5 reasons to visit the James Connolly Visitor Centre in West Belfast

Did you know that Belfast has its own exhibition dedicated to one of Ireland’s most important figures? Here are five reasons to visit the James Connolly Visitor Centre. 

James Connolly is one of Ireland’s most important figures. He was a leading trade unionist, socialist, Irish republican, and one of the leaders who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising

Connolly was badly wounded during the gunfire and was one of the fifteen leaders who were executed by the British Army in Kilmainham Gaol in the aftermath of the Rising. 

West Belfast is now home to the first-ever exhibition honouring the Scotsman who is revered around the world. The James Connolly Visitor Centre is a state-of-the-art facility to commemorate and recount the revolutionary life and times of Connolly. 

The James Connolly Visitor Centre, or Áras Uí Chonghaile, is located at the top of St. James’ on the Falls Road in West Belfast and was opened in April 2019 by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. The exhibition is open seven days a week from 10 am to 4 pm.

Still wondering if the James Connolly Visitor Centre is worth checking out? Here are five reasons why you should visit.

5. Have a delicious lunch at the Hatch café 

Hatch makes a great lunch spot during your visit to the James Connolly Visitor Centre
Credit: @BelfastHatch / Facebook

One of Belfast’s best cafes, Hatch, has partnered with the Visitor Centre. The cafe is open from 8am to 5 pm Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays, and 10 am to 4 pm every Sunday. 

Hatch provides the best coffee in the city and a tasty menu, such as its renowned ‘Hatch Breakfast’ and ‘Egg-cellent’ breakfast dishes. 

Hatch acts as the perfect precursor to your day in the Visitor Centre and will no doubt set you up for all of the reading, learning and debating to come.

Address: 127 Falls Rd, Belfast BT12 6AD

4. Discover the centre footsteps away from where Connolly once lived

The James Connolly Visitor Centre is located right beside where Connolly used to live
Credit: arasuichonghaile.com

The Visitor Centre is only yards from where James Connolly lived in Belfast from 1910 to 1916. Walk in Connolly’s footsteps as you make your way from Belfast City Centre to the Falls Road. 

The refurbished building also includes a rooftop terrace that offers stunning picturesque views of Belfast city. 

To the north, you are enveloped by the Belfast Hills and Black Mountain, while the views stretch east towards the famous Belfast shipyards and docks, where Connolly himself was once based. 

3. Learn all about Connolly in the exhibition 

The James Connolly Visitor Centre includes an informative exhibition
Credit: arasuichonghaile.com

The James Connolly Visitor Centre exhibition recounts the extraordinary life of James Connolly, from his birth in Edinburgh in 1868 to his death in Dublin in May 1916.

The Exhibition explores Connolly’s seismic work as a trade union activist, through his tireless activism in Scotland, Britain, the US and at home in Belfast and Dublin. 

You will also learn about Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army, who played a vital role in the Easter Rising, gain an understanding of Connolly’s influence over the text of the Proclamation, and about his bravery in battle and courage in death as he was court-martialed and executed whilst injured. 

Tickets for the Exhibition are extremely affordable. They are £5 adult and £3 for children. Union members, Seniors and Students also benefit from a discounted rate of £3.

2. Attend fascinating events at the James Connolly Visitor Centre 

Many informative events take place at the centre in West Belfast
Credit: arasuichonghaile.com

One of the best reasons to visit the James Connolly Visitor Centre is because of the many events that take place here. 

The Centre has already heard talks from British Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and highly-regarded Irish historian Tim Pat Coogan on the links between the GAA and the Irish Revolution.

The Visitor Centre’s Winter Programme for 2019/20 has been published and includes a vibrant programme of debates and discussions not to be missed, such as a talk from lawyer Phil Scraton around the Hillsborough and Grenfell disasters.

 Other talks are centred around the history of the left in Ireland and the Dockers Strike of 1907, issues to the fore of Connolly’s political work and activism. 

1. Read Connolly’s own publications in the library 

Connolly's own publications can be read in the centre's library
Credit: arasuichonghaile.com

Read all of Connolly’s own publications at the new Visitor Centre. Connolly was a prolific writer and a visionary, with his timeless ideas regarding class, revolution and independence.

His numerous published political works are available in the library and are still read widely today. They are regarded as masterpieces and have found a new home in the ‘Connolly Publications at Áras Uí Chonghaile’. 

The James Connolly Visitor Centre also offers those who are inspired by the works and words of Connolly to have their own work published and presented to the public. 

The Connolly Centre aims to uncover local talent and provide them with a unique platform, having done so already with local author Daniel Jack and his book From Sevastopol Street to Soloheadbeg: Seamús Robinson and the Irish Revolution, making it – in more ways than one – a top thing to do in Belfast.

Address: 374 Falls Rd, Belfast BT12 6DG

The James Connolly Visitor Centre is one of Belfast’s most intriguing new exhibitions. Make sure you stop by during your stay in Belfast to learn, read and study about the Irish Revolutionary and Trade Unionist. 

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