, and Common Pleas, hence its name. A major revision in the court system in the late nineteenth century saw these courts replaced, but the building has retained its original name. This courts system remained until 1924, when the new Irish Free State introduced a new courts structure, replacing the old High Court of Ireland, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland with a new Supreme Court presided over by the Chief Justice and a High Court of Justice, presided over by the President of the High Court.

The Four Courts has a key role in recent Irish history. The building was seized by Commandant Ned Daly's 1st Battalion during the Easter Rising in 1916. It survived the bombardment by British artillery that destroyed large parts of the city centre.

Six years later, on 14 April 1922, during the Irish Civil War, the building was occupied by Republican forces who opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty. After several months of a stand-off, the new Provisional Government attacked the building to dislodge the rebels. A week fighting in Dublin followed and in the process of the bombardment, the historic building was destroyed. Most dramatically however, when the anti-Treaty contingent were surrendering, the west wing of the building was obliterated in a huge explosion, destroying the Irish Public Record Office which was located at the rear of the building. Nearly one thousand years of irreplaceable archives were destroyed by this act.

In 1932, a rebuilt and remodelled Four Courts was opened again. However much of the decorative interior of the original building had been lost and, in the absence of documentary archives (some of which had been in the Public Records Office), and also because the new state did not have the budget, the highly decorative interior was not replaced.

Its exterior still shows the effects of the events of 1922, with its fa├žade containing bullet holes, which were deliberately left to remind people of the complex history of the building.

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Inns Quay,
Dublin 1,
Dublin

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