The location for Collins Barracks was originally earmarked for a mansion for the Duke of Ormond. It was built in 1702 in a Neoclassical style to the designs of Thomas Burgh and is the oldest inhabited barracks in Europe and once one of the largest. This was also the earliest public building in Dublin with the exception of the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham. The barracks and central square are named after Michael Collins, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Free State Army. Collins was killed in 1922 in co. Cork four months before the barracks was surrendered to the Free State Army. General Richard Mulcahy, who formally accepted the handover, immediately named the site after Collins. The old barracks, which had billets, stables, a riding school, drilling grounds and firing ranges, has been transformed sympathetically into galleries by the National Museum of Ireland for exhibitions, reserve collections, conservation laboratories, libraries and offices. On display are artefacts ranging from weaponry, furniture, folk life, silver, ceramics and glassware. It houses a permanent exhibition about The Rising, called Understanding 1916. Wolfe Tone, one of the leaders of the 1798 rebellion was also convicted of treason here.

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