A park in Washington DC is to be named after the 19th century Irish patriot and rebel hero Robert Emmet. Reservation 302, as it’s currently known, is a small triangular park on Massachusetts Avenue and has been home to an imposing statue of the executed Dubliner for the past 50 years. The statue was originally lent to the park by the Smithsonian Institute in 1966 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising – whose leaders drew inspiration from Emmet’s failed efforts to end British rule in Ireland in 1803 – and has remained there ever since.
The statue was rededicated in April as part of the local Irish community’s effort to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Rising. It was at that time that formal efforts to get the park named after Emmett began.
One man involved in the push was Peter Kissel, who told IrishCentral, “It’s been a long-standing effort and it’s been from a coalition of people; the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Irish American Unity Caucus. The effort has been spearheaded by Jack O’Brien who has been a member of both organizations.”
“Robert Emmet is the ultimate Irish patriot and martyr who has inspired literally generations of people advocating Irish freedom – particularly the 1916 rebels – and he made a very famous, iconic speech from the dock before he was executed by the English.”
The National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission approved the park's new name last month, without any objections, and it is now under consideration by Congress.
Kissel is optimistic about the bill’s passage, saying, “The House [of Representatives] has already approved it and we expect the Senate to pass it this week or next.”
And as to whether the park can look forward to a formal naming ceremony, they haven’t quite got that far yet, “To tell you the truth we’ve been working so hard to get Congress to approve the legislation that we have not yet focused on when we’ll have an actual naming ceremony but probably in the spring.”
Robert Emmet was born in 1778 into a Protestant family in Dublin that supported the American Revolution. When he was 25 he was intimately involved in a failed rebellion against British rule in 1803. The rebellion failed and he was captured and tried for treason; his speech from the dock remains one of the greatest Irish speeches of all time, but it did not save his life and he was hanged the next day. He remains to this a source of inspiration to Irish nationalists across the world.