COMÓRADH AGUS CEILIÚRADH CÉAD BLIAIN
CENTENARY COMMEMORATIONS AND CELEBRATIONS
Óráidí ón Uachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUigínn Speeches by President Michael D. Higgins 1
Comóradh agus Ceiliúradh Céad Bliain 1916 1916 Centenary Commemorations and Celebrations
Arna fhoilsiú in 2018 ag An Roinn Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta, 23 Sráid Chill Dara, Baile Átha Cliath D02 TD30, Éire Tá an foilseachán seo ar fáil freisin mar ríomhleabhar atá le híoslódáil saor in aisce ó www.president.ie Téacs © Oifig Uachtaráin na hÉireann Íomhánna © mar atá luaite Tá a gcearta morálta dearbhaithe ag na húdair sa saothar seo. Gach ceart ar cosaint. Ní ceadmhach aon chuid den fhoilseachán seo a athchló ná a úsáid ar aon mhodh leictreonach, meicniúil nó eile is eol anois nó a cheapfar amach anseo, lena n-áirítear fótachóipeáil nó taifeadadh, nó eile, gan cead a fháil roimh ré ón sealbhóir cóipchirt. Le haghaidh eolas maidir le cead, déan teagmháil le: email@example.com Leagan amach agus dearadh an fhoilseacháin: bigO www.bigo.ie Arna chlóbhualadh agus arna scaipeadh ag Impress www.impress.ie
Published in 2018 by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin D02 TD30, Ireland This publication is also available as a free to download eBook from www.president.ie Text © Oﬃce of the President of Ireland Images © as credited The author has asserted their moral rights in this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprinted or utilised in any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented including photocopying or recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. For information regarding permission, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Publication layout and design by bigO www.bigo.ie Printed and distributed by Impress www.impress.ie
Is é comóradh céad bliain ó Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916 an gníomh is mó ‘cuimhne an phobail’ a rinne an Stát agus a shaoránaigh ó 1966 i leith. Sa bhliain sin, ceiliúradh caogadú cothrom lae an Éirí Amach inar ghlac go leor díobh siúd a bhí ina mbeatha trí imeachtaí foirmitheacha Sheachtain na Cásca agus a ghlac páirt iontu. Ó ba é Éamon de Valera Uachtarán na hÉireann ag an am, bhí an comóradh Stáit faoina stiúir. Dá bhrí sin, ní léirsmaointe de chuid Uachtarán na hÉireann amháin a bhí sna hóráidí a thug sé i rith na bliana sin, ach cuimhní iar-cheannaire ar gharastún na nÓglach a bhí ar stáisiún ag Muilte Uí Bheoláin a bhí iontu freisin.
atá oscailte do pheirspictíochtaí, scéalta, cuimhní agus mianta an strainséara.
In 2016, níor chuid den chuimhne ná den taithí phearsanta a thuilleadh an tÉirí Amach ach ba chuid den tsamhlaíocht stairiúil é. Is cuid lárnach fós é de na nithe a bhféadfaí ‘cuimhne chomhchoiteann’ an náisiúin a thabhairt air – coincheap is féidir a chonspóid – an bailiúchán sin creideamh faoin am atá caite a shainíonn agus a mhúnlaíonn ár gcomhfhios náisiúnta agus ár n-íomhá den náisiún. Thug na cuimhneacháin seo deis dúinn uile, mar shaoránaigh na hÉireann, smaoineamh ar idéalacha, ar smaointe agus ar ghníomhartha na ndaoine a ghlac páirt san Éirí Amach, agus ar Éirinn a tháinig ar an bhfód lena ngníomhartha i Seachtain na Cásca agus sa streachailt fhada a lean.
Thar aon ní eile, d’fhéach mé leis go dtabharfaí chun cuimhne fís agus meanma na bhfear agus na mban sin a bhí tiomanta Poblacht saor, neamhspleách na hÉireann a bhunú, phoblacht a bheadh in ann an gealltanas san Fhorógra a fhíorú.
In ullmhú m’óráidí chun comóraidh trí Dheich mBliana Chuimhneachán Céad Bliain, smaoinigh mé ar an ngá le tabhairt faoin ‘meabhrú eiticiúil’: trí aitheantas a thabhairt do na guthanna sin a cuireadh as an áireamh nó ar baineadh cearta díobh rómhinic san am atá thart, agus a eisiadh mar ábhair a bhaineann le stair an phobail ar bhonn stádais eacnamaíoch, cúlra teaghlaigh, nó inscne, agus iad a chur san áireamh; agus trí mheon ‘fáilteachais scéalta’ a ghlacadh, mar atá molta ag an bhfealsamh Francach Paul Ricoeur, meon
Gné ríthábhachtach den chur chuige sin, dar liom, ab ea é an ról lárnach a bhí ag mná agus baill de ghluaiseacht an chearchumannachais agus an lucht oibre san Éirí Amach a thabhairt chun solais arís. Gné ríthábhachtach eile ab ea é dul i ngleic leis na dearcthaí a bhaineann leis an iolracht traidisiún polaitiúil ar an oileán seo – traidisiúin nach traidisiúin dholúbtha iad ach a mbaineann cuimhne phoiblí thar a bheith difriúil leo mar sin féin i dtaobh 1916.
Is éacht é seo a bhfuil tar éis glúin i ndiaidh glúine de mhuintir na hÉireann, agus ár nglúin féin san áireamh, a ghairm chuige arís agus arís eile. In 1966, dúirt Éamon de Valera, “ní féidir linn onóir chuí a thabhairt d’fhir 1916 muna ndéanaimid ár ndícheall Éire a bhfíse a bhaint amach”. B’fhéidir go bhfuil dearcadh níos léirmheastaí ag an nglúin seo de thoradh an achair ama atá caite ó shin, dearcadh atá níos aireach ar chastachtaí – is ar fhir agus ar mhná 1916 a dhéanaimid trácht anois – ach táimid ag teacht go fóill leis an gcreideamh céanna, gur féidir linn fíorphoblacht a bhunú sa tír seo fós, trí mhachnamh agus díospóireacht, diansmaoineamh agus gníomhú.
The commemoration of the centenary of the Easter Rising of 1916 constituted the largest act of ‘public remembering’ carried out by the State and its citizens since 1966. In that year, the fiftieth anniversary of the Rising was celebrated with involvement by many of those who had lived through, and participated in, the formative events of Easter Week. As the then President of Ireland, Éamon de Valera, presided over the State commemorations. His speeches throughout that year were thus not only the reflections of the President of Ireland, but the memories of the former commander of the Volunteer garrison stationed at Boland’s Mill. In 2016, the Rising had moved from the realm of personal memory and experience to that of the historical imagination. It remained and remains central to what we might call the ‘collective memory’ of the nation – a concept that can be itself contested – that collection of beliefs about the past that define and shape our national consciousness and our image of the nation. The commemorations offered all of us, as Irish citizens, an opportunity to reflect on the ideals, thoughts and actions of those who participated in the Rising, and upon the Ireland that they, by their deeds that Easter Week and in the long struggle that followed, brought into existence. In preparing my speeches for commemorations throughout the Decade of Centenaries, I did so conscious of the necessity of engaging in the task of ‘ethical remembering’: by recognising the imperative to include and recognise those voices that were, in our past, too often marginalised or disenfranchised, excluded as subjects of public history on the grounds of economic status, family background, or their gender; and by adopting a disposition of ‘narrative hospitality’, as advocated by the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur,
one open to the perspectives, the stories, the memories and the pains of the stranger. Recovering the central role played by women and members of the trade union and labour movement in the Rising was, I believe, a vital component of such an approach. Another was engaging with the perspectives of the plurality of political traditions on this island – traditions that are not in themselves monolithic, but which nonetheless carry a very different public memory of 1916. Above all, I sought to recall the vision and the spirit of those men and women who committed themselves to creating a free and independent Irish republic, one that was capable of vindicating the promise contained in the Proclamation. It is an achievement to which successive generations of Irish people and our generation have been summoned again and again. In 1966, Éamon de Valera said that “we cannot adequately honour the men of 1916 if we do not work and strive to bring about the Ireland of their desire”. The greater distance in time may have endowed this present generation with a more critical eye, one more alive to complexity — we now speak of the men and women of 1916 — but we still share the conviction that, through deliberation and debate, thought and action, we can yet realise a true republic in this country.
Uachtarán na hÉireann President of Ireland
Contents Clár 10
Restoring the Forgotten Children St. Patrick’s Church, Ringsend, Dublin Tuesday 5th May, 2015
Children of the Revolution Áras an Uachtaráin Wednesday 15th June, 2016
An Emblem for Peace and a Call for Solidarity Croke Park, Dublin Monday 7th March, 2016
Pádraig Mac Piarais — An Dúthracht a chaith sé lena Thír Pearse Museum, St. Enda’s Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin Thursday 7th July, 2016
Arrows and Flames – The Women of 1916 The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin Tuesday 8th March, 2016
A Living Memorial Phoenix Park, Dublin Saturday 30th July, 2016
Sung and Unsung — The Heroes of 1916 RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin Saturday 26th March, 2016
Óglaigh na hÉireann — The Irish Volunteers Dublin Castle Sunday 4th December, 2016
Centenary Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin Monday 28th March, 2016
Custodians of our History National Library, Kildare Street, Dublin Thursday 21st January, 2016
A Hope yet to be Fulfilled — The Irish Citizen Army Liberty Hall Theatre Tuesday 29th March, 2016
Tábhacht na Teanga — The Irish Language Revival and Irish Independence Caisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath Dé hAoine 26 Feabhra, 2016
A History Steeped in Sadness Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin Wednesday 30th March, 2016
The Workers’ Army Áras an Uachtaráin Tuesday 22nd March, 2016
On this Lonely Strand Banna Strand, Ardfert, Co. Kerry Thursday 21st April, 2016
The Ethics of Commemoration Mansion House, Dublin Monday 28th March, 2016
Archives of the Revolution Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin Tuesday 26th April, 2016
Peadar Kearney — The Soldier’s Song Áras an Uachtaráin Tuesday 29th March
Ruairí Mac Easmainn agus an Ghaeilge Ghaelscoil Mhic Easmainn, Trá Lí, Co. Chiarraí Déardaoin 21 Aibreán, 2016
Gaeilge sa Ghairdín Áras an Uachtaráin Dé hAoine 24 Meitheamh, 2016
James Connolly: Life and Legacies University of Edinburgh, Scotland Wednesday 29th June, 2016
Remembering Michael Collins in 2016 Béal na mBláth, Co. Cork Sunday 21st August, 2016
A Dignity that Echoes through the Years Richmond Barracks, Dublin Thursday 22nd September, 2016
The Importance of Eva Gore-Booth’s Radical Vision Congress Hall, London Friday 14th October, 2016
An Teanga Beo – The Living Language Óstán Double Tree Hilton, Droichead na Dothra, Baile Átha Cliath Dé Satharn 3 Nollaig, 2016
Dearcán na nDaoine – The People’s Acorn Áras an Uachtaráin Thursday 14th December, 2017
A Parliamentary Legacy: John Redmond Wexford Town Sunday 15th April, 2018
Roger Casement – Humanitarian and Revolutionary Kerry County Museum, Tralee, Co. Kerry Thursday 21st April, 2016
Recovering the Republican Ideal Murroe, Co. Limerick Saturday 23rd April, 2016
He loved his country and served his kind Áras an Uachtaráin Wednesday 27th April, 2016
Thomas Clarke – Architect of the Rising Tom Clarke Bridge, Dublin Tuesday 3rd May, 2016
Ollscoil na Réabhlóide — The University of the Revolution Westport, Co. Mayo Sunday 8th May, 2016
Moblising the Country – The Role of Music Cnoc na Gaoithe Comhaltas Cultural Centre, Tulla, Co. Clare Friday 13th May, 2016
Imagining the Revolution Mountjoy Prison, Dublin Thursday 2nd June, 2016
Living Well Together Beyond 2016 Corrymeela Community, Co. Antrim Saturday 4th June, 2016
Pictured; Joe Duﬀy, Sabina Higgins, President Michael D. Higgins, Lord Mayor Christy Burke and 6th class children from St Patrick’s schools Ringsend holding the names of the children who died during the Easter Rising.
Sa phictiúr: Joe Duﬀy, Sabina Uí hUiginn, an tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn, an tArdMhéara Christy Burke agus páistí rang a 6 ó scoileanna Naomh Pádraig na Rinne ag a bhfuil ainmneacha na bpáistí a fuair bás i rith Éirí Amach na Cásca.
Photo: Terry Thorp
Restoring the Forgotten Children Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at an Ecumenical Service to Commemorate the Children who died during the Easter Rising St. Patrick’s Church, Ringsend, Dublin Tuesday 5th May, 2015
Forty young people died during the Rising. For many years, they were forgotten victims of 1916, forgotten not only because of their youth but because they were from workingclass communities. Speaking at an Ecumenical Service to commemorate the deaths of those children, the President spoke of recovering their names, and of the duty owed to today to ensure that all children live in a Republic that can provide them with the possibility to fulfil their potential. Fuair daichead duine óg bás i rith an Éirí Amach. Ar feadh go leor blianta, b’íospartaigh 1916 iad a ligeadh i ndearmad, ní hamháin mar gheall ar a n-óige ach mar gheall gurbh as pobail an lucht oibre iad. Ag labhairt ag Seirbhís Éacúiméineach chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar bhás na leanaí siúd, labhair an tUachtarán ar a n-ainmneacha a aisghabháil, agus ar an dualgas atá orainn inniu a chinntiú go maireann gach leanbh i bPoblacht ar féidir léi a chur ar a gcumas a lánchumas a bhaint amach.
Ministers, Lord Mayor, Deputies, Archbishop, Monsignor, Ladies and Gentlemen, Is cóir, agus muid i mbun deich mbliana dírithe ar chuimhneacháin, áird a thabhairt ar iadsan nach déanadh machnamh orthu – fiú gur caileadh iad i mbláth a n-óige i 1916 agus iad ach amháin i mbun imeachtaí an oige. [It is fitting, as we undertake our decade of commemorations, that we remember those whose loss in 1916 has been less thought about and less spoken about, even though they were killed in their full flush of youth, while they went about the pursuits of children. ] Engaging with the past is rarely a simple or easy process. It can involve a complex negotiation of the memories, hurts, legacies and emotions of all those affected by events; most of all the cataclysmic events such as the Easter Rising and the response to it, whose consequences were profound and tectonic. The 1916 Rising is, of course, a seminal event, preceded by both parliamentary and military actions at home and abroad, and driven by a vision of independence for Ireland which, many believed, might be built on the foundations of equality, justice and respect for all. The history of 1916 and its decade is, of course, made up of many different stories, and today we are invited to remember the neglected, but not lost, stories of the families ruptured, and the young lives cut short, of some of the forgotten victims of the Easter Rising – the
children who lost their lives during the final days of April 1916. We are, as a nation, greatly indebted to Joe Duffy and to all those who assisted him in our being given the opportunity of reclaiming the memory of the children who were mourned so silently in the days and months following the Easter Rising, their deaths often unknown to later generations of their families, their names absent from the history books of Ireland and from our foundational stories as a nation.
“Is cóir, agus muid i mbun deich mbliana dírithe ar chuimhneacháin, áird a thabhairt ar iadsan nach déanadh machnamh orthu — fiú gur caileadh iad i mbláth a n-óige i 1916” Many years and decades now separate us from April 1916, and it is critical that we not only recall that past, but remember it in a way that is ethical and honest, that is inclusive of the stories of all, including those who played and made friends on the streets of Dublin at that time. Now that we have new material and fresh research, we must use it in a way that will enable us to engage with our history of the period in all its complexity. Commemorations such as this have a great significance, and indeed should not be seen solely as formal occasions or sombre ceremonies; but rather as an encouragement for citizens to come together and to remember collectively, and with feeling, the people and events of the time. Today we remember, by individual name, each of the 40 young citizens whose tragic deaths in 1916 did not bring forth memorials or plaques or indeed songs or poetry. This then is an occasion of recovery, of reclamation and is not one of recrimination. We are invited to remember in a way that, through recalling the loss of these young lives, will grant us the freedom to deliver the best versions of ourselves in the present, and we hope that it will allow our past to inspire a moment of grace and even, at a distance in time, healing; and for some, perhaps, forgiveness.
Today we have an important opportunity to reflect on citizenship, the public world and the public space, the importance of each individual member of our community, and of our own duty and responsibility to seek to play a role in the creation of a fair and equitable society, one in which all citizens have the opportunity to flourish. Ní an óige amháin a bhí i gcoitinne ag íobartaigh dearmadta 1916. Ba chuid den aicme oibre iad. Bhí cónaí ar formhór dóibh i dtionóntáin i lár na cathrach, go leór dóibh ag roinnt tithíochta den sort sin le hiliomad clainnte eile sna coinníollacha tithíochta ba mheasa san Eorap. B’fhéidir gurb é sin an chúis gur déanadh dearmad orthu féin, ar a mhuintir agus ar a aicme agus muid a macnamh ar scéalta Éirí Amach na Cásca. [As to some of the forgotten victims of 1916, they shared more than youth. Many of them shared a working class background. Most of them lived in inner city tenement buildings, many of them sharing such accommodation with several other families in some of the worst housing conditions in Europe. It is perhaps for this reason that they, and their parents, and their class have remained obscure in stories of the Easter Rising.] The children, like so many children of the world today, were left to be the survivors of the street. Many were simply about the tasks of generosity and care that come so naturally to children. It is also true to say that children, at that time, were not accorded a childhood as contemporary society knows it. They had to take to the tasks of survival early. In our own time, allowing an equality of citizenship to our children has been a slow process and for many children and their families achieving equality of opportunity is an, as yet, unfinished task. The tragedy of the loss of a child is twofold: it is the gravest of all possible hurts to those who love the child, and it is also the quenching of possibilities before they have the chance to blossom. The children we celebrate today were denied their potential, their possibilities. Today, we restore to those forgotten children their rightful place in the story and the celebration of that founding moment of our State that was the Easter Rising. We can, perhaps, best honour their memory through the rebuilding and renewal of our society and the creation of an ethical foundation on which our Republic can grow and thrive, and, most importantly, by making ours a country in which our children can fulfil their potential in peace and security, in health and in happiness. A century has passed since the Easter Rising, and many more chapters will be written in the story of our independent nation. We have recently faced times of
great challenges; challenges that have left us wounded as a society. This experience should have encouraged us to recognise the assumptions which have failed us, of the necessity to close a chapter on what was not the best version of ourselves, our taken for granted assumptions, our institutions; inviting us to commence a new chapter based on a different version of our Irishness. Today, as we recall the innocent lives that were lost during the traumatic events of the founding period of our nation, let us all re-double our efforts to ensure that we fashion together a Republic of which they would have been proud. Go raibh mĂle maith agaibh go lĂŠir.
An Emblem for Peace and a Call for Solidarity Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at National Flag Presentation Ceremony Croke Park, Dublin Monday 7th March, 2016
On 7th March 2016 children from second level schools across Ireland gathered in Croke Park for a ceremony during which members of the Defence Forces presented each school with a Tricolour and a copy of the 1916 Proclamation. The President reflected on the ideals and vision behind these symbols of the Irish nation. An 7 Márta 2016, tháinig leanaí ó mheánscoileanna ar fud na hÉireann le chéile i bPáirc an Chrócaigh le haghaidh searmanais inar bhronn comhaltaí na bhFórsaí Cosanta Bratach Trí Dhath agus cóip d’Fhorógra 1916 ar gach scoil. Rinne an tUachtarán machnamh ar na hidéil agus ar an bhfís a bhain leis na siombailí seo de náisiún na hÉireann.
A Ardmhéara, A Aire, A Dhaoine Uaisle, Agus a Dhaoine Óga agus a Dhaltaí Scoile ach go háirithe, Tugann sé ardú croí dom na mílte dalta scoile ó cheann ceann na tíre, agus a múinteoirí, a fheiceáil le chéile anseo ar fód beannaithe Pháirc an Chrócaigh. Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, tá áthas orm a bheith anseo chun an ócáid speisialta seo a roinnt libh, ócáid inar féidir linn smaoineamh siar ar an stair agus ar thábhacht siombailí bhunaidh an Stát, Bratach na hÉireann agus Forógra Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916. Tá súil agam go mbeidh cuimhní na hócáide shollúnta seo ag gach aon duine óg atá anseo ar maidin mar chuireadh chun ionspioráid a ghlacadh ón phaisean, ón misneach agus ó ardmhían fial na tírghráthóirí Éireannacha a tháinig romhainn, agus go dtógfaidh sibh an cúram oraibh féin Éire na todhchaí a shamhlú. It is so impressive to see pupils from hundreds of schools across Ireland come together to share in this very special occasion. Today each of your schools will receive two important symbols of our Irish nation – the Tricolour and the 1916 Proclamation. Today we will recall the ideas, the hopes, the dreams, of those men and women from our past who decided to fight for the freedom of Ireland. We will reflect, together, on what it was that motivated around a thousand women and men to take part in the Rising of Easter 1916 – some of them, members of the Fianna, or boys from Patrick Pearse’s school, Saint Enda’s, who were no older than those of you who are in fifth and sixth year.
It must have been a surprising sight indeed for those on the streets of Dublin around midday on that Easter Monday holiday to see members of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan and the Fianna make their way, as one account of the time puts it, “in gloriously fine sunshine,” towards their positions in various locations across Dublin city. The largest contingent, led by James Connolly and Patrick Pearse, left Liberty Hall on foot, with Tom Clarke and Seán MacDermott travelling ahead by car. Joseph Plunkett, who was just after an operation, was brought to the GPO and placed to rest inside, in front of the stamp counter. Countess de Markievicz, with her Irish Citizen Army uniform, also attracted attention. It must have been a dramatic scene, and that was no coincidence as many of the leaders of the Rising had experience in working in the theatre. On that Bank Holiday, when many Dubliners were making for trains to bring them to the races, the seaside, or the country, this determined group of men and women were getting ready, then, to strike against the British Empire and proclaim an Irish Republic. These rebels had concluded that the parliamentary path advocated by many others within the nationalist movement had little real prospect of delivering independence for Ireland, and they were willing to sacrifice their lives in an exemplary way for the greater cause of Irish freedom. It is important to recognise that those men and women who were ‘out’ in 1916 were selfless in their aspirations for Irish independence. They may have differed in the ideals they emphasised: some gave priority to workers’ rights, others to the rights of women, yet others were concerned with Ireland’s cultural identity and the revival of the Irish language. Yet all of them, with their different ideas for the future of the nation, came together to pursue what they shared, a dream of independence, and they did so at an enormous personal cost for themselves and their families. The Proclamation of the Republic, which Patrick Pearse read out at around 1 o’clock that same Monday from under the portico of the GPO, offers elements of a generous social and political vision that can still inspire us. Addressed to the nation’s women as well as its men, it called forth a Republic that would guarantee, I quote: “Religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens” and be resolved “to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally”. In an era when, we must remember, women did not have the right to vote, the Proclamation also asserted
that the government of Ireland’s new Republic would be “elected by the suffrages of all her men and women.” Just before Pearse started reading out this Proclamation, a green, white and orange banner – the Irish Tricolour – had been hoisted by the insurgents onto the roof of the GPO, alongside another large green flag inscribed with the words “Irish Republic”. It is testament to the enormous success of the Easter Rising in capturing the imagination of the Irish people that the Tricolour flag which, at the time, was little known even among the rebels, rapidly became accepted as the unquestioned symbol of the Irish independence movement. Two decades later, when our Constitution was adopted, it stated, in Article 7, that: “The national flag is the tricolour of green, white and orange.” But what is the meaning of this flag around which we are gathered today? Where did it come from? As the theatrical performance we saw earlier related, the Irish Tricolour was flown for the first time by a member of the Young Ireland movement, Thomas Francis Meagher, in Waterford, on 7th March 1848.
“We need your ideas, your enthusiasm, your dreams, to continue the work of building, together, a society in which all of our citizens can flourish.” Modelled on the French Tricolour, a symbol of the French Revolution and the principles of freedom, equality and fraternity that it proclaimed, the Irish Tricolour takes us back to the roots of the modern democratic movement. It connects us to the seminal year of 1848, to that extraordinary period of effervescence when, throughout Europe, ideas about democratic participation, freedom of the press, workers’ rights, and the political and cultural rights of colonised nations were proclaimed and exchanged. The design of the Tricolour thus places Ireland firmly in the great tradition of independent European republics. In April of that same year of 1848, at a meeting in Dublin, Thomas Francis Meagher outlined the significance of the particular arrangement of colours he wished to see adopted as the emblem of the Irish nation:
“The white in the centre signifies a lasting truce between Orange and Green and I trust that beneath its folds the hands of Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics may be clasped in generous and heroic brotherhood.”
ár n-institiúidí, ár mbailte agus ár sráidbhailte, ár dtírdhreach agus ár dteanga álainn Gaelach. Má thugann muid aire mhaith do na rudaí seo ar fad beidh muid in ann todhchaí níos fearr a shamhlú.
Later in his life, reflecting on his youthful years in Waterford, Thomas Meagher wrote:
May I say, once again, how pleased I am to share with you in this special day of celebration and remembrance. Conscious of our history, we are invited to care for the things that were handed down to us by the generations who preceded us – our institutions, our towns and villages, our landscape, our beautiful Irish language – so as to be better able to imagine alternative futures.
“May the social institutions flourish which bring Irishmen together, make them know each other, trust each other, love each other, and, in convivial circles, teach them they are brothers all!” Thus our national flag is primarily an emblem of peace, a call for solidarity, mutual trust, sisterhood and brotherhood, to become the enduring symbols of the Irish nation. This is indeed a vision worth championing, an ideal we must continue to cherish and nurture. As we commemorate, this year, the centenary of the Easter Rising, this ideal should continue to inspire us. While we acknowledge the motivations that led the rebels to act as they did a hundred years ago, we recall, too, the human suffering associated with this armed rebellion. We remember, not just the rebels, but also the many civilians who lost their lives during that Easter Week, the children who were wounded or killed in the crossfire, the families who were grief-stricken by the loss of a loved one. And in doing so, we must also commit to ensuring that, never again, is such loss of life allowed to take root in our country.
In this task, our young people have a great part to play. We need your ideas, your enthusiasm, your dreams, to continue the work of building, together, a society in which all of our citizens can flourish. We need your creativity, your generosity and energy to respond to the great challenges of our time, such as climate change, global poverty and hunger, or the ongoing refugee crisis. The Easter Rising of 1916 can, in many ways, be described as a stunningly ambitious act of imagination. Today it is up to our young people to take charge of change and imagine what Ireland might yet become. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Today the Irish Tricolour is recognised everywhere, both inside and outside of Ireland, as a distinctive marker of Irish national identity and culture. It is a symbol we exhibit to manifest our pride at sporting events, and we all look forward to witnessing, later on, the presentation of our national flag to some of our sporting heroes. The Tricolour is also an emblem of generous, inclusive Irishness – one we readily share with others, for example on Saint Patrick’s Day, when so many people around the world wear the Irish colours. Last year, at a similar flag presentation ceremony in Waterford, I suggested that, while in 1848 and in 1916 the emphasis was on the fraternity between the ‘orange’ and the ‘green’ traditions on our island, nowadays, the white can play an even greater role in embracing as one nation the diverse and rich tapestry of people from various cultures who call Ireland their home. Is mian liom a rá arís go bhfuil áthas orm an lá speisialta comóraidh agus cuimhneacháin seo a chaitheamh libh. Tá an-tábhacht ag baint leis an stair, mar ábhar scoile agus mar bhunchloch don todhchaí. Le tuiscint ar an stair, is féidir linn aire a thabhairt do na rudaí a fágadh againn ag na glúnta a tháinig romhainn,
The National Flag flying over Áras an Uachtaráin.
An Bratach Náisiúnta ar crochadh thar Áras an Uachtaráin.
Photo: Conor McCabe Photography Ltd www.conormccabe.ie
Able Seaman Shannon Murphy stands on parade at a tri-service Guard Of Honour in Royal Hospital Kilmainham to commemorate the role of women in the events of the 1916 Rising.
Seasann Shannon Murphy, Mairnéalach Inniúil, ar pharáid ag Garda Onóra trí-sheirbhís san Ospidéal Ríoga i gCill Mhaighneann chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar ról na mban in imeachtaí Éirí Amach 1916
Photo: Maxwell Photography www.maxwellphotography.ie
Arrows and Flames – The Women of 1916 Speech by President Michael D. Higgins to Commemorate the Role of Women in the 1916 Easter Rising The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin Tuesday 8th March, 2016
Women played a vital role in the Rising, not only as medics but also as fighters. For many decades, their contribution was overlooked and unacknowledged. During a State ceremony to honour the women of Ireland 1916-2016 at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the President paid tribute to the women who fought for independence and spoke of the myriad roles they played during the Rising. Ghlac mná ról ríthábhachtach san Éirí Amach, ní hamháin mar oibrithe leighis ach mar chomhraiceoirí, chomh maith. Leis na cianta, rinneadh dearmad ar a rannchuidiú agus níor aithníodh é. I rith searmanas Stáit chun onóir a léiriú do mhná na hÉireann 1916-2016 ag Ospidéal Ríoga Chill Mhaighneann, léirigh an tUachtarán ómós do na mná a throid ar son an neamhspleáchais agus rinne sé trácht ar an iliomad ról a ghlac siad i rith an Éirí Amach.
A Ardmhéara, A Tháiniste, A Aire, A Chomhaltaí den Oireachtas, agus a hIonadaithe ban ach go háirithe, A Dhaoine Uaisle, Is mór an pléisiúir dom é an deis seo a bheith agam aitheantas poiblí a thabhairt don méid a rinne mná na hÉireann le linn Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916 agus do ghlúiseacht na réabhlóide i gcoitinne. Agus sinn ag teacht le chéile ar an lá speisialta seo, Lá Idirnáisiúnta na mBan, is ceart agus is comhair dúinn gach iarracht a dhéanamh cuimhniú ar an ról a bhí ag na mná sin i mbunú na hÉireann ina bhfuilimid inár gcónaí anois. Is ceart chomh maith go ndéanaimid macnamh, le chéile, ar an méid atá le baint amach againn fós le Éire níos cóire, níos cúramí agus níos cothraimí a thógháil.
“Those who were long described as ‘the forgotten women of 1916’ are not forgotten any more.” As President of Ireland, it is my very great pleasure to have this opportunity to acknowledge publicly the great contribution of Irish women to the Easter Rising of 1916 and to the revolutionary movement at large – and to be able to do so on International Women’s Day. May I start by paying tribute to those historians who have so diligently documented the vital part that
women played in the struggle for Irish freedom, thus ensuring that those who were long described as “the forgotten women of 1916” are not forgotten any more. We now know the names of the 300 women who were ‘out’ in the Rising, and we should never miss an opportunity to say those names. We know that those women had different political convictions and ideas about the future of Ireland. We know that some of them played a central part in the Revival; and we know of the women who suffered in the Lockout of 1913. We know that those women who were ‘out’ in 1916 came from all over Ireland – a few had even been born and raised abroad – and from all social classes. Some of them had university degrees, others were teenagers from working class families; some were born into Fenian families, others were of unionist stock. There were shop assistants, nurses, factory workers, artists, trade unionists, teachers, mothers and a doctor among them. All this new knowledge has thoroughly reshaped our grasp of the period, making it more inclusive, giving it more texture, accuracy and complexity. Drawing on recently released archival sources – most notably the military pension files and the witness statements collected by the Bureau of Military History as it sought to record “the history of the movement for Independence” – recent scholarship has also widened the lens of our understanding to include the vibrancy of the pre-revolutionary period – the new ideas, intellectual debates, cultural movements and political struggles with which the women engaged – as well as the often disappointing realities of independent Ireland. Today, as we come together to honour the women of 1916, it is appropriate that we recall as fully as possible the part that they played in laying the foundations of the Ireland in which we live, and that we reflect, together, on all that remains to be done if we are to live up to the dreams of equality and justice that animated those women from our past. As we look at the breadth and significance of their contribution to the Easter Rising, we must, unfortunately, start by acknowledging the many obstacles that the women had to overcome as they sought to join in the rebellion, some of them individually, most of them as members of constituted groups, primarily Cumann na mBan, but also the Irish Citizen Army, the Clan na nGaedheal Girl Scouts and the Hibernian Rifles. That the women were not easily granted access to the revolutionary space is illustrated, quite literally, by the story of Catherine Byrne, who, just after noon on Easter Monday, had to jump into the GPO through one of its
windows after she had been refused access at the door. Although weapons’ training was an integral part of Cumann na mBan’s activities, many of the Volunteers, for all their separatist radicalism, believed that if women were to play a direct part in the Rising, they should do so in the kitchen or the first aid ward, not the firing line. As with so much else, the leaders disagreed on this important issue. While James Connolly, Helena Molony recalled, “gave out revolvers to our girls”, Éamon de Valera notoriously refused to allow them into Boland’s Mills, and they found it easier to negotiate access to Jacob’s biscuit factory, commanded by Thomas MacDonagh. The Irish Citizen Army, then, proved the exception, in its mixed membership and egalitarian outlook. Dr Kathleen Lynn, for example, was second in command at City Hall, while Constance de Markievicz and Margaret Skinnider did play a prominent combatant role at St. Stephen’s Green. Yet most of the Irish Citizen Army women were not armed, and Margaret Skinnider had to cite the Proclamation to insist on her right to throw a grenade into the Shelbourne Hotel. Preoccupation with the roles that women were denied should not, however, detract from the important contribution that they did make, not just through the essential provision of food and first aid, but also, for example, in intelligence and communications, as despatch carriers. The women repeatedly risked their lives, braving military checkpoints and sniper fire to maintain rebel communications. They carried weapons, ammunitions, and other supplies hidden in the hems and folds of their clothes. Talking their way through the cordons that began tightening around the rebel positions by midweek, they scouted the streets to facilitate the movement of Volunteers. After the surrender, the 77 women who were taken into custody again had to insist, in order to be arrested, that this was their right. As Helena Molony subsequently complained to Sean O’Faolain, Countess de Markievicz’s biographer: “It is a curious thing that many men seem to be unable to believe that any woman can embrace an ideal – accept it intellectually, feel it as a profound emotion, and then calmly decide to make a vocation of working for its realisation.” While in prison, although overall treated more benignly than the men, many women suffered cruel and humiliating conditions. The surrender did not, of course, put an end to the women’s involvement in the struggle for independence, and they continued
to play a huge part throughout the revolutionary period. The women were instrumental, in particular, in reorganising Cumann na mBan’s and Volunteers’ communications networks after the Rising, as well as undertaking fundraising to replenish the stocks of weapons and ammunition and collecting and distributing money on behalf of the Prisoners’ Dependents’ Fund (the INAAVDF). The women’s role as advocates, and even propagandists, for the independence movement was also crucial. Some of them, such as Kathleen Clarke and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, were ambassadors on the lecture circuit in America. Many travelled to England and Wales, bringing home news of how the prisoner-rebels were being treated. They produced pamphlets, drawings – and also, in the case of Grace Gifford, cartoons – in support of the nationalist cause. They published commemorative cards and organised memorial masses. All those actions greatly contributed to the turn of Irish public opinion in favour of the rebels. Throughout the War of Independence and the Civil War, the women were, again, essential as communication conduits. They carried out intelligence work for the IRA and transported weapons around the country, often undertaking their mission after curfew at night, and on their own. The women also played an important role in assisting ’men on the run’, collecting wounded men from unsafe hospitals and organising safe houses. Importantly, we should never forget how, throughout those heady days of revolutionary activity, many women still had to look after their household. They had to be mother and father, carer and provider, to their children. It is also important to remember that at least two of the wives of the leaders who were executed immediately after the Rising – Agnes Mallin and Kathleen Clarke –were pregnant, a fact which the latter decided not to burden her husband Tom with during their last conversation in his prison cell. A few weeks after the executions of her husband and brother, Kathleen suffered a miscarriage and a near-death experience. The songs composed by Simon O’Connor, which we will hear later on, connect us to that more intimate and personal dimension of the women’s experiences, recalling for us the remarkable courage they demonstrated throughout their struggles. Their stories of affliction and fortitude connect us back to the human dimension of the Rising, beyond the purely military, and we must ensure that the voices of all those women who lost a husband, a brother, a sweetheart or a son in the rebellion, and whose lives were scarred ever after, remain central to the overall narrative of the Easter Rising.
The voices of the women also bring home to us the complexity of the revolutionary era and the many cruel twists of fate that followed the Easter rebellion. Áine Ceannt, wife of Éamonn, for example, related in her witness statement to the Bureau of Military History how her house was raided three times by the British military forces during the War of Independence, before it was stormed, in February 1923, by the troops of the Free State. She described how she was most upset by the Free State’s soldiers’ destruction of a photograph of which even the British military and auxiliaries had left untouched during previous raids. The life story of Brigid Lyons Thornton, who had served in the Four Courts garrison in April 1916, also recalls for us the immense tragedy of the Civil War, which turned friends and members of the same family, against one another. While a majority of the women who had been ‘out’ in the Rising sided with the anti-Treaty forces during the years 1922-23, Brigid Lyons became the first female officer in the Free State Army. As the medical officer in charge of Kilmainham Gaol, she thus found herself looking after the anti-Treaty female prisoners there, many of whom were former friends (and alongside whom she had been held in the very same prison just a few years earlier). As we recall the women of 1916, it is essential, in my view, that we also do justice to those thousands of women who, although they did not take a direct part in the insurrection in Dublin, Galway, Enniscorthy and elsewhere, were nevertheless directly affected by the Rising. Indeed one of the most striking aspects of the witnesses’ accounts of what happened during that fateful Easter Week, is the fierce resistance the Volunteers faced from women on the streets. Many of those women, in particular those from Dublin inner-city tenements, which were closest to the fighting sites, were clearly enraged by the danger placed on their families and homes. Nor should we forget that many children were wounded and killed in the crossfire. The rebels also attributed the women’s anger to the fact that many of them were married or related to soldiers fighting in the British Army on the Western Front and in the Middle East – “ladies of the separation allowance”, as they called them, a term that is somewhat unfair in light of the extreme poverty and parcity of economic options open to the working-class people of Dublin at the time. St. John Ervine, who was then director of the Abbey Theatre, and who spent much of Easter Monday walking through the city, related how he heard “the
strongest expressions of hatred” against the rebels. He described the furious response of some women from the tenements who had gathered at the edge of St. Stephen’s Green when a man suggested that they bury a dead rebel lying inside the park: “One of them, when she heard what he said, rushed at him and beat him with her fists and swore at him horribly. ‘No, you’ll not get him out’, she yelled. ‘Let him lie there and rot, like the poor soldiers!’” We are of course indebted to Seán O’Casey, who illustrated for us the grief, the horror, that is to any mother the loss of a son to war. Our accounts of the Rising must always, I strongly believe, be grounded on an awareness of this wider context. They must include not just the leaders and their wives, but make space for all those who suffered, so many who were too poor, too marginalised and too disenfranchised to be heard. Thus when we recall the 485 men, women and children who died in Dublin that week, we should also remember the families of those soldiers, so many of them from the tenements, who were among the 580 Irishmen killed on the Western Front in that same week, in a clash between the world’s most powerful and insatiable empires. As we reflect, in hindsight, on the contribution of the women of the Irish revolutionary movement, the irony of their subsequent marginalisation in the first five decades of our independence appears more starkly. Those restrictions placed on the participation of women in the public life of the State were all the more disappointing as the rights of women was a cause that a significant number of the women of 1916 had espoused with passion. Indeed alongside the nationalist and socialist strands, there was an important feminist strand to Ireland’s independence movement. Already before the Rising, organisations such as the Ladies Land League and Inghinidhe na hÉireann, by offering a way for women to work together, had raised the feminist consciousness of many women. As for the activists of the Irish Women’s Franchise League, established in 1908, they did not relish resorting to physical action in their campaigns for women’s suffrage. The vindication of women’s rights, and in particular their right to vote, which is one of the most remarkable features of the 1916 Proclamation, was also embraced by Cumann na mBan in their 1918 manifesto, which committed, I quote: “To follow the policies of the Republican Proclamation by seeing that women take up their proper position in
the life of the nation.” Given the context of early 20th century Ireland, a time infused by cultural and social ideals of ‘domesticity and respectability’ for women, when the conventional path for them was to tend to the affairs of the home, not public ones, those women from our past were, truly, boundary-breakers. Is réabhlóidithe tríd is tríd a bhí iontu, bhí siad gafa ní hamháin leis an neamhspleáchas phoilitiúil ach le hathraithe sóisialta i gcoitinne. [They were revolutionaries in the full sense of the term, preoccupied not just with political independence, but with social change at large.] The work of the women of Inghinidhe na hÉireann, for example, in delivering education as a vehicle of emancipation and empowerment for the children of Dublin inner-city tenements; the foundation by Kathleen Lynn of St Ultan’s Hospital for Sick Infants at a time when the care of infants was not given high priority by the medical profession; her work with the soup kitchens during the Lockout of 1913 – all this is testament to the great social awareness of the women of 1916. It is also important to note that a number of those women were not just radical in their political outlook, they also made quite radical choices about their personal lives. Dr Kathleen Lynn, whom I have just mentioned, was an officer of the ICA during the Rising and she shared a prison cell with her lifelong partner, Madeleine ffrench-Mullen, after the surrender. The two of them lived and worked together for decades afterwards. Elizabeth O’Farrell, who brought the order to surrender to rebel garrisons across Dublin, and her life partner, Julia Grenan, are buried in the same grave in Glasnevin Cemetery. The atmosphere of excitement and open possibilities which had brought together young men and women, often unchaperoned, around a common project, that youthful revolution, then, came to an abrupt end in the subsequent period. The underlying conservatism of Irish society a hundred years ago was manifested, among so many other things, through the pastoral letter from October 1922 in which the Catholic bishops urged all Irish women to desist from revolutionary activities. As you know, in the Ireland of the late 1920s, and throughout the 1930s, legislation was enacted that limited female employment in the civil service and industry, restricted access to contraceptives, and sought to control the lives of women in many different ways.
Women, who during the War of Independence had been judges in Dáil courts, were not, as men were, automatically called for jury service; they could not collect their children’s allowance; they could not get a barring order against a violent partner; they were institutionalised when considered “deviant” and their children taken from them.
the contribution of women to a variety of care activities. Can we find a compass that recognises the salience of care, love and other activities deployed outside of the formal market sector as goods of public significance? These are, I believe, fundamental questions as we reflect on what we, as a society, recognise as ‘good work’, and how we measure ‘value’.
All those limitations, which, to some degree, were found in other Western countries at the time, did not, however, force the women into public inaction. Excluded from full participation in the public space, many revolutionary women continued their work for greater equality and social justice by channelling their energy into social and community work.
Taking stock of what we have achieved, we must relentlessly seek to complete our collective journey towards the full enjoyment of women’s rights, in Ireland and beyond. Indeed the rights of women run to the heart of the political, socio-economic and cultural challenges of our contemporary world, none of which can be understood without recognising the gendered nature of inequality and injustice.
Examples abound of the great achievements of so many of those women, in the fields of social housing, education, healthcare, trade-unionism – from Leslie Price’s Freedom from Hunger campaign, later known as Gorta, to Kathleen Browne’s lobbying for the rights of farmers’ wives and Margaret Skinnider’s campaign, as a member, and then President of the INTO, for the rights of female and single men teachers. Nor should we forget the action, at home and abroad, of so many nuns at a time when Irish women’s access to education and professional careers was so limited. Sa lá atá inniu ann is féidir linn a bheith bródúil as, agus ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar dhul chun cinn na mban i sochaí na hÉireann. Gan amhras, is é dea-scéal olltoghchán na seachtaine seo caite ná gur toghadh níos mó mná ina Teachtaí Dála na riamh cheana, 35 ban ina iomlán. Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, táim go mór faoi choimín ag an beirt bhan a raibh ina réamhtheachtaithe san oifig seo – na hIar-Uachtaráin Máire Mhic Róibín agus Máire Mhic Ghiolla Íosa. [Today, we can rightly rejoice and take pride in the great progress of the position of women in Irish society. The good news of last week’s general election is undoubtedly that the new Dáil comprises a record number of women representatives, with 35 women elected as TDs. I, as President of Ireland, am deeply indebted to the great work of my two female predecessors in this office – former Presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese.] So many obstacles to the participation of women in the political and economic life of our country have been removed. Over the last few decades, we have witnessed spectacular gains in the educational attainment of women and girls and a steady increase of the number of women engaged in paid work. Yet, as is widely acknowledged, there too often remains a glass ceiling blocking women’s access to decisionmaking positions. Furthermore, while salaried work is important, it is also essential that we fully recognise
On this International Women’s Day, may I say, once again, how delighted I am that we have this opportunity to honour the revolutionary women of our nation. The actions of those women, who were our mothers and grandmothers, our aunts and grandaunts, our neighbours and our teachers, are an inextinguishable source of inspiration as we continue the work of building, together, a more just, a more caring and a more equal Ireland. I very much look forward to the rest of today’s programme, whose numerous strands and participants show that, in making the story of 1916, we draw from a rich tapestry, with colours we might have missed before coming to light. There is no single narrative of 1916, no monopoly over the interpretation of our history. May I congratulate the 77 women who made the quilt in memory of the 77 women who were detained in Richmond Barracks after the Rising. As a beautiful work of the mind and the hand, the intertwined layers of this quilt symbolise the ongoing conversation between the Irish women of today and those from the past – our living tradition. I also look forward to the theatre performance by the women of Inchicore, who have entitled their piece “Flames not flowers” in honour of the defiant spirit of the women of the Easter Rising, who sang in unison as they were marched from each of their garrisons across Dublin city. It is indeed greatly uplifting to see so many of our citizens engage creatively with our past, bringing out its resonance with our contemporary concerns and aspirations, and turning it into a wellspring of inspiration for the future. As the philosopher Paul Ricoeur said: “The past is not only what is bygone – that which has taken place and can no longer be changed – it also lives in the memory thanks to arrows of futurity which have
not been fired or whose trajectory has been interrupted. The unfulfilled future of the past forms perhaps the richest part of a tradition.” Arrows and flames – a hundred years on, the energy of the women of 1916 continue to orient our present and illuminate our future.
Able seaman Leia Wall, Private Chloe Carroll and Sergeant Anne Kelly representing the three branches of the Defence Forces. Mairnéalach den dara rang Leia Wall, Saighdiúir Singil Chloe Carroll agus Sáirsint Anne Kelly ag déanamh ionadaíocht do na trí bhrainse in Óglaigh na hÉireann. Photo: Maxwell Photography www.maxwellphotography.ie
Members of the women’s performance group ‘Flames not Flowers’ at The Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin.
Baill den ghrúpa taibhithe ban ‘Flames not Flowers’ ag an Ospidéal Ríoga, Cill Mhaighneann, Baile Átha Cliath.
Photo: Maxwell Photography www.maxwellphotography.ie
Sung and Unsung — The Heroes of 1916 Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at State Event for Relatives of those who participated in the Easter Rising RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin Saturday 26th March, 2016
A dhaoine chóra, fellow citizens,
For the descendants of those who took part, the Rising is both a foundational moment in the history of the Irish State and a profoundly important part in the history of their families. On the 26th March 2016, the President addressed a gathering of over 3,500 relatives of those that participated in the Rising, and spoke of the importance of recalling the humanity of those who fought, and of the sacrifices that they made. I measc shliocht na ndaoine siúd a ghlac páirt ann, tráth cinniúnach is ea an tÉirí Amach i stair stát na hÉireann agus cuid fhíor-thábhachtach é i stair a dteaghlach. An 26 Márta 2016, labhair an tUachtarán ag tionól ina raibh os cionn 3,500 gaol díobh siúd a ghlac páirt san Éirí Amach, agus rinne sé trácht ar a thábhachtaí atá sé daonnacht iad siúd a throid, agus na híobairtí a rinne siad, a thabhairt chun cuimhne.
Tá fíorchaoin áthais orm, mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, a bheith anseo anocht chun na saoránaigh cróga a ghlac páirt in Éirí Amach 1916 – an síol as a d’fhás ár neamhspleáchas – a chomóradh. [I am delighted, as President of Ireland, to be here this evening to commemorate all those brave citizens who played a part in the 1916 Rising and thus were part of the founding moments from which our independence and our present State flowed.] May I commence by thanking the many descendants and relatives of the participants in the 1916 Rising who have gathered here today to honour their brave ancestors. All of you here this evening share, and represent at a unique and personal level, the significance of the actions taken by those with whom you have a relationship. While this occasion is one of pride in citizenship for you it is also one of family and intimacy. Yours is a special relationship with the founding moments of our State and with the creation of the independent Ireland we now enjoy. I am privileged and proud to share this event with you. Some of you present are related to the leaders of the Rising, now immortalised in the history books of Ireland as the signatories of the Proclamation, or as leaders of the participating organisations. Others amongst you represent the many quiet, unsung heroes who moved around the streets of Dublin on that seismic Easter Monday. Names like Lily Kempson, Walter Bell, James Maguire, Daniel Brophy, Margaret Quinn, and Patrick English, may not have been perpetuated in the names of our streets and buildings, or in songs, poems and films of the period, but they and many others, of
every rank and skill, played their own unique, brave and significant role on the streets and in the buildings of Dublin during that April week that would change Ireland’s history for ever.
páirteach san Éirí Amach orthu féin. Ní rabhadar cinnte faoin toradh a bheadh ar an Éirí Amach agus ní rabhadar ag súil le maireachtáil chun an toradh sin a fheiceáil, is é sin Éire saor.
Whatever the valued memory or connection that has brought you here, all of you in this room share a direct link to the people who, some with more preparation that others, took to the streets of Dublin on Easter Monday 1916 to make a demand for independence and to call for an end to Empire and to make a response to the consequences of Imperialism. Those who participated were men and women who risked everything in their different ways, by occupying main buildings in the city, by moving ammunition around its streets, dodging snipers in order to carry messages or transport food and medical supplies to where they were needed, and undertaking the many other essential tasks in a city fighting for freedom and inspired by the declaration of a Republic.
[Your presence calls to mind the risks and sacrifices of the men and women who became involved in the Rising. They may have been uncertain of its outcome and without expectation of living to see what could subsequently be achieved in the name of Irish freedom.]
For all of us citizens today theirs are stories of great bravery, vision and determination; but they were also, for their loved ones and dependents, stories tinged with sadness, loss and separation. The human price paid should not ever be forgotten, should remind us of the great debt of gratitude we owe to all of those who bravely risked their lives a hundred years ago so that future generations of Ireland could grow up as citizens of a free and independent State. Across a distance of time there is the danger that we might lose the human essence of the lives of the men and women who changed the course of our history, or perhaps at a distance be inclined to interpret their actions solely through the prism of competing accounts of major political or constitutional change. Tonight we have the opportunity to give correct place to the intimate human dimension of the Easter Rising and the sacrifices made by so many of those who helped to build our nation. A chúin an cothéacs as a thagann ár bhféidireachtaí d’inniu agus don todhchaí. Those sacrifices by your forebears are, for all Irish citizens, a source of inspiration and patriotic pride, but they are for you, in addition, personal stories of family experience, choices made that had special meaning and consequences for your families. I often think of Lily Connolly’s words to her husband James when she and her daughter Nora visited him on the eve of his execution – ‘But your beautiful life James’. Cuireann bhur láithreacht i gcuimhne dom an baol agus na híobairtí a ghlac na fir agus na mná a raibh
This gathering of the descendants of those who took part in demanding and seeking to establish our freedom is a gathering of those families who grew up with the memory and lingering sense of a lost loved one. An occasion such as this gives us the opportunity to shine a light on an often-forgotten chapter in the story of 1916 and the War of Independence, the layers of grief and loss and the final farewells that had to be borne and cast long shadows across families for so many years. We are all indebted to those historians, and the families whose work made possible this new and necessary understanding. For example, when we remember Thomas MacDonagh we should not just recall his role as Commandant taking control of Jacobs’ biscuit factory, but we should remember him as a young man and father whose daughter woke up and put her arms around his neck as he said his last goodbye to her on Easter Sunday night. Patrick Pearse’s final words to his mother before he was executed , “I will call to you in my heart at the last moment” are words that for many will echo as strongly across the years as the memory of his reading of the Proclamation in front of the GPO at four minutes past noon on Easter Monday afternoon. Má smaoinímid orthu mar aithreacha agus mar dheartháireacha, mar iníonacha agus mar leannáin, mar a dhéanaimid anocht, tá sé níos éasca orainn tuiscint a fháil ar a saolta roimh an Éirí Amach agus le linn an Éirí Amach féin. [Thinking of them as fathers and brothers, daughters and lovers, as we do tonight, allows us to place ourselves more easily in their lives and to appreciate the experiences they lived through in the lead-up to, and during, the Rising.] The key actors in the Rising were not abstract or mythical figures; they were living, and particularly conscious and engaged men and women. They were poets, academics, journalists and civil servants; city clerks and shopkeepers; rural farmers and labourers; Catholics and Protestants, whose voices made the call for a new and re-imagined Ireland.
When we read the first hand accounts that have been made available to us, we are presented with a real sense of what it was like to live in Dublin in the early 20th century. That period between the 1910s and the 1920s, now known as the ‘revolutionary decade’, was a vibrant episode in Irish history. Far from the imagined homogenous and insular Ireland with which we are often presented, the Ireland of that time, while it was a hotbed of creativity, and with articulated demands for civic participation, a time of passionate public discourse; it was also an Ireland that was deeply divided in terms of class. The teeming tenements in the abandoned Georgian sections of the inner city were locations of the worst poverty in the adjacent empire whose capital was less than a half day’s travel away; 5,000 tenements were home to 87,000 people, comprising 26,000 families. Of those families, 20,000 lived in apartments of just one room. In the suburbs the previous occupants of Georgian Dublin, many of them landlords charging rents that would secure a small house in Britain, in the words of Patrick Pearse, “prepared for Summer tennis”. In rural Ireland consolidation of land holding was under way and a grazier class was seeking political influence. Today we view the Rising as being synonymous with republicanism, but that of course was not a dominant ideology at the time; even if it was understood, and deliberately included in the Proclamation by Pearse and Connolly who were very well aware of its historical and contemporary significance and of its emancipatory promise. Some of those who sought independence we should remember were seeking an Irish freedom that could have facilitated the expansion of commerce, as easily as a Republic. Even amongst some of those ranks of the Irish Volunteers, whose rhetoric was republican in tone, many were honestly motivated by a desire to counter the unionist threat to home rule, and their concern too might be to secure their recent and invaluable gains in security of land tenure, holdings that had been achieved against a backdrop of insecurity, poverty and involuntary emigration. Then too, some of the rebels recorded their surprise when they learned that a Republic had, in fact, been declared in the Proclamation. The signatories understood the spirit and meaning of what was a Republic in the sense of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the American Revolution. The loss of Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, who
had brought an egalitarian, workers’ rights emphasis into the Citizen Army Volunteer relationship, whose coming together is reflected in the language of the Proclamation, would become all the more evident in years that followed with the difficulties that would obstruct the drafting of the Democratic Programme of the Dáil in 1919, the minimalism of the 1922 Constitution which could not carry the language of Pearse and Connolly, and indeed the deep institutional conservatism of the early decades of the State. The Ireland of the early 20th century was a complex place where the shops, restaurants and back rooms of radical Dublin were alive with the conversations of a dynamic mixture of feminists, socialists, radicals, nationalists, anti-imperialists and the many other ideologists compelled, in their different ways, to dream of a new and better Ireland, and they cared for each other. They were able, too, to differ with dignity and respect for each others’ views. Constance de Markievicz would ask her sister Eva Gore-Booth to visit Agnes Mallen because she had a house of children and would need help. Eva would in turn write to Hanna Sheehy Skeffington who while a pacifist still brought provisions to those involved in the Insurrection. Some of you here today may be related to the nationalist families who socialised in the church halls and pub rooms around Clanbrassil Street and Harolds Cross, others to the middle class radicals, pacifists, suffragettes and feminists such as the Sheehy Skeffingtons I have mentioned, others to the cultural radicals such as the MacDonaghs and the Pearses who lived in the neighbouring suburbs of Rathmines, Rathgar and Ranelagh. Others of you may be related to figures such as the cultural and artistic literati clustered around Harcourt Terrace, such as Dubhglas de hÍde or Sarah Purser, who had language and cultural rights as their priorities, key to the vibrant Irish Revival which they had sought to build and which inspired much of the idealism that was at the heart of 1916. All of the participants in 1916 had come to perceive and recoil from what was a constant theme in the assumptions of the Imperialist mind: that those dominated in any colony such as Ireland were lesser in human terms, in language, culture and politics. The historical evidence for this view was all around, in housing, hunger, emigration, exclusion and language loss. The cultural freedom allowed was a freedom to imitate and ingratiate. Our road to independence stretched too, of course, beyond the capital city and thus let us not forget revolutionaries such as Waterford Quaker Rosamund
Jacob, Cork journalist Liam de Róiste or Maria Winifred Carney from Belfast, friend and confidante to James Connolly, amongst the many other activists across the country who became involved, in their different ways, in building towards and participating in that foundational moment of our national history. For the younger generation of that latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th there was the heady experience of the emergence of a great generational divide. Some young revolutionaries were coming from and continuing a strong family Fenian tradition that included parliamentarism, which had many successes in land reform and the seizing of opportunities for making the case for Home Rule. For others, such as the younger Giffords, the Plunketts and the McSwineys this was too slow and thus they were rejecting the constitutionalism of their elders in favour of revolution and the seeking of a war of liberation. Even within individual families loyalties were often divided in a deeper sense with, for example, Éamonn Ceannt’s brother William fighting with the British army in France, while Éamonn fought against them in Ireland. In both cases they had expectations, most profoundly and ethically held, for what was for them the promise and the realisation of a better Ireland. It is critical to our understanding of the Rising that we view it too in the broader historical context of the First World War. This was, together with the Lockout of 1913, an important pretext to the Rising. By the early 20th century, a pinnacle of imperialist expectation and arrogance had been reached, and the unassailability of the great European Empires, assured a century earlier at Vienna, was now under attack. The Boer War had been widely viewed in Ireland as an anti-imperial struggle, while the First World War and its rhetoric reinforced a perception that imperialism was drawing its final breath; after all six Empires entered the war, only two would emerge. The world was in a turmoil of expectation of forms of independence. As Maurice Walsh puts it in his recent Bitter Freedom: “Why would Ireland have been different? According to Czech leader Tomáš Masaryk, the War had turned Europe into ‘a laboratory atop a vast graveyard’.” Ireland’s rebellion has a global significance too, acting as it did as an inspiration for independence movements around the world throughout the 20th century, particularly in other British colonies. As Conor Mulvagh has noted, V.V. Giri, who would become the fourth President of India (1969-74), came under suspicion, as a young Indian law student studying in
Dublin between 1913 and 1916, and had, he claimed, a deportation order served on him. Culture was a central element of the Rising and an inspiration for those who took part. In the years leading up to Easter 1916, the Irish had become an increasingly literate people, giving rise to an extensive readership of newspapers which allowed an alternative culture to emerge in the shape of provocative and radical Irish journalism. Journalists including Bulmer Hobson, Helena Molony, Arthur Griffith and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington contributed polemical work to publications such as Young Ireland and United Irishman. Such papers were frequently banned by the British authorities.
“A democracy is always, and must always be, a work in progress, and how we use the independence we have been gifted will continue to challenge us, morally and ethically.” To borrow from the title of Diarmuid Ferriter’s recent book, the cultural leaders of the revolution were concerned, not just with military or political victory, but with the elevation of the Irish people, long considered a ‘rabble’, to the status of a Nation. The Irish literary revival was of course part of a profoundly progressive movement, which had seen, in rapid succession, the founding of the Land League, the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Gaelic League, as a generation of Irish men and women who sought through such organisations to simultaneously retrieve their heritage, and fashion an alternative Ireland. Myriad and intertwined connections existed between these groups at both executive and grass roots levels, and it was such mutual affiliations that created the networks of the emerging political movement that was to lead us into Easter 1916. The breadth of intellectual work combined with activism is astounding. James Connolly could write a play, be familiar with George Bernard Shaw’s or Ibsen’s work while busy with the tasks of organisation and agitation.
Bhí timpeallacht chultúrtha thar a bheith saibhir ann ag an am le leithéidí W.B. Yeats, Jack Yeats, James Joyce, George Russell agus Seán O’Casey. Ealaíontóirí agus smaointeoirí ab ea iad a bhí flaithiúil agus a bhí tiomanta do saol an phobail. Náisiúnaithe, poblachtaigh, sóisialaithe, feiminigh agus idirnáisiúnaíthe ab ea iad fir agus mná an ré sin. Theastaigh uathu Éire nua, radacach a chruthú, Éire ina mbeadh an sean-stair agus an sean-chultúr le braith inti. [W.B. Yeats, Jack Yeats, James Joyce, George Russell, Seán O’Casey – the richness of the cultural milieu of the time is stunning. These were artists and thinkers who were generous and committed to the life of the public and the life of the community. Nationalist, republican, socialist, feminist, internationalist – the great men and women of the period typically lived many of these roles. They dreamed of creating something new and radical in Ireland, something which would also be continuous with a distinct Irish culture and history.] All of these strands of the Rising are present in the idealism of the Proclamation which offers us a generous social and political vision, one that can still inspire us today. We should never forget that it was addressed too to the nation’s women as well as its men in equal terms, two years before women over 30 were allowed to vote, as it called forth a Republic that would guarantee: “religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens” On that matter, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington was fulsome in her praise of James Connolly for including the equality of women, regarding it as a first in an emancipatory document drafted by men. During the passage from the Proclamation to the 1930s that egalitarian emphasis would weaken. Women would have to struggle for their equality and in that they would invoke the most direct connections with the women of 1916. This inheritance they invoked particularly in the debate on Bunreacht na hÉireann in 1937.
voices that together speak of, and for, a new Ireland born out of contemporary imagination and challenges. So this evening, let us look to our past in a way that is emancipatory and transformative. Let us recognise all that was powerfully suggestive in that past as we set about constructing the foundations of a new and better Ireland. Let us remember, with respect, not only those who have called us here today, or those Leaders whose names are indelibly etched into the history books of Ireland, but also all those who lost their lives during the 1916 Rising. Let us remember the sung and unsung heroes of 1916, those who fought for Ireland, and those who were caught up in the events on the streets of Dublin. Let us remember all those who died or were injured in Dublin, the majority of whom were civilians. Of the 485 people who died, over half were civilians and 40 of those civilians were children aged 16 and under; children forgotten for almost a century, but in recent years reclaimed by the work of Joe Duffy and others. We reflect and recall the loss suffered by all families. We recall and respect all the families who lost sons, fathers, brothers, sisters or daughters. Inniu, tá sé de dhulgas orainn ar fad Poblacht a shamhlú agus a chruthú as a mbeadh na bunaitheoirí bródúil; náisiún cróga, le fís agus le spiorad fial daonnachta. [Today we are all charged to take on our own responsibilities in imagining and building a Republic in the fullest sense, institutional and experiential, one of which our founders would be proud; truly representative of a nation rooted in courage, vision and a profound spirit of generous humanity.]
Our nation has journeyed many miles from the shellshocked and burning Dublin of 1916. We can see that in many respects we have not fully achieved the dreams and ideals for which our forebears gave so much. A democracy is always and must always be a work in progress, and how we use the independence we have been gifted will continue to challenge us, morally and ethically. We must ensure that our journey into the future is a collective one; one in which the homeless, the migrant, the disadvantaged, the marginalized and each and every citizen can find homes, are fellow travellers on our journey which includes all of the multitude of
President Michael D. Higgins pictured with Sabina Higgins at the 1916 Relatives Event at the RDS, Dublin.
An tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn sa phictiúr lena bhean Sabina Uí hUiginn ag an Ócáid do Ghaolta Lucht 1916 san RDS, Baile Átha Cliath.
Photo: Reg Gordon www.reggordon.com
President Michael D. Higgins speaking at the 1916 Relatives Event in the RDS, Dublin as a part of Irelands 2016 Commemoration.
An tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn ag labhairt ag an Ócáid do Ghaolta Lucht 1916 san RDS, Baile Átha Cliath mar chuid de Chomóradh 2016 na hÉireann.
Photo: Reg Gordon www.reggordon.com
Centenary Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at ‘Centenary’ Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin Monday 28th March, 2016
‘Centenary’, a special one-oﬀ cultural celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, was broadcast live on RTÉ One television in March 2016. The President attended the event and gave a short address emphasising the centrality of art and culture to those who participated in the Rising. Craoladh ‘Centenary’, ceiliúradh cultúrtha speisialta aonuaire chun suntas a thabhairt do chomóradh 100 bliain Éirí Amach 1916, beo ar teilifís RTÉ One i Márta 2016. D’fhreastail an tUachtarán ar an imeacht agus rinne sé aitheasc gearr a leag béim ar an bpáirt lárnach a bhí ag an ealaín agus an cultúr ina measc siúd a ghlac páirt san Éirí Amach.
Fearaim fíorchaoin fáilte romhaibh go léir go dtí an ócáid stairiúil seo. Agus muid ag comóradh céad bliain ó Eirí amach na Cásca, cuireann sé áthas orm go bhfuil muid ag tabhairt áit lárnach dos na healaíne, atá mar oidhreacht saibhir againn mar Éireannaigh agus atá faoi bhláth agus muid ag céiliúradh. Fellow Irish citizens, Dear friends of the Irish people, Whether you are watching here in the audience, or on a screen at home – in Ireland or abroad – it is my pleasure to join with you all as we commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising. This year, and in particular this weekend, we have been remembering – and celebrating – the contributions of those who fought and died 100 years ago so that future generations might live as citizens of a free and independent State. The decades from which the rebellion of 1916 sprung were ones of vision, energy and imagination. It was a time of new cultural and literary awakening in Ireland. That cultural renaissance of which Dubhghlas de hÍde, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Augusta Gregory, W.B. Yeats, John Millington Synge, Seán O’Casey and so many more were a part, sought to fashion and create a new Irishness and a distinctive Irish literary culture. That cultural rejuvenation was central to the Rising, as a source of inspiration for many of those who took part. From that foundation, that cultural and literary awakening, Irish artists known and appreciated throughout the world have emerged, and continue to
emerge. Tonight we celebrate not only our rich cultural heritage, but also its contemporary expression, our new imaginings, and the many creative ways in which we are telling our stories.
“What generations have created – beautiful, flawed and full of promise – we now entrust to the next. We wish them well as they make music, and continue to dream.” For ours is a story still in the making. This year, as we celebrate this important centenary and reflect on what we have achieved, we are commiting ourselves to continuing the journey of imagination, committing ourselves to sustain the artistic work that will form the next chapter of our story. The Republic the signatories envisaged in the Proclamation is ours to achieve. Together, we have the power to realise the possibility of an inclusive future, in which we share our Republic and its opportunities with all who belong to her – both here and abroad. For the leaders of 1916, their political hopes and aspirations for what a free Irish Republic might be, were linked to a rich Irish culture, which they cherished and promoted. Within that vision, their ancient Irish language and culture, informed by our history and migration, was central to everything for which they hoped and fought. Let us continue, then, to imagine and to dream – for that is surely how we best make use of our past – to build, together, a just and equal future. Casann an roth. The wheel always turns. What generations have created – beautiful, flawed and full of promise – we now entrust to the next. We wish them well as they make music, and continue to dream. Slán abhaile agus beir beannacht.
‘Mise Éire’ performed by singer Sibéal Ní Chasaide at RTÉ’s Centenary concert in Dublin’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.
‘Mise Éire’ á chanadh ag an amhránaí Sibéal Ní Chasaide ag ceolchoirm comórtha céid RTÉ ag Amharclann Bord Gáis Energy i mBaile Átha Cliath.
Photo: Andres Poveda Photography www.apphoto.ie RTÉ www.rte.ie
A wreath laid by President Michael D. Higgins at a ceremony to mark the contribution of the Irish Citizen Army & James Connolly to the cause of Irish freedom.
Fleasc arna leagan ag an Uachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn ag searmanas chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar an méid a rinne Arm Cathartha na hÉireann agus James Connolly ar mhaithe le saoirse na hÉireann.
Photo: Defence Forces www.military.ie
A Hope yet to be Fulfilled — The Irish Citizen Army Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at a Ceremony in Celebration of James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army Liberty Hall Theatre Tuesday 29th March, 2016
The Irish Citizen Army was established to defend workers against the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police by James Larkin, James Connolly and Jack White. The headquarters of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, Liberty Hall, was not only the seat of the Irish Citizen Army but also supplied the expertise and printing press to produce copies of the Proclamation. There, on the 29th March 2016, the President laid a wreath at the statue of James Connolly, unveiled a plaque dedicated to members of the Citizen Army who died during the Rising, and paid tribute to their vision of an Ireland dedicated to social and economic justice, equality and freedom. Bhunaigh James Larkin, James Connolly agus Jack White Arm Cathartha na hÉireann chun oibrithe a chosaint in aghaidh Chonstáblacht Ríoga na hÉireann agus Phóilíní Chathair Átha Cliath. Ní hamháin go raibh i gceanncheathrú Cheardchumann Oibrithe Iompair agus Ilsaothair na hÉireann, Halla na Saoirse, suíochán Arm Cathartha na hÉireann, ach sholáthair sé an saineolas agus an clóphreas chun cóipeanna den Fhorógra a tháirgeadh. Ansin, an 29 Márta 2016, rinne an tUachtarán fleasc a leagan ag dealbh James Connolly, plaic a chur i láthair atá tiomnaithe do chomhaltaí an Airm a maraíodh i rith an Éirí Amach, agus ómós a léiriú dá bhfís d’Éirinn a bhí tiomnaithe do cheartas sóisialta agus geilleagrach, comhionannas agus saoirse.
A Thánaiste, A Ardmhéara A Dhaoine Uaisle, A Cháirde Gael, Ar an gcéad dul síos, is mian liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl do Chór Ard Scoil San Lughaidh as an ceol álainn sin. I measc na ngrúpaí éagsúla a ghlac páirt san Éirí Amach, grúpa ar leith a bhí in Arm Cathartha na hÉireann de bharr a dtraidisiún chomhionannais – arm oibrithe a raibh na mbaill tiomanta, ní hamháin don neamhspleáchas náisiúnta, ach don athdháileadh maoine ar bhealach cóir i measc muintir na hÉireann. Tá áthas orm go bhfuil an deis seo agam aitheantas poiblí a thabháirt don méid a rinne Arm Cathartha na hÉireann, agus a cheannaire James Connolly, le linn Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916 ar son saoirse na hÉireann. Today we celebrate the distinctive contribution of the Irish Citizen Army, and its great leader, James Connolly, to the Easter Rising of 1916, and to Ireland’s Freedom at large – by which James Connolly meant all of our freedoms. I am especially pleased that we are able to do so in this emblematic seat of the struggle for the rights of workers – Liberty Hall. In 1951, Citizen Army member Rosie Hackett concluded the witness statement she gave to the Bureau of Military History with the following remark: “Liberty Hall is the most important building that we have in the city. More things happened there, in connection with the Rising, than in any other place.”
It was indeed just outside these premises that, on Easter Monday 1916, the men and women of the Irish Citizen Army assembled to take part, along with members of the Irish Volunteers, in an armed rebellion against the British Empire. The importance of Liberty Hall as the headquarters of both the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union reaches, however, far beyond the purely military. It is the emancipatory aspirations of the members of the Citizen Army, and the egalitarian dimension they injected into the events of 1916, that still appeal to us, call to us, one hundred years later.
experience of poverty. Some radical people from more comfortable social backgrounds also joined the Citizen Army – some of them being engaged concurrently in the other progressive movements then under way, such as the movement for women’s rights, socialism and cultural nationalism.
The women and men of the Irish Citizen Army were committed to achieving much more than national independence: the Republic of which they dreamt – the Republic which is yet to be realised – was one that would enable a more equal redistribution of the fruits of prosperity among all of its children.
The union movement endured as the living pulse at the heart of the transformative social vision heralded by James Connolly, who became the leader of the Irish Citizen Army in the autumn of 1914, after Jim Larkin’s departure for America.
The distinctiveness of the Irish Citizen Army lay not only in the ideals its members held, but also in the social circumstances from which many of them came. It was from the tenements and the ranks of the excluded that the Citizen Army drew much of its membership, and it was in the bitter experience of the working people of Dublin seeking to organise themselves, that their thinking and their actions were rooted. Indeed we should never forget that the ICA sprang from an event which preceded the Rising by three years – the Great Lockout of 1913, and the resulting strike organised by the leader of the newly formed Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), Jim Larkin. The opening decades of the 20th century, that period during which the Rising would take place, was a time when one third of the population of Dublin inhabited tenement slums in the city centre. It was a time, too, when, in the absence of effective union organisation, more than a quarter of male workers were engaged in unskilled labour, being paid “slave wages”, and unable to access decent housing and food for themselves and their families. The brutality of the Dublin employers’ attempt, in the summer of 1913, at forcing workers into choosing between their job and the new union, ‘Larkin’s union’ as they called it, is what precipitated the formation of the Irish Citizen Army, which was initially set up as a workers’ militia defending strikers against the attacks of the police and the strike-breakers. The ethical appeal of egalitarianism, and an awareness of the destructive consequences of imperialism were not, however, confined to one class or the direct
Although the Great Strike of 1913 was, in the short term, ultimately broken, this defeat did not succeed in its aim of crushing the workers’ resolve to join a general union. Neither did it extinguish the flame of the struggle for social transformation.
It was James Connolly who presided over the reorganisation of the Citizen Army, turning it from the loosely organised group equipped with sticks and bats it had been at its beginnings, into the armed, welltrained and highly motivated, though much smaller, force that would take part in the Rising of Easter 1916. As one Citizen Army member, Frank Robbins, recalled in his memoir, Under the Starry Plough, published in 1977: “The hard core of the Irish Citizen Army who remained loyal to Connolly embraced the ideal of Irish independence as expressed in the very definite terms of the ‘Workers’ Republic’.” One of the most remarkable legacies of the Irish Citizen Army for us today is, I believe, the place it carved out for women, both among its ranks and in its vision for the Ireland of the future. It is well known that, during the Rising, Citizen Army officer Dr Kathleen Lynn was second in command at City Hall, while Constance de Markievicz and Margaret Skinnider played an important combatant role at St. Stephen’s Green. More profoundly, not just James Connolly, but figures such as Francis Sheehy Skeffington, who was a member of the Citizen Army at its outset, saw women’s emancipation as being essential to any genuine social progress. If I may quote the words of James Connolly, from The Re-Conquest of Ireland (1915): “Of what use... can be the re-establishment of any form of Irish State if it does not embody the emancipation of womanhood. As we have shown, the whole spirit and practice of modern Ireland, as it expresses itself through its pastors and masters, bear socially and politically, hardly upon women...
Down from the landlord to the tenant or peasant proprietor, from the monopolist to the small business man eager to be a monopolist, and from all above to all below, filtered the beliefs, customs, ideas establishing a slave morality which enforces the subjection of women as the standard morality of the country. None so fitted to break the chains as they who wear them, none so well equipped to decide what is a fetter. In its march towards freedom, the working class of Ireland must cheer on the efforts of those women who, feeling on their souls and bodies the fetters of the ages, have arisen to strike them off...” For Connolly, therefore, women were to play a crucial part in the upcoming armed action with those of the Volunteers who had rejected Redmond’s call for enlistment in the British Army – a joint action to which Connolly agreed early in the New Year of 1916, after discussions with the Irish Republican Brotherhood. From then on, Liberty Hall operated at two levels, combining the preparations for an insurrection with the normal work of the Union. It is no surprise then for us to note how centrally Liberty Hall features in so many of the accounts of the events of 1916. As the headquarters of the ITGWU, the Hall had already, before 1916, become central to the collective life of Dublin’s workers. A soup kitchen had been run there by Maud Gonne and Constance de Markievicz during the Lockout. Every week, the Irish Workers’ Orchestra, formed by Michael Mallin, gave a concert in the Hall, including one on the Sunday before the Rising. A clothing co-operative had also been opened, with Delia Larkin, and then Helena Molony, who later fought with the Citizen Army in City Hall, as Secretary. This co-operative employed women who had lost their job as a result of the Lockout. It comprised a small workroom and a shop, run by Rosie Hackett, on the Eden Quay side of Liberty Hall. “One of the products of the Co-Op”, one member of the Citizen Army recalled with appreciation, “was a first class workers’ shirt. It had a crest of the Red Hand on it and was selling for 2/6”. ‘Rebel Papers’, as they were then known, were also sold in that shop. Some of those papers were printed in the adjacent machine room, where Connolly had installed a Double Crown Wharfdale printing press. After The Irish Worker, the paper founded by Larkin, was shut down by the British authorities for anti-war sedition, it was replaced from May 1915 onwards, by a new version of Connolly’s paper, The Workers’ Republic. When the last edition of The Workers’ Republic came out, on Saturday, 22nd April, 1916, its reduced length of 4 pages,
instead of the customary 8, was the only clue that an exceptional event was imminent. In the weeks leading up to the Rising, Liberty Hall bustled with activity, in a tensed atmosphere of regular police raids. Indeed British Intelligence were monitoring all that was happening there. For about six months before Easter 1916, Dr Kathleen Lynn provided first aid and medical classes in Liberty Hall. “That,” Rosie Hackett recounted in her witness statement, “was part of the real preparations”, before going on to describe how, “from Holy Thursday, we were preparing the food. The scout boys went around collecting bread”. Drilling and other military exercises regularly departed from Beresford Place, and Liberty Hall itself was turned into a workshop for making amunition. As Frank Robbins recalled: “A number of the unemployed members of the Irish Citizen Army were utilising their spare time making munitions. This group was augmented by a selected number of members who frequented Liberty Hall in the evenings and were free from other duties... The munitions being manufactured were grenades and bullets converted from ordinary shotgun ammunition. Bombs of all shapes and sizes were made from ‘baggin’ cans, tin snuffboxes, tobacco tins and other such receptacles.” Most importantly, it was also in Liberty Hall that the Proclamation of the Republic was printed. It is fitting indeed that those lines in the Proclamation that are most meaningful to us today – “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens” – that those words, then, which convey the generous aspirations of the women and men of the Irish Citizen Army, should have materialised in Liberty Hall’s printing room. All of us who live in an age of digital reproduction must appreciate what a herculean task the printing of the Proclamation was for the three men who carried out that work – Christopher Brady, Liam O’Brien and Michael Molloy. In their witness statements, they recalled how they were met at Liberty Hall on Easter Sunday morning by James Connolly and Tomás MacDonagh and given the task of printing a manuscript in a handwriting which Liam O’Brien indentified as that of Patrick Pearse. The three men showed not only dedication but considerable creative imagination in completing their task. The Proclamation had to be printed in two halves, and, according to Molloy, the Wharfdale was “so dilapidated that parts had to be propped up with bricks”. Then too, the shortage of type was so great that
wrong fonts had to be used after being altered with sealing wax. The job was finished between 12 and 1 on Easter Monday morning, when 2,500 copies of the Proclamation were handed over to Helena Molony, who had been waiting on a couch in the co-op shop. In the early hours of that morning, large bodies of Volunteers and Citizen Army began congregating outside Liberty Hall. Frank Robbins gave us a lively account of that seminal moment: “That morning saw Liberty Hall and its surroundings once again the scene of great activity. Members of the Irish Citizen Army who had the previous night been given passes to go home were returning at an early hour. Senior officers and section mobilisers of the Irish Volunteers arrived early and the latter were leaving on their bicycles every couple of minutes.” Until, a couple of hours later: “Bugler William Oman sounded the fall-in at about 11:45am. There was a rush of feet from all directions throughout the Hall. That was a thrilling moment.” Each group were marched by their officers from Liberty Hall to their positions across the city. The Irish Citizen Army battalions were led, to the General Post Office by James Connolly, to St. Stephen’s Green by Michael Mallin, and to City Hall by Seán Connolly. The rest is history, and this year of commemorations has given us the opportunity to recall and celebrate the idealism and heroism of it all. It is important to note, today, in Liberty Hall, that the Irish Citizen Army did so much better in mobilising its troops than the Volunteers after Eoin MacNeill’s countermanding order. Indeed it is doubtful if the Rising would have gone ahead without the Citizen Army’s 250 combatants who made up an estimated third of the forces who mobilised in Dublin on Easter Monday.
in the new Republic they were calling forth.
“Tapaímis an deis seo na gealltanais a tháing chugainn ó mhná agus ó fhir Arm Cathartha na hÉireann, nár cuireadh i gcrích go fóill, a fhíorú le linn na comóraidh seo.” The ambition of those who formed or joined the Irish Citizen Army was not confined to replacing an alien landlord class with a native one, or replacing one form of conservative nationalism with another. Their objective was to transform thoroughly Ireland’s social, economic and cultural, as well as political, hierarchies. Such radical ideas of participation and redistribution were, of course, staunchly opposed by many nationalists, as well as by Ireland’s Catholic hierarchy and Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin. James Connolly was accutely aware that there existed in Ireland, as there did in many other colonial settings, a class of native predators, a very wealthy class of industrialists and graziers, some of whom were nationalists, who wanted to preserve the economic and social status quo. A class who would seek to adopt only a form of independence without workers’ rights. In Connolly’s view, these people, whose livelihoods depended on the perpetuation of inequalities, wanted nothing more than a transfer in their favour of the administration of Ireland.
Neither the tactical rapprochement between the Citizen Army and the Volunteers, nor the coming together of Pearse’s and Connolly’s language in the Proclamation, should, however, obscure the fundamental ideological difference that existed between the revolutionary vision of the members of the Irish Citizen Army and the economic and social conservatism of many within mainstream nationalism.
James Connolly’s strong anti-imperialist stance was also in direct conflict with the outlook of many members of the Irish Parliamentary Party, who would have been content to secure the advantages of a political autonomy for Ireland within the Empire. Connolly, on the contrary, was appalled at the slaughtering of the international proletariat on the Western Front and in the Middle East. In his estimation, a blow against Empire before the end of the War was necessary, so as to clear the ground for future socialist struggle.
Thus, while the Proclamation declares “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland”, the men and women who were ‘out’ in 1916 had different understandings as to who exactly should own Ireland
Yet Connolly may have been overly optimistic, at least in the short term, in thinking that the Empire was “weakest at the point nearest its heart”. On Wednesday, 26th April, 1916, the third day of the Rising, Liberty Hall
was shelled by the gunship The Helga, and reduced to a ruin. This destruction of the headquarters of Irish trade-unionism, which, despite being left vacant during Easter Week, were chosen by the British military as the first building to be shelled, stands as a metaphor for the ruination of the hopes that had galvanised the combatants of the Citizen Army. Notwithstanding the loss of life suffered by the Citizen Army during the Rising, the war years that ensued were defined by a “labour must wait” stance. Feminists, too, were told that they must wait, as the property-driven conservatism against which Connolly had warned grew into the dominant ideology of the new Irish State. Land and private property, a repressive religiosity and a narrow pursuit of respectability, affecting in particular women, became the defining social and cultural ideals of the newly independent Ireland, at the expense of any fundamental social transformation of an egalitarian kind. The Republic for which the men and women of the Citizen Army hoped remains unfulfilled. But their hopes did not die. We are all here today. And those same aspirations for true equality, for real independence, can sustain us today in the task of rebuilding our society and our economy. Tapaímis an deis seo na gealltanais a tháing chugainn ó mhná agus ó fhir Arm Cathartha na hÉireann, nár cuireadh i gcrích go fóill, a fhíorú le linn na comóraidh seo. [Let us seize the opportunity of these ongoing commemorations to rekindle the unfulfilled promises bequeathed to us across the century by the women and men of the Irish Citizen Army.] Their vision of a people free from want, free from impoverishment and free from exploitation remains a wellspring of inspiration for us as we seek to respond to the situation of too many workers who, in Ireland today, earn a wage that guarantees neither a life free from poverty, nor access to decent housing, adequate childcare and health services. Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom go ndéanaimis focail James Connolly a fhíorú, nuair a dúirt sé: “The real progress of a nation towards freedom must be measured by the progress of its most subject class.” Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Defence Force Members in front of the James Connolly Memorial, Beresford Place, Dublin.
Baill d’Óglaigh na hÉireann os comhair Dhealbh James Connolly, Plás Beresford, Baile Átha Cliath.
Photo: Maxwell Photography www.maxwellphotography.ie
A History Steeped in Sadness Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at the Opening of the New Visitor Centre at Kilmainham Gaol and Courthouse Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin Wednesday 30th March, 2016
Between its opening, in 1796, and its decommissioning in 1924, Kilmainham Gaol was used to hold many of the leaders of the struggle against British rule in Ireland, including parliamentarians and militants, while also acting as one of Dublin’s largest prisons. At a site infamous for its treatment of women, the President spoke of the bravery of those women imprisoned there during the Rising and the War of Independence and of the importance of Kilmainham Gaol as a national monument. Idir a oscailt, i 1796, agus a dhíchoimisiúnú i 1924, úsáideadh Príosún Chill Mhaighneann chun go leor de cheannairí in aghaidh riail na Breataine in Éirinn a ghabháil, parlaiminteoirí agus míleataigh ina measc, agus ghníomhaigh sé mar cheann de na príosúin ba mhó i mBaile Átha Cliath, chomh maith. Labhair an tUachtarán ag láithreán a bhain droch-cháil amach mar gheall ar an mbealach a caitheadh le mná ann, ar mhisneach na mban siúd a cuireadh chun príosúin ansin i rith an Éirí Amach agus Cogadh na Saoirse agus ar thábhacht Phríosún Chill Mhaighneann mar shéadchomhartha náisiúnta.
A Dhaoine Uaisle, A Aire, A Phríomh Bhreitheamh A Choimisinéirí Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí Ta an-áthas orm bheith anseo anocht, ag oscailt oifigiúil an ionad cuairteoirí seo i bPríosún agus Teach Cúirte Chill Mhaighneann, foirgneamh is ea í a bhfuil ina shiombail agus ina meabhrúchán orthú siúd a chuir a saoil i gcontúirt céad bliain ó shin, agus a cailleadh in a lán cásanna, ionas go mbeadh na glúnta a tháinig ina ndiaidh in ann marachtáil mar shaoránaigh i Stát a mbéadh saor agus neamhspleách. It is a great pleasure to be here this evening for the official opening of the new visitor centre in Kilmainham Gaol and Courthouse. This is a building which stands for many as a symbol and a reminder of those who, a hundred years ago, bravely risked, and in so many cases sacrificed, their lives so that future generations of Irish men and women might live as citizens of a free and independent State. The history of the Gaol and Courthouse is of course a long and rich one, and it is for the greater part a history steeped in great sadness and human tragedy. Originally built in 1796 as the County Gaol for Dublin, these premises have witnessed the detention of many leading figures in Ireland’s lengthy battle for independence from British rule, including Robert Emmet, Thomas Francis Meagher and Charles Stewart Parnell, as well as so many of the main participants in the Easter Rising of 1916, the War of Independence and the Civil War. This prison has also, of course, served as the place of detention for a much greater number of ordinary men, women, and even children, who suffered greatly within
these walls. Níl amhras ar bith faoi thábhacht Phríosún Chill Mhaighneann i stair na hÉireann. Tugann an músaem seo deis íontach dúinn dul i ngleic leis an stair ar bhealach atá cuimsitheach, eiticiúil agus macánta. There can be no doubting the importance of Kilmainham Gaol in our nation’s history. In its current life as a museum it fulfils a new and essential role, in enabling all of our citizens to engage with history and commemoration in a way that is inclusive, ethical, and honest. Decommissioned as a prison in 1924, perhaps when memory was raw, it was left to ruin for many years. The restoration and reincarnation of Kilmainham as a Museum in 1966 was a wonderful recovery of heritage and history and it ensured that this iconic building would continue to hold an important place in our nation’s shared memory, preserved and made accessible to all. I am delighted to know that we have, amongst us today, some of those volunteers whose perseverance, dedication and commitment drove that important restoration. This new chapter in the life of Kilmainham Gaol began to be written in September 1958, when a meeting at Jury’s Hotel in Dublin led to the forming of the Kilmainham Gaol Restoration Committee. In fact, there had been some earlier attempts at persuading the authorities to take up the task of restoration, but the advocacy did not come to fruition. It was thus left to the community to take the initiative and undertake the task of restoration in a great spirit of generous citizenship and active participation, as obstacles were overcome and thousands of hours of voluntary labour offered to secure the future of Kilmainham Gaol. The people of Ireland owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all those volunteers, many of whom had also fought in the Rising and the War of Independence, and who, decades later, so magnanimously gave of their time and skill in order that new generations of Irish citizens could visit this place and experience the powerful connection it provides to our history and our forbearers. That was a true project of citizenship, one which makes Kilmainham Gaol unique amongst Ireland’s sites of historical interest. This latest phase of the development of Kilmainham Gaol is a wonderful further enhancement of what is one of our great national heritage resources. It is also a recognition that places such as this one provide unique portals into critical moments of the past which have shaped the present, and informed our national identity.
The new facilities we are opening today are most impressive. May I commend the Office of Public Works and the management here, at Kilmainham Gaol Museum, on the completion of what is a transformational expansion of this great site of our collective memory. I want to take this opportunity also to pay tribute to the part played by the Courts Service in facilitating the project, and to Chief Justice Susan Denham, for her role in recommending that the Courthouse be handed over for this citizenship purpose. On reading about the various elements of the project, I was most interested to learn about the Exhibition and Interpretation Centre which, through photographs, artefacts and also the diaries and autograph books of those who were held here during the War of Independence and the Civil War, connect us to the past with an immediacy which our academic work might not achieve. These personal perspectives of those incarcerated are of such great value. Many of the entries contained in the material available here are simple, even self effacing, but they indicate a selflessness, echoing the valiant courage which so defined those who fought with commitment for an Ireland of justice, equality and freedom, as well as allowing a unique access to the emotions and the insights of those detained here. Hannah Moynihan, who was imprisoned here for her role in the War of Independence, described Kilmainham Gaol, in October 1923 as a “dark, gloomy place with long, dreary passages”, but added, “Sis (Power) and I have been making our ‘house’ beautiful, and on the door we have chalked ‘The Invincible’ – rather conceited!” Sis Power herself, with her sister Jo, recorded how their sinking spirits on arriving at the Gaol were, “Somewhat revived by the strains of the hymn Hail Glorious St. Patrick”. Patrick Gilligan, writing from Cell 16 during the Civil War wrote philosophically, “’Tis not who can inflict most, ‘tis who can endure most will triumph in the end.” While Peter Radcliffe, that same year, simply wondered: “Why were prisons built, and what was man’s intent, in building for his fellow man, such places of torment?” They are such quiet words, but words that echo so
evocatively across the decades that now separate us from the events of the early 20th century. I was also greatly impressed to learn that the beautifully preserved central courtroom has now been re-envisioned as a space within which various forms of creative activity will be made possible, including theatrical performances, literary events and film displays. Such innovation demonstrates how our historic places can evolve in ways that will allow us to better understand ourselves through our cultural past and to shape a better future through the cultural present. These are facilities which we did not have in 1991 when we celebrated here the 75th anniversary with the events titled – The Flaming Door. The high standing which the museum now enjoys, especially with visitors from overseas, is a testimony to how you have created here a unique site of memory, benefitting from the guidance of expert guides to this stunning and affecting building. The manner in which the building has been restored, including the new visitor management system, is very interesting too, tracking as it does the story of Kilmainham Gaol and Courthouse, allowing some parts to remain in their early state, while others reflect the changes made over many years, and thus it allows us a greater understanding of the long and rich life of this historic place. Of course the main interest for many of your visitors is the connection between Kilmainham and our nation’s long battle for independence. The number of leading figures in the fight for Irish freedom who were, during various periods, imprisoned, and in some cases, executed, here is remarkable. Kilmainham Gaol’s first political prisoner of note was Henry Joy McCracken, a founder of the United Irishmen, who was detained here in 1796, and one of its last was Éamon de Valera, who was released from the gaol in 1924 following the Civil War – and who also, of course, officially opened the restored museum 50 years ago. In between, the Gaol played an important role during the brief rising of the early 19th century, including housing Robert Emmett prior to his execution at nearby Thomas Street. During the final years of the Irish famine, an increased number of prisoners were incarcerated here resulting in serious and dangerous overcrowding. The prison was then a focal point during the Fenian uprising of the late 19th century, and some short years later, when Parnell and his followers rejected the Land Act. We have, in this year of centenary commemorations, been involved in much reflection on the Easter Rising
of 1916 and on the audacity of vision which defined a revolutionary generation who dreamt of a new and re-imagined Ireland. As we gather here this evening, we meet together in a place that represented both an ending and a great new beginning for the leaders of 1916.
“They died imagining a brave new Ireland, and we must continue the work of building a Republic of which our founders would be proud.” On Sunday, I participated in a most moving ceremony here in the Stonebreakers’ Yard, to remember and reflect on the executions which took place in 1916. The monument to those shot confronts all of the visitors to this place with the final moments of the leaders of the Rising, in a most arresting and affecting manner. From the archive material here we learn the personal and political aspects of their final moments: Joseph Plunkett, for example, who had married Grace Gifford hours before his execution, told the priest attending him: “Father, I am very happy. I am dying for the glory of God and the honour of Ireland.” We learn, too, of incidents that bring home the horror and pathos of those days: Éamonn Ceannt falling with a crucifix in his hand; Thomas MacDonagh handing out cigarettes to the firing Squad – brave men facing death with a calm confidence that, from their military defeat, would grow a moral victory that would lead to a greater Ireland. Indeed as they faced execution, the leaders of the Rising were sustained by the hope that they had created the foundations for a new and independent Ireland. This hope was articulated by Patrick Pearse, in his final letter to his mother, when he wrote that he was dying a “soldier’s death for Ireland and for freedom”. As well as the prisoners, we must remember also their families that suffered the great loss that follows the imprisonment of a loved one. In particular, let us not forget the women who were brought here to make their final farewells to beloved husbands, brothers, sons, sweethearts and friends, the courage and heartbreak of those moments best described in their own words.
Kathleen Clarke, wife of Tom Clarke thus wrote: “During the whole interview, my mind was concentrated on not breaking down. I knew that if I broke, it would break him...” She added: “A baby was coming to us, but he did not know. I had not told him before the Rising, fearing to add to his anxieties, and considered if I would tell him then, but left without doing so .” Eily O’Hanrahan, whose brother Michael was executed, recounted that he: “was not in any way agitated. The only thing that worried him was what was to become of my mother and us... we tried to reassure him that we would be all right...”
respect. The deep commitment of the historians at Kilmainham to historical authenticity makes you worthy custodians of one of our most important national monuments. An important element of this year’s centenary celebrations has been the inclusion, indeed the restoration of the contribution of women, of their pivotal role in our struggle for independence. Let us not forget, today, the many women who, over many years, were incarcerated here in Kilmainham Gaol. After the Easter Rising, approximately 80 women were held here, including Countess de Markiewicz, Nellie Gifford, Kathleen Lynn, Madeleine ffrench-Mullen and Helena Molony. All of the women detained in Kilmainham Gaol at that time recalled the torment of hearing frequent gun shots from the stonebreakers’ yard, and not knowing which of the leaders had just been executed.
While Madge Daly, sister of Ned, remembered how: “The soldiers called to us: ‘Time’s up’ so we kissed and embraced our boy... and then the cell door banged on us all.” Today we are grateful to those historians whose endeavours have enabled a new and necessary understanding of the multifaceted-era of the Rising. We can appreciate that, for many Irish citizens, the idea of rebellion against the perceived unassailability of English power was simply inconceivable at that time. While the Rising became remembered as a brave action in pursuit of Irish freedom and independence, public reaction in 1916 was of course much more complex. We can even perhaps understand how those who, for example, having brothers, sons and husbands fighting in France and who relied for survival on the Separation Allowance, viewed the Rising, prompting them to try and dismantle rebel barricades, to cheer the British soldiers and to spit at rebels on the streets of Dublin. May Gahan recounted, for example, how the women were pelted with bottles as they were marched from Richmond Prison to Kilmainham. However, the execution of the rebels, the courage they showed in the face of death – those powerful human stories of loss and sacrifice –soon came to elicit much public sympathy, turning Irish public opinion in favour of the Rising and, combined with the threat of conscription, contributing significantly to the irreversible momentum towards a War of Independence that would encompass the island of Ireland. Those pivotal events are remembered here in Kilmainham, not with rancour, chauvinism or triumphalism, but with pathos, compassion and
During the Irish Civil War, more than 300 women were imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol, including Annie O’Farrelly whose papers, now held in the National Museum, describe B Wing, where she was incarcerated as “a dreadful part of the Prison which has been condemned”. She also speaks of how the clergy refused to give absolution to women, and of conflict between female prisoners and prison and military authorities here in Kilmanham Gaol. In the Summer of 1922 there was a general excommunication of those fighting on the anti-treaty side. Indeed, in relation to the Civil War more generally, we face ahead of us, perhaps, more difficult and painful processes of remembering and commemoration – and Kilmainhan will again be central to that process of reflection as we recall how some anti treaty forces were held, and some executed, here. That tragic and deeply divided time continues to inform the political landscape of Ireland today. Agus muid ag comóradh céad bliain ón Éirí Amach, tig linn ómós a thabhairt do na ceannairí cróga a cailleadh i bPríosún Chill Mhaighneann i 1916, le meas agus le tuiscint ar a saolta agus ar a mbearta, agus ar an gcomhthéacs inar tharla siad. As we commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising let us do so in a spirit of determination to honour the deaths of those brave leaders who died in Kilmainham Gaol in 1916, and with respect for a full appreciation of their lives and action, and the context in which these were transacted. They died imagining a brave new Ireland, and we must continue the work of building a Republic of which our founders would be proud; a nation rooted in courage, vision and a profound
spirit of generous humanity. In the commemorations to follow in the coming decades we will be called to summon up forgiveness and achieve a healing. The various commemorative events and occasions held to mark this significant and vibrant period of Irish history have allowed us to re-engage with the Ireland of the early 20th century in all its complexity, with the many different traditions, ideas and ideologies that impelled the stories of bravery, vision and determination that would build a nation. In that process of re-engagement we can, across a distance of years, understand 1916 as being about so much more than military or political actions. It was also of course an act of imagination, a social as well as a national revolution, whose leaders were inspired by the idea of creating a very different and much improved Ireland. It was an Ireland of equality and social justice that was sought; an Ireland of democratic citizenship and of collective participation that, in the words of the Proclamation: “Guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally...” I thank you all very sincerely for welcoming me here today. Finally may I congratulate and commend all of you – OPW, Kilmainham Goal Museum, the Courts Service and the builders, the Ireland 2016 Team, contractors and historians and other professionals and experts – who, through this new Visitor Centre, have given us a valuable new space which will provide a wealth of information on the background and circumstances which have shaped our history and our nation. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
(L-R) Sabina Higgins, Simon Harris T.D., Minister of State for the Oﬃce of Public Works and Flood Relief, Claire McGrath, OPW Chairman, Susan Denham, Chief Justice and President Michael D. Higgins.
(C-D) Sabina Uí hUiginn, Simon Harris T.D., An tAire Stáit d’Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí agus d’Fhaoiseamh Tuile, Claire McGrath, Cathaoirleach an OOP, Susan Denham, Príomh-Bhreitheamh agus an tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn.
Photo: Iain White of Fennell Photography for the OPW. www.fennell-photography.ie www.opw.ie
On this Lonely Strand Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at Official State Commemoration in Honour of Roger Casement Banna Strand, Ardfert, Co. Kerry Thursday 21st April, 2016
On the morning 21st April 1916, Roger Casement and his comrades, Robert Monteith and Daniel Bailey, were put ashore by a German submarine at Banna Strand. They were captured and Roger Casement was brought to London where, vilified and feared as a traitor to the British Establishment, he was tried and executed for treason. At a State Commemoration held at Banna Strand in honour of Roger Casement the President celebrated the idealism and commitment to freedom demonstrated by Casement throughout his career. Maidin an 21 Aibreán 1916, thug fomhuireán Gearmánach Roger Casement agus a chomrádaithe, Robert Monteith agus Daniel Bailey, i dtír ag Trá na Beannaí. Gabhadh iad agus tugadh Roger Casement go Londain, áit a ndearnadh triail air agus ar cuireadh chun báis é i ngeall ar thréas, agus Bunaíocht na Breataine ag caitheamh anuas air agus eagla orthu roimhe. Ag Comóradh Stáit a cuireadh ar siúl ar Thrá na Beannaí in ómós Roger Casement, rinne an tUachtarán ceiliúradh ar an idéalachas agus an tiomantas do shaoirse a léirigh Casement i gcaitheamh a ghairme beatha.
A Aire, Ambasadóirí, Your Excellencies, A Cháirde, Is mór an pléisiúir dom a bheith anseo inniu sa cheantar álainn, stairiúil seo de Chontae Ciarraí. Mar Uachtarán na hEireann, tá áthas orm an deis seo a thapú chun an méid a rinne Ruairí Mac Easmainn ar son saoirse mhuintir na hÉireann agus ar son cosmhuintir an domhain i gcoitinne a athaint agus a cheiliúradh. [It is my great pleasure to be here today, at this beautiful and historic part of Co. Kerry. As President of Ireland, I am very happy to have this occasion to acknowledge and celebrate, in the name of the Irish people, the great contribution of Roger Casement, not only to Irish Freedom, but to the universal struggle for justice and human dignity.] Roger Casement was not just a great Irish patriot, he was also one of the great humanitarians of the early 20th century – a man who is remembered fondly and respectfully by so many people across the world for his courageous work in exposing the darkness that lay at the heart of European imperialism. In his own time, few figures attracted the sympathy and admiration of their contemporaries as widely as Roger Casement. Striking in appearance, his photograph was widely distributed and displayed in the homes of Ireland, and Roger Casement was described by many as a man of considerable charm and distinction. Those who knew him – his friends in the Irish nationalist movement, those in the Congo Reform Association, his colleagues in the British Foreign Service – have all emphasised Roger Casement’s idealism, his
passionate empathy for the hopeless and the oppressed. His friend Bulmer Hobson thus said of him: “I have known no one who was so stirred at the thought of injustice and wrong, whether it was in Africa, America or Ireland. I have not met his equal for courtesy or kindliness or generosity... I do not expect to meet his like again.”
“Casement was undoubtedly a complex personality, and he was centrally involved in one of the most contentious episodes of the Irish revolutionary period.” And yet, none of the leaders of 1916 has excited as much controversy just before their death and ever since. Casement was undoubtedly a complex personality, and he was centrally involved in one of the most contentious episodes of the Irish revolutionary period. A hundred years on, with the benefit of hindsight, we are able to see in a new light the life and legacy of Roger Casement. We are better able to grasp how the multiple layers of his identity and allegiances, as an Irishman and a sensitive humanitarian at the turn of the last century, were played out in the life of Roger Casement.
happen on the following Easter Sunday. Due to failures in communication, the two vessels failed to meet in Tralee Bay. Casement, Bailey and Monteith set off for the shore in a small wooden boat, which capsized. Drenched, exhausted, and suffering from a recurrence of the malaria he had contracted in the Congo, Roger Casement remained in hiding at McKenna’s Fort while his two companions walked ahead to Tralee to seek help. At around 1:30pm that same day, Roger Casement was discovered and arrested by Constable Bernard O’Reilly and Sergeant John Hearn of the Ardfert RIC; he spent the night in Tralee’s police barracks, where he was treated with kindness by Head Constable John A. Kearney, before he was transferred to London to be interrogated and tried for treason. Meanwhile, out at sea, having evaded British naval patrols and survived several violent storms, The Aud and its arms shipment had arrived in Tralee Bay on Thursday, 20th April. When they discovered that there was no pilot to guide them into Fenit, Officer of the Imperial German Navy Captain Karl Spindler and his crew of 22 men, all of whom had volunteered for the perilous mission, decided to wait in the bay throughout the day. Eventually trapped, The Aud was escorted by HMS Bluebell to Queenstown [Cobh Harbour], where the crew decided to scuttle the ship rather than surrender their cargo.
We can more readily discern, too, the complexities of his personality, the impact of early childhood and separation, but also the coherence of his journey, from his membership of the British colonial administration to his most fundamental critique of Empire, and his ultimate commitment to the cause of Irish independence.
These men spent the subsequent war years in prison for the part they played in supporting the plans for an Irish armed rebellion, and both they and their families paid a price for these actions. Some of the crew, including Raimund Weisbach, Wilhelm Augustin, Otto Walter, Jans Dunker and Friedrich Schmitz, participated in the official Irish State ceremonies of 1966, and they travelled to Kerry to witness the laying of the foundation stone of this memorial at which we stand today.
This afternoon, as we come together at the location of Roger Casement’s last stand as an Irish revolutionary, it is appropriate that we recall the crucial part that he played in the lead-up to the Easter Rising of 1916.
Again today, 50 years after 1966, and a century on from April 1916, it is appropriate that Ireland acknowledges the debt of gratitude we owe to these men for their actions in support of Irish freedom.
Indeed it was here, on this Lonely Strand, that Roger Casement, Robert Monteith and Daniel Bailey, came ashore in the early hours of the morning of Good Friday, 21st April 1916. The three men had arrived to Kerry aboard the German submarine U19 and they had expected to meet The Aud, a German ship disguised as a neutral Norwegian freighter, that was carrying a supply of arms for the men and women who, across Ireland, were getting ready for an armed uprising scheduled to
The events that unfolded here in Kerry a hundred years ago are notorious – they are remembered in song and in legend; but the background to these events, and, above all, their many ramifications and consequences abroad are sometimes cloaked in confusion although they are of immense importance in understanding the events that would take place in Dublin during that Easter Week.
It is well known, for example, how, upon learning that Casement had been captured and that the arms were lost, leader of the Irish Volunteers Eoin MacNeill issued his countermanding order calling off the Rising. However, popular memory has often omitted to register that, upon coming back to Ireland, Roger Casement’s intention had been to try and prevent the planned rebellion from taking place. Indeed Casement believed that any Irish insurrection would be easily suppressed unless it received substantial assistance from Germany. In October 1914, he had travelled to Berlin as the envoy of Irish American nationalist leaders, to lead discussions with highranking German officials and try and form an Irish Brigade from among thousands of Irish Prisoners of War held in Germany. The 18 months Roger Casement spent across the Rhine were, overall, a failure: he managed to recruit only 56 volunteers for his Irish Brigade; and, eventually, disillusioned with the minimal character of imperial Germany’s support to an Irish uprising, and anxious to avoid an unnecessary bloodshed, he resolved to go back to Ireland to advise the nationalist leaders that any armed uprising was doomed and should, therefore, be aborted. When reflecting back on those founding events of our State, it is essential to locate the Easter Rising within its global and European contexts, and particularly within the “game of embattled giants” that was the First World War, in the words of Roger Casement. In the eyes of many Irish Republicans, that imperialist war was both an appalling loss of life in which “small nationalities” were mere “pawns”, and a catalyst for the great Irish revolt they were calling forth. The reference to Germany as “our gallant allies in Europe”, in the Proclamation of 1916, must be read in that context. We might find such intervention of a belligerent nation against which many Irishmen were then fighting from within the British Army an uncomfortable fact to acknowledge. Yet it is important that we refrain, at a distance of one hundred years, from any simplistic judgement – whether apologetic or condemning. It is important that we endeavour to do justice to the motivations of the actors of the time, and to the manner in which they judged or were induced to seize the opportunities afforded by that wider context to advance a cause they believed was just; however it was to be attained. However ambivalent in their relation to great powers Irish Republicans might have been, the Irish Citizen Army was not, as is reflected in the banner “We serve neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland”, they put up on Liberty Hall in the lead-up to the Rising.
Roger Casement, having seen through the moral breakdown of the free-trading Empire he had willingly served for several decades, was in no doubt, by Easter 1916, where his loyalty lay. As he put it in his famous speech from the dock, of which we have just heard several moving excerpts: “Loyalty is a sentiment, not a law. It rests on love, not on restraint. The government of Ireland by England rests on restraint, and not on law; and, since it demands no love, it can evoke no loyalty. That blessed word Empire, that bears so paradoxical resemblance to charity! For if charity begins at home, Empire begins in other men’s homes, and both may cover a multitude of sins. I, for one, was determined that Ireland was much more to me than Empire, and that, if charity begins at home, so must loyalty.” Today we must also recall how, in a true Republican spirit, Roger Casement’s generous vision for the Ireland of the future was one that included all of the people of Northern Ireland, in the diversity of their beliefs, origins and history. This was a vision which Casement recalled in that same speech from the dock, when he said: “We aimed at uniting the Ulster Volunteers to the cause of United Ireland. We aimed at uniting all Irishmen in a natural and national bond of cohesion based on mutual self-respect.” This reminds us that throughout his life, Roger Casement always thought of himself as an Ulsterman. When he and a small number of his friends, including Bulmer Hobson, Erskine Childers and Alice Stopford Green, took the initiative of the Howth and Kilcoole gun-runnings, in the summer 1914, they had in mind the example of the Ulster Volunteers, who had imported guns from Germany a few short months earlier. Sharing a common Antrim background, both Roger Casement and Eoin MacNeill also shared an admiration for the determination of the Ulster Unionists, and Roger Casement was slow to relinquish his hopes that they might be won over to the struggle for Irish Home Rule. Notwithstanding what some have described as the naiveté of such views, today we must appreciate the rich and multi-layered sense of belonging to Ireland that underpinned all of Roger Casement’s actions. A boy brought up in the Protestant faith, first in Co. Dublin and then between Ulster and Liverpool, he admired and identified with the Irish rebels of the past, as well as with the legendary Ulster heroes. Those figures
featured prominently, for example, in “The Dream of the Celt”, an epic Roger Casement began on his way out to Loanda (and which would go on to be the title of Mario Vargas Llosa’s fictional biography of Casement). Roger Casement himself claimed that it was his Irish identity that allowed him to fully grasp the oppressive nature of European colonial rule in the Congo and the Amazon. Indeed he would become the whistleblower of imperial colonial greed in two continents. Although Casement’s transformation is indeed quite an astonishing one – five years after being knighted in recognition of his investigations in the Putumayo on behalf of the British Foreign Office, he was put on trial for his separatist revolutionary activities and hanged for high treason – there is coherence and integrity to this journey. Recent scholarship has shown how Casement’s ‘reading’ of Ireland as a victim of conquest informed his outlook on the oppression of the indigenous peoples of Africa and South America. In turn, his experience in these sites of plunder, exploitation and degradation probably crystallised his view of Ireland’s subjugation to British imperialism. Tellingly, two of the most important junctures in Roger Casement’s professional life as a British diplomat – the publication of his report on the Congo in 1904, and on the Putumayo in 1911 – also correspond to two thresholds in his involvement with the Irish revolutionary movement. In 1904, after travelling to remote areas of the Upper Congo, Roger Casement presented convincing evidence that the collection of rubber in the territory under the direct control of King Leopold of Belgium, the socalled ‘Congo Free State’, was widely associated with extortion of taxes, forced labour, murder, mutilation and depopulation. As a formidable indictment of a system based on the crudest violations of human rights, Roger Casement’s findings contributed to boosting international pressures that eventually led to a reform of the administration of the Congo. It was in June of that same year 1904 that Casement attended the Feis of the Glens in Antrim – a festive occasion that bonded him for the next decade with a circle of Irish cultural and civic activists, and sparked his deepening interest in the Irish language and the revival movement. Seven years later, in March 1911, Roger Casement completed a second report for the Foreign Office, in which he documented the atrocities associated with
the activities of an Anglo-Peruvian rubber company operating in the frontier region of the north-west Amazon. The publication of this report coincided with the culmination of Casement’s estrangement from the British Foreign Service, from which he resigned in 1913. From thereafter, Roger Casement moved decisively towards separatist activities, up to that fateful Good Friday 1916, when he was captured in the nearby McKenna’s Fort. Roger Casement was hanged in Pentonville Prison, in London, in the early morning of 3rd August 1916, following a trial that attracted the attention of writers, humanitarians and lawyers from around the world. While much of the controversy surrounding the trial has revolved, up to our times, around the question of Roger Casement’s sexuality, the more important question always related to the various distortions of justice that characterised these legal proceedings. The trial was outrageous for its imperilling of an adequate defence by the circulation of material that would strike a populist note and blacken the defendant in an extrajudicial attempt at undermining the international campaign for clemency. Beyond and above all these considerations, the ongoing commemorations offer an important opportunity, I believe, to engage with the fundamental questions Roger Casement raised about power and human rights, about the rights of communities and indigenous peoples, and about the rules guiding foreign policy and international trade. His was an epoch that is sometimes referred to as that of the “first globalisation” – an era when capital moved freely between countries and when the flow of goods exchanged within and between Europe’s huge colonial empires increased dramatically; an era, too, when tens of millions of Europeans left the old continent to seek their fortunes in what was called the New World. It is only now, despite the pioneering humanitarianism of such as Casement, that the degradation of indigenous peoples has grown into a central issue in human rights discourse. At the same time, it is in those very regions visited by Casement that we continue to see today the greatest damage to ecosystems and communities – and where, outrageously, once again immunity is being sought by irresponsible but powerful commercial interests in sectors such as logging and mining. Is deis íontach é an chomóradh an chéid seo dúinn díriú ar na ceisteanna moráltachta bunúsacha a d’árdaigh Ruairí Mac Easmainn lena chomhghleacaithe a scrúdú san athuair – ceisteanna iad atá fós le freagairt againn céad bliain níos déanaí. Is cúis mórtais dúinn is ea é
idéalachas Mhic Easmainn sa lá atá inniu ann, agus is ceart dúinn a bheith bródúil as an méid a rinne sé ar son cosmhuintir na domhain, a cur chun cinn na saoirse, in Éirinn agus thar lear. [These centenary commemorations, then, are an invitation to pay full attention to the fundamental moral questions which Roger Casement was calling on his contemporaries to face, questions that still confront us in our own times. Today we take great pride in recalling Roger Casement’s idealism, his passionate defence of the human dignity of those who were the victims of a brutal world order, and his commitment to the cause of Freedom, in Ireland and abroad.] May I, here in Kerry, at the site of his last efforts in the name of that Freedom, quote once more Roger Casement’s own words, conveying his beliefs and his life’s purpose: “The faculty of preserving through centuries of misery the remembrance of lost liberty — this surely is the noblest cause ever man strove for, ever lived for, ever died for.” Go raibh maith agaibh.
Members of the Defence Forces salute during the playing of the National Anthem at Banna Strand, while the Air Corps provide a ceremonial Fly-Past.
Baill d’Óglaigh na hÉireann ag déanamh cúirtéise le linn d’Amhrán na bhFiann a bheith á sheinm ag Trá na Beannaí, agus tareitilt á déanamh ag an Aerchór.
Photo: Defence Forces www.military.ie
Archives of the Revolution Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at the Official Opening of the New Building for the Military Archives Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin Tuesday 26th April, 2016
In 1947, the Bureau of Military History was established by the Government of Ireland to record the memories of those still living who took part in the Rising and the War of Independence. As part of the State Commemorations, the Witness Statements collected by the Bureau were digitised and progressively more material from the Pensions Collection was made available. At the opening of a new building for the Military Archives at Cathal Brugha Barracks, the President reflected on the importance of this rich source of the memories and attitudes of those who had participated in revolutionary activity. I 1947, bhunaigh Rialtas na hÉireann Biúró na Staire Míleata chun cuimhní iad siúd a bhí beo go fóill a ghlac páirt san Éirí Amach agus Cogadh na Saoirse a chur i dtaifead. Mar chuid de Chomóradh an Stáit, rinneadh na Ráitis Finnéithe a bhailigh an Biúró a dhigitiú agus cuireadh ní ba mhó ábhar de réir a chéile ar fáil ón gComharghrúpa Pinsean. Ag oscailt foirgnimh nua don Chartlann Mhíleata ag Dún Chathail Bhrugha, rinne an tUachtarán machnamh ar an tábhacht a bhaineann le foinse chomh saibhir sin de chuimhní agus meonta iad siúd a ghlac páirt i ngníomhaíocht réabhlóideach.
A Ardmhéara, A Aire, A Chairde Gaeil, It is my great pleasure to open this new home of the Military Archives, here in Cathal Brugha Barracks. Today’s ceremonies, being part of the centenary year of the Easter Rising of 1916 as they are, offer a very fitting recognition of the fundamental importance of the Military Archives to our understanding of the founding events of our State. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas ó chroí a ghabháil leis an Cheannfort Padraic Kennedy, an tOifigeach i gCeannas ar an Chartlann Mhíleata, le Patrick Brennan, Bainisteoir Tionscadail ar Thionscadal Pinsin an Chartlann Mhíleata, agus lena gcomhghleacaithe ar fad atá ina fheighlithe ar an stór poiblí íontach seo – an chartlann seo a chabhraíonn linn tuiscint a fháil ar an am atá caite. [I extend my sincere thanks to Commandant Padraic Kennedy, Officer in Command of the Military Archives, to Patrick Brennan, Project Manager of the Military Archives Pensions Project, and to all of their colleagues who are the diligent custodians of this great public repository – these archives that contribute to making audible to us the voice of the past.] I am aware that a solemn ceremony took place in these Barracks earlier this morning, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the brutal murder of the great pacifist, socialist, suffrage activist and journalist Francis Sheehy Skeffington, and of his fellow journalists Thomas Dickson and Patrick McIntyre. The three men were summarily executed here, at what was then called Portobello Barracks, by a firing squad
Ground Floor Plan – New Building for the Military Archives, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin. Plean Bunúrláir – Foirgneamh Nua don Chartlann Mhíleata, Dún Chathail Bhrugha, Baile Átha Cliath.
Image: Christian Richters christian-richters.divisare.pro McCullough Mulvin Architects www.mcculloughmulvin.com
Defence Forces www.military.ie
of seven men under the command of Captain BowenColthurst of the Royal Irish Rifles, without any trial or any charges having been brought against them. Injustice also defined the treatment of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, who suffered the invasion of her house, attempts at blackening her name, and who was refused access to her murdered husband’s personal effects. The man bearing responsibility for the horrendous execution, Captain Bowen-Colthurst, was released after a brief hospitalisation and awarded a military pension. The fact that one of his victims, Francis Sheehy Skeffington, had been endeavouring to prevent plunder and destruction from spreading as the fighting was unfolding in Dublin City on those early days of Easter Week only reinforces the cruelty of the event. Cathal Brugha Barracks are thus a very important place of memory for us – as the site of extra-judicial executions that symbolise the worst kind of arbitrary rule; and, today, as the repository of crucial records of our past. As many of you here will know, the function of the Military Archives is to acquire, preserve, and make available the records documenting Ireland’s military history, from the formation of the Irish Volunteers in November 1913 to the present day. Under the terms of the National Archives Act, the Military Archives comprise the archival records of the Irish Defence Forces, the Department of Defence and the Army Pensions Board. They also hold over 1,000 private collections of relevance to Ireland’s military history, donated by families and individuals. I was pleased to learn that, just earlier this month, the Military Archives acquired yet another important private collection – namely Brother Allen’s Library Archival Collection – which includes, among other treasures, an original copy of the 1916 Proclamation, as well as the letter Patrick Pearse sent to his mother before his execution. This complements other collections – most notably the records of the Bureau of Military History and the Military Service Pensions Collection – that lend the Military Archives such crucial significance for our understanding of Ireland’s revolutionary period. Over recent years, access to those archives has increased, allowing new generations of scholars to profoundly reassess and refine our grasp, not just of the Easter Rising, but also of the War of Independence and the tragic events of the Civil War. The Bureau of Military History was established in 1947 by the Irish government, in collaboration with a
committee of professional historians and former Irish Volunteers, with the aim of recording the history of the Irish revolutionary movement from November 1913 to July 1921. The Bureau’s investigators, most of them senior army officers, spent a decade compiling hundreds of detailed Witness Statements – a mine for historians indeed – collected from those who had been direct participants in those events. By the time the Bureau was wound down, in 1957, it had accumulated over 1,700 first-person accounts, 36,000 pages of evidence, and over 150,000 documents detailing the revolutionary experiences of members of Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Cumann na mBan, the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Volunteers. The Bureau thus forms the richest and, in relative terms, the most comprehensive oral history archives devoted to any modern revolution. The second body of material, the Pensions’ Collection, covers the period from 1916 to 1923. It comprises some 300,000 files associated with the applications for service pensions sent by veterans of the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War, as well as applications for allowances made by the dependants of those who were killed on active service or by those wounded or incapacitated while on duty during the period. There is much to learn from the detail of these applications, in particular from the differentiated treatment accorded to female applicants or to those who found themselves on the ‘wrong’ side of the divide during the Civil War. The digitisation of the Witness Statements collected by the Bureau of Military History and the progressive release of the Military Service Pensions Collection constitute, I believe, two of the most significant Government initiatives to accompany the ongoing Decade of Commemorations. They are very important steps towards a democratisation of historical research, giving universal access to the first-hand accounts from previous generations, and enabling us to appreciate more fully the experiences, the motivations, the hopes, and sometimes the disillusions, of our forebears. To mark the opening of the Military Archives’ new building, the occasion that brings us together this afternoon, the Department of Defence have released a fourth tranche of material from the Military Service Pensions Collection, which contains the files of over 47,000 applicants who applied for the ‘1916 Medal’ or the ‘Service Medal (1917-1921)’, awarded by the Irish State to qualifying veterans. These Medal files do not only throw light on the
special regard in which those who participated in the struggle for independence were held throughout the first decades of our fledgling State, but they also offer a detailed insight into Ireland’s social welfare history. They document an initiative taken by the Governments of the 1940s – that is, before the Social Welfare Act of 1952 – to introduce a new form of welfare payment specifically dedicated to medal holders, through the payment of special allowances to those veterans who could not improve their living standard because of old age, infirmity or ill health.
“A place in which are preserved the voices from our past, guarding them from oblivion and from any distortions of history – a sure foundation for our future.” On a more personal note, may I say how meaningful the release of the Pension files has been to me and our family, through the information they convey about the experience of my father, my paternal uncles, my mother and my father’s sisters, all of whom were active in the War of Independence. My father, John, enlisted with his brothers in the Ballycar Company of 1st Battalion, East Clare Brigade, during the War of Independence. He went on to serve for most of the period with the 3rd Battalion, Charleville, in the Cork no.4 Brigade. My mother was Vice-chair of Cumann na mBan in Liscaroll, and her brother was adjutant of the local Battalion. My father’s sister was in Cumann na mBan in Ballycar, Co. Clare. The Civil War divided my father’s family. My uncle Peter was in the National Army; he took part in the handover and served in Renmore Barracks, Galway. My father spent part of the year 1923 as an internee in what was known to the prisoners as Tintown, in the Curragh camp. The Pension files record his long and exhausting battle for a small pension, which was eventually granted in 1956, almost 22 years after his first application, in 1935. Indeed, the Pensions files tell many personal stories of hardship, as so many who fought for Irish Independence then struggled to support themselves and their families in the subsequent decades, and as
some found themselves excluded from the pension scheme, because of their gender, class or political choices. Today I also want to salute the Military Archives’ Image Identification Project, which invites members of the public to provide valuable information on old photographs of soldiers. Such initiatives, which foster our citizens’ engagement with the past, are very positive and important. Indeed an awareness and understanding of history is, I firmly believe, a necessary foundation for the crafting of a meaningful understanding of how our present circumstances were made possible, the effort and the sacrifices involved. The response of citizens to such initiatives has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. During my visits to various parts of the country, I have witnessed, everywhere, profound interest and pride in the events we are commemorating this year, an eagerness to investigate the local variations of those events, to solve old enigmas, to salvage the stories and memories of so many quiet lives that, all across Ireland, were touched by those revolutionary years. One of the benefits of the wealth of archival material preserved in this new building, in over 35,000 boxes, is that it conveys the experience of ‘ordinary’ activists, in addition to that of the leaders whose photographs featured on the borders of the Proclamation in the classrooms of our childhood. It allows for a more informed and inclusive memory of those who sacrificed their livelihoods and prospects so that we would be free and live in an independent Republic. Delving into those archives, amateur and professional historians alike can thus reach out to the inspirational men and women who participated in the Irish revolution, not as abstract and mythical figures but as people who, for various reasons, and sometimes quite intuitively, dedicated their skills and their energy to the cause of Irish Freedom. These archives are also reshaping the scholarly understanding of the period. Allowing historians to explore such themes as education, kinship and friendship connections, associational activity and intellectual influences. They have widened the lens to include the intellectual excitement of the “prerevolution” period, the flourishing of movements – such as socialism, feminism, language revival and cultural nationalism – in which the actors of the time took a passionate interest, as well as the wider context of the First World War and the sometimes disappointing realities of independent Ireland. Importantly, such material as the Witness Statements
of the Bureau of Military History enable us to listen to the story of those who fought for a new Ireland as told in their own words. And while those statements may not fundamentally alter our general knowledge of what occurred, they do enhance our understanding of the motivations of the men and women who fought for Ireland’s independence, preserving something of the texture – the humanity, the discovered courage – and the complexity of the past, that is not always recorded in conventional sources. From the point of view of historiography, of course, this archival material also raises problematic issues that must be addressed. We cannot ignore the fact, for example, that many veterans refused to provide Witness Statements. This arose for a number of reasons including their opposition to the State, their unwillingness to betray confidences, their desire to forget the past or their reluctance to formally detail their role in it. Some witnesses, who were subject to many pressures, discussed some aspects of the past more frankly than others. Then too, the questionnaires they were provided encouraged them to focus on particular aspects of the Revolution while avoiding others – most notably the Civil War.
timpeallacht níos sábháilte leis na taifid luachmhar seo a stóráil ann, ní hamháin na taifid ón Éirí Amach ach taifid Óglaigh na hÉireann a ghlac páirt i misin na Náisiún Aontaithe thar lear atá ar bun ón bhliain naoidéag caoga a hocht (1958) go dtí an lá atá inniu ann. [To conclude, may I reiterate how delighted I am, as President of Ireland, to be opening this new building for the Military Archives. The new facility offers a much more comfortable environment for all those who are interested in those archives – whether they are historians or citizens eager to research their family history. It also provides a safe environment for the storing of those invaluable records, not just of Ireland’s revolutionary period, but also of our more recent history and of the service of Óglaigh na hEireann personnel overseas, as part of UN missions, such as it has developed from 1958 to the present day.] This is a hugely important site of our national memory. A place in which are preserved the voices from our past, guarding them from oblivion and from any distortions of history – a sure foundation for our future. Go raibh maith agaibh.
Furthermore, many of those who did provide statements were somewhat selectively chosen: relatively few female participants were interviewed, while constitutional nationalists, British officials, and unionists were generally, although not entirely, excluded from the Bureau’s remit. The Bureau’s statements thus represent a mediated form of oral history, recording those aspects of the past that interviewees were able or willing to recall, reflected through the lens of a state-sponsored project. Yet, while acknowledging this context, it remains that these sources offer very precious insights, if necessarily subjective, into mentalities and perceptions. They enable us to address such questions as: what led people from ordinary backgrounds to fight for Irish freedom? What did they think they could achieve? What kind of Republic were they willing to kill and die for? These questions are important ones for us today as we continue the work, in our own times, of crafting an authentic and inclusive Republic in which all of our citizens are enabled to flourish. Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom a rá arís go bhfuil áthas orm, mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, a bheith in bhur dteannta inniu ag oscailt an fhoirgnimh nua seo don Chartlann Mhíleata. Is fóntas é seo atá i bhfad níos compordaí dóibh siúd a bhfuil suim acú sa chartlann, idir staraithe agus gnáth-saoránaigh gur mian leo a stair theaghlaigh a fhiosrú. Tugann sé, chomh maith,
President Michael D. Higgins views postcards addressed to George Irvine during his internment following the 1916 Rising at the opening of the new building of the Military Archives, April 2016. Féachann an tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn ar chártaí poist a seoladh chuig George Irvine le linn dó a bheith imtheorannaithe i ndiaidh Éirí Amach 1916 ag oscailt oifigiúil na Cartlainne Míleata, Aibreán 2016. Photo: Defence Forces www.military.ie
Members of the 7th Infantry Battalion on parade for a Presidential Guard of Honour at Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin.
Baill den 7ú Cathlán Coisithe ar paráid chun Garda Onóra a thabhairt don Uachtarán ag Dún Chathail Bhrugha, Baile Átha Cliath.
Photo: Defence Forces www.military.ie
President Michael D. Higgins and Cian Mullins at Áras an Uachtaráin.
An tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn agus Cian Mullins ag Áras an Uachtaráin.
Photo: Maxwell Photography www.maxwellphotography.ie
Children of the Revolution Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at Ireland 2016 Children’s State Ceremonial Event Áras an Uachtaráin Wednesday 15th June, 2016
As part of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme, the children of Ireland were invited to take part in an initiative entitled ‘Imagine our future’. A Presidential Garden Party for the ‘Children of the Revolution’ was held in Áras an Uachtaráin to launch the report on this consultative initiative. The President reminded the children present of the potential of their generation to fulfil the dreams of 1916 and help to craft an Ireland that could be inclusive of all its citizens. Mar chuid de Chlár Comórtha Céad Bliain 2016 na hÉireann, tugadh cuireadh do leanaí na hÉireann chun páirt a ghlacadh i dtionscnamh dar teideal ‘Samhlaigh ár dtodhchaí’. Cuireadh Cóisir Ghairdín an Uachtaráin, dar teideal ‘Leanaí an Éirí Amach’ ar siúl in Áras an Uachtaráin chun an tionscnamh seo a sheoladh. Mheabhraigh an tUachtarán do na leanaí a bhí i láthair cumas a nglúine chun brionglóidí 1916 a chomhlíonadh agus chun cabhrú le hÉirinn a mhúnlú a bheadh mar áit a gcuimseodh a saoránaigh go léir.
Ar an gCéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur romhaibh go léir chuig Áras an Uachtaráin, teach gach Uachtarán a bhí againn in Éireann ó Dhúbhghlas de hÍde, an chéad Uachtarán, síos chugam féin atá mar an naoú Uachtarán. [Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Áras an Uachtaráin, which has been the home of every Irish President, from Douglas Hyde who was our first President to myself, the ninth President of Ireland.] In this year of commemoration, Sabina and I are delighted to host this very important event to which you, children and your teachers, have contributed so much. I would like to welcome Minister Katherine Zappone and to thank her as well as Minister Heather Humphreys and former Minister James Reilly for the support their Departments have given to this event, and to the process of consulting and reporting on your views, as children and young people, on the Ireland we live in today and, more importantly, on your ideas to create a better Ireland for all of us. 2016 is a very important year. As you all know from the work you have done with your teachers and in your communities, this is the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising – a rebellion which was a crucial step in Ireland’s journey towards freedom and independence. I was particularly pleased with those elements of the centenary programme that engaged with you, the upcoming generation, about the past, the present and the future. The Flags for Schools Initiative and Proclamations for a New Generation provided great
opportunities within schools to explore our history and the origins of our Republic. I want to pay tribute to the teachers of Ireland for their enthusiastic engagement on these issues over the commemoration period. Our teachers have been unfailing in their dedication to nurturing young minds and imaginations. Molaim iad.
disliked some aspects of the education system, and were concerned about negative stereotyping of others, discrimination, inequality, homophobia and bullying. They spoke about the poor supports for mental health and called for resolute action to curb current rates of suicide.
Ba mhaith liom, comh maith, mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Chomhairle na nÓg as ucht an méid a rinne siad i dtaca leis an tionscnamh seo, agus i gcoiteanna, chun deis a thabhairt don aos óg teacht le chéile chun ceisteanna thabhachtacha a phlé.
The top things that both children and young people want the Government to address include homelessness and poverty. The teenagers also want changes to an education system which they felt was putting pressure on young people and forcing them to make career choices at too young an age.
[Comhairle na nÓg has also played an important part in this initiative and provides such an important forum for young people to come together to discuss issues of importance.] In this consultation initiative that we are marking today, the Government had the excellent idea of asking children and young people aged 8 to 18 to ‘Imagine our Future’ as part of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme. This was very clever of the Government for two reasons. Firstly, young people have wonderful imaginations, more so than grown-ups, who have to be careful not to lose their sense of wonder – and secondly, as all parents know, children are generally not afraid to highlight obvious positives and negatives about life. Over 200 children and young people from around Ireland took part in this process and were asked to discuss the things they like about Ireland, the things they dislike, and the things they would like to change. Most of the children and young people who took part in the consultations are here today and I want to congratulate you on the contribution you have made. I am delighted, too, that children from Northern Ireland had the opportunity to take part in this process and I would like to extend a special welcome to all of you who have travelled south today. At the consultation, when discussing what you like about Ireland you spoke of your pride and love for our country – its beauty, its ancient language, history, culture, sports, dancing and the warmth of its people. You also spoke about the inclusivity and sense of community you experience by living in Ireland.
“As all parents know, children are generally not afraid to highlight obvious positives and negatives about life.” It is interesting, but not surprising to me, to note that justice, equality and the environment are themes which featured very centrally. This is echoed in the Proclamations for a New Generation which the pupils from a thousand or so of Ireland’s primary schools wrote up and published in this centenary year. I had the pleasure of reading some of those Proclamations, and I was impressed by the wonderfully sincere and straightforward commitment of Irish schoolchildren to a better future, not just for their country, but for humanity as a whole. The ones that were particularly impressive were collective ones which reflected discussion and inclusion by giving every child a chance to put their views in. You, our children, recognise the challenges that Ireland and the world face: inequality, poverty, environmental degradation, climate change, war and displacement, and you understand that we have responsibilities to tackle these issues for our own sake and for the sake of those who live in countries where peace and prosperity are but a dream.
The younger children value peace and list equality as one of the two most important issues. They cherish Ireland’s freedom, its green environment and they mention the Irish language in their top four. They are however, concerned by drugs, alcohol abuse, smoking, racism, suicide, bullying and toxic waste.
Importantly, your work in these consultations and through the Proclamations for a New Generation also shows a real understanding that sustainable development is equally important to all the nations across the globe, no matter how rich or poor they are.
The teenagers liked a wide curriculum, Irish culture, language music and sports. National pride or self esteem – féin mheas – was important to them too. They
Basic human rights such as freedom from fear, equality between boys and girls, the right to education, the right to safe water and nutritious food, the right to adequate
housing – these are things that are essential for any nation on earth. They are basic goods which you, the children of Ireland, and all the children of the world, must be enabled to enjoy equally. After the consultations, the most important topics you identified were compiled into a report by researchers from Child Law Clinic at University College Cork – Dr Angela O’Carroll, Sarah C. Field and Professor Ursula Kilkelly. This report will be presented today to Minister Katherine Zappone, who will accept it on behalf of the Government. I hope the Government will take serious account of what children and young people like about Ireland, and of what they want to change to make it a better country. As citizens, you all have a right to be heard and have a very valuable contribution to make by letting those in power know your views on issues that affect your lives. A copy of the report has been placed in a time capsule, which we will bury in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin today, for future generations of Irish people. The children of the future will know what the children and young people of 2016 loved about this country, and what they wanted to improve. You also gave your views on how we should commemorate the 40 children who died during Easter week and I am pleased to see that much of what you recommended is being done today. I hope that together we do justice to the memory of those 40 children, in the presence of their family members, who I also welcome most warmly. I am very happy that Joe Duffy is with us today. Joe has done so much to highlight the stories of those 40 children, many of whom lived impoverished lives and all of whom died before their time. Thanks to Joe and thanks to your efforts, these 40 children will not be forgotten. Theirs was a very difficult existence. Many lived in awful slums. At that time 24,000 people, over a third of the population of Dublin, lived in one-room tenements, in dire poverty. 16 out of every 100 babies born at that time would not live to see their first birthday – this was an extraordinarily high infant mortality rate for a European city at that time, considerably higher than that in cities across Britain. A boy born in Dublin in 1916 could expect to live to be 53 years old. Today, he can expect to live on average to 78 years old, that is 25 years longer. I know that all of you here today contributed to the discussions on how best to commemorate these children and I thank you all for your thoughtful and meaningful suggestions. The objective of many of those
who took part in the Rising was to win independence, freedom and to change the circumstances of the Irish people. The vision of the signatories was for an inclusive and equal country for all, and this was set out in the 1916 Proclamation. We must reflect today on whether our independence has improved the lot of children in Ireland. Perhaps the best way for us to honour the memory of those 40 children is to ensure that we build on the progress that has been made over the past century so that the children of today and of tomorrow are provided with the circumstances to live their lives in love and safety, with the dignity and respect that they deserve, and the opportunities to realise their dreams and flourish as human beings. It is to you, the children of today, that the 21st century belongs. It is upon you that we rely to fulfil the dreams of 1916 of building a true Republic and a better Ireland than previous generations have been able to achieve. I also hope that you will take better care of planet Earth than my generation has, and that you will pass on to the next generations a more just world, in which all can lead happy and peaceful lives. Sabina and I very much hope that you enjoy the ceremonies that take place and the entertainment that has been put in place for you to enjoy your time with us. In particular, I would like to thank the Artane Band, who were terrific as they always are. Also may I thank Dublin City Council for the games that they have provided and all the musicians and performers. I know the Army and Mounted Unit were a big hit today. Mo bhuíochas leo. I would also like to thank officials from the 2016 Commemorations team, from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Áras staff, the Office of Public Works, the Civil Defence, and An Gaisce volunteers for all their hard work to make this event possible. Dee Rogers deserves special thanks for his unerring orchestration of all things technical. Thank you also to Joe Duffy for agreeing to act as MC for the day. Most of all, I want to thank you for coming here today and for all your work in this initiative to imagine a better Ireland and to help us remember the boys and girls who died 100 years ago. I hope that you have enjoyed the day so far and that everyone gets a chance to see around the Áras and have a spin on the Merry Go Round. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Pádraig Mac Piarais — An Dúthracht a chaith sé lena Thír Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at a State Ceremonial Event in Honour of Patrick Pearse and the Irish Language Pearse Museum, St. Enda’s Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin Thursday 7th July, 2016
Ba ghné lárnach den Éirí Amach an cultúr agus b’ábhar spreagtha é dóibh siúd a ghlac páirt. Athbheochanóir Gaelach agus múinteoir ba ea Pádraig Mac Piarais, a bhí tiomanta go paiseanta don Ghaeilge agus d’oidhreacht chultúrtha shaibhir na hÉireann a aisghabháil. Ba phearsa lárnach é san Éirí Amach agus ainmníodh é mar Uachtarán Rialtas Sealadach Phoblacht na hÉireann, agus sa ról seo, léigh sé an Forógra amach ar chéimeanna Ard-Oifig an Phoist i mBaile Átha Cliath. An 7 Iúil 2016, labhair an tUachtarán ag Músaem an Phiarsaigh, atá lonnaithe ar sheantailte Scoil Éanna. Culture was a central element of the Rising and an inspiration for those who took part. Patrick Pearse was a Gaelic Revivalist and teacher, passionately committed to the recovery of both the Irish language and rich cultural heritage of Ireland. A central figure in the Rising, he was named the President of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic, and in this role read out the Proclamation on the steps of the General Post Oﬃce in Dublin. On the 7th July 2016, the President spoke at the Pearse Museum, which is located in the old grounds of St. Enda’s School.
Táimid anseo le chéile um thráthnóna chun ceiliúradh a dhéanamh agus chun buíochas a ghabháil, mar náisiún, le glúin na réabhlóide, céad bliain ó shin, glúin a thug teanga álainn na Gaeilge slán le díograis agus le dúthracht. Agus muid anseo i bPáirc Naomh Éanna, cuimhnímid go háirithe ar an ngrá a bhí ag Pádraig Mac Piarais don teanga aoibhinn seo, ar an gcion saoil a rinne sé chun an teanga a athnuachan agus a leathnú, ar an spéis a bhí aige i nósmhaireacht saoil na nGael a bhain leis an teanga, agus ar a lárnacht a bhí an teanga sa togra ceannródaíoch oideachais a chuir sé i gcrích san áit a bhfuilimid anois. [This afternoon we come together to recall and express our gratitude, as a nation, to the work accomplished by Ireland’s revolutionary generation, a hundred years ago, in keeping alive our beautiful Irish language. Here in St. Enda’s Park, we recall more particularly the love of Patrick Pearse for this precious language, his life-long dedication to the tasks of its reestablishment and extension, his interest in what he saw as the Gaelic way of life which might surround it, and the centrality he accorded to it in the groundbreaking educational venture he brought to fruition in these very grounds.] Is mór againn glúin na hAthbheochana; de bharr na físe a bhí acu agus de bharr na hoibre a rinne siad chun an fhís sin a bhaint amach tháinig gnéithe sin an chultúir slán agus is mór againne san am i láthair iad mar aitheantas agus mar léiriú ar chultúr na nGael: tuiscint ar mhiotais agus ar stair faoi leith, ar chluichí Gaelacha, ar thraidisiún luachmhar litríochta agus ar ár dteanga ársa. [We are hugely indebted to the generation of the Revival, whose
visionary work ensured the survival of those cultural elements which are available to us today as a source of our distinctive Irish identity: an awareness of our unique history and myths, our Gaelic games, our rich literary tradition, and indeed our ancient language.] Ní gan dua ná gan díograis a tháinig na gnéithe sin slán chugainn. Ag tús iompú na haoise seo caite, bhí an Ghaeilge ar an dé deiridh agus gan de phobail á labhairt ach roinnt dlúthphobal ar chósta an deiscirt agus an iarthair. Bhí an eisimirce a lean an Gorta Mór ag bánú na tuaithe agus lagú a beochta. Bhí slánú na Gaeilge i mbaol, freisin, toisc nach raibh an Ghaeilge mar chuid de chóras na scoileanna náisiúnta ná de chóras riaracháin na Breataine; toisc gur samhlaíodh an Ghaeilge leis an mbochtanas; agus toisc an fonn a bhí ar go leor tuismitheoirí le Gaeilge an Béarla a mhúineadh dá gcuid leanaí ionas go bhféadfaidís poist a fháil sna bailte móra agus i Meiriceá. [This was by no means a matter of course. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Irish language was perilously close to extinction in all but a few pockets along the west and southern seaboards. The ongoing devastation of post-famine emigration was sapping the life of the countryside. The exclusion of Irish from the national school system and the British administration, its association with poverty, and the willingness of many Irishspeaking parents to teach English to their children so as to better enable them to find jobs in the towns and in America, were further factors which were threatening the very survival of the language.] Ba thuiscint ar an riachtanas a bhí ann na nósanna sin a chasadh ar a gceann, mar aon leis an spéis a bhí lucht léinn a chur sa teanga, ba chúis le bunú Chonradh na Gaeilge sa bhliain 1893 – eagraíocht a mbeadh dlúthbhaint aici le gluaiseacht athbheochana na Gaeilge. Tháinig borradh as cuimse ar Chonradh na Gaeilge ag tús an chéid seo caite: chuir gníomhaíochtaí an Chonartha go mór leis an saol sóisialta i mbailte móra agus i sráidbhailte na tíre; baineadh leas as an gceol, as an damhsa agus as an drámaíocht chun tacú le leathnú na Gaeilge; bhí an iris dhátheangach Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge agus an nuachtán Fáinne an Lae lán de scríbhinní óna leithéidí an Dr Ó hIcí, Eoin Mac Néill, Agnes O’Farrelly, Mary Hayden, agus gan amhras Dubhghlas de hÍde, An Craoibhin Aoibhinn, ar scoláire ceannródaíoch Gaeilge agus filíochta é, agus Uachtarán an Chonartha ó 1893 go 1915. [An awareness of the need to reverse this trend, coupled with growing scholarly interest in the language, led to the creation, in 1893, of the Gaelic League, an organisation which was to play such a crucial part in the movement for the revival of the Irish language. The Gaelic League went through a spectacular expansion at the turn of the last century: its activities enhanced the social life of towns and villages throughout Ireland; music,
dance and drama were used to support the dissemination of the Irish language; the bilingual Gaelic Journal and the newspaper Fáinne an Lae were filled with the writings of such as Dr O’Hickey, Eoin MacNeill, Agnes O’Farrelly, Mary Hayden, and of course Douglas Hyde, An Craoibhin Aoibhinn, who was a pioneering scholar of the Irish language and poetry, and the League’s President from 1893 to 1915.] Chuaigh Pádraig Mac Piarais le Conradh na Gaeilge sa bhliain 1896, gan 17 mbliana a bheith slánaithe aige, agus chuir sé chun oibre go díograiseach agus go dúthrachtach sna deich mbliana ina dhiaidh sin. D’fhreastail sé ar fhormhór gach cruinniú de chuid an Choiste Gnótha, mhúin sé ranganna Gaeilge, thug sé léamha, léachtaí agus cainteanna, bhí sé ar fáil do chraobh ar bith an Chonartha a raibh urlabhraí oifigiúil de dhíth orthu, idir i mBaile Átha Cliath agus lasmuigh de. [Patrick Pearse joined the Gaelic League in 1896, shortly before his 17th birthday, and over the subsequent decade, he dedicated himself wholeheartedly to its work. He attended virtually every meeting of the Coiste Gnótha, taught Irish classes, and gave readings, lectures and speeches, making himself available to any branch in need of an official speaker in Dublin and outside.] Ón mbliain 1900, stiúraigh an Piarsach coiste Foilseacháin an Chonartha, agus sa bhliain 1903 ghlac sé chuige eagarthóireacht An Claidheamh Soluis, ról a chomhlíon sé le fonn agus le faghairt go ceann breis is sé bliana. D’fhéach an Piarsach chuige go mbeadh spás nach beag sa leagan nua, méadaithe den Chlaidheamh do litríocht na Gaeilge, agus é meáite ar théacsanna clasaiceacha na Gaeilge a chur ar a súile don phobal mar aon le litríocht nua-aimseartha dhúchasach a spreagadh. [From 1900, Pearse also ran the League’s Publication committee, before he took on, in 1903, the editorship of An Claidheamh Soluis, a role he fulfilled with characteristic zeal and industry for over six years. Pearse made ample space for Irish literature, in his new, expanded, version of the Claidheamh, determined as he was both to popularise Irish classical texts and to stimulate an indigenous modern literature.] Cuireann an bhaint a bhí ag an bPiarsach le Conradh na Gaeilge i gcuimhne dúinn gur sách déanach ina shaol a thug an Piarsach faoin náisiúnachas polaitiúil, seachas an náisiúnachas cultúir – eolas a ndéantar dearmad air go minic i saol na linne seo. Ar feadh na mblianta fada, bhí Pádraig Mac Piarais tugtha go hiomlán agus go fonnmhar don Ghaeilge agus d’athbheochan na Gaeilge. Mar a dúirt se féin: “Níl i ngluaiseacht na Gaeilge, gan amhras, ach cuid den ghluaisteacht náisiúnta, ach is í an chuid is tábhachtaí di í – an chuid a thugann brí agus
comhleanúnachas don iomlán.” [The history of his involvement with the Gaelic League reminds us that Patrick Pearse was in fact a very late convert to political, rather than cultural, nationalism – a fact that is sometimes obscured in the contemporary collective memory. For many years, Patrick Pearse was passionately and quite exclusively committed to the Irish language and its revival. As he put it: “The language movement is, of course, only a part of the national movement, but it is its most important part – the part which gives vitality and coherence to the whole.”] Fearacht go leor daoine eile i ngluaiseacht na Gaeilge ag an am, theastaigh ón bPiarsach cur lena chuid Gaeilge féin ach cuairt a thabhairt ar an nGaeltacht. Ba mhór an spreagadh agus an sásamh a bhain sé as an gcéad samhradh a chaith sé ar Árainn, áit ar thosaigh sé ag foghlaim na Gaeilge beo ó chéadmhúinteoir J.M. Synge. Bhí cion faoi leith aige ar Ghaeltacht an Iarthair ar feadh a shaoil agus ba fhoinse spreagaidh agus suaimhnis dó í agus théadh sé ar cuairt ann trí nó ceithre bhabhta sa bhliain. [Like many of his contemporaries in the language movement, Pearse sought to improve his proficiency in Irish by visiting the Gaeltacht. The first summer he spent in Aran, where he began to study the living Irish language from J.M. Synge’s first Irish teacher, was, for him, exhilarating. Throughout his life, the Gaelic-speaking West was to remain a special place of retreat and inspiration for Pearse, a place he would visit three or four times a year.] Ba mhór an dáimh a bhí ag an bPiarsach le Conamara go háirithe, agus ba le canúint Ghaeilge Chonamara a chuaigh sé. Bhí sé faoi gheasa ag tírdhreach agus ag muintir Ros Muc, ceantar atá suite leath slí idir Gaillimh agus an Clochán. Chuaigh sé ann den chéad uair sa bhliain 1903 agus théadh sé ann gach samhradh ina dhiaidh sin. Ba sa teachín ceann tuí a thóg sé dó féin ar bhruach Loch Oiriúlach a scríobh Pádraig Mac Piarais an oráid iomráiteach sin a thug sé ag sochraid Dhiarmuid Uí Dhonobháin Rosa, i mí Lúnasa 1915. [Pearse was particularly attached to Connemara, whose dialect of Irish he adopted. He fell under the spell of the landscape and people of Rosmuc, a locality halfway between Galway and Clifden, which he first visited in 1903 and subsequently every summer. It was from the thatched cottage he had built for himself on the shore of Loch Oiriulach that Patrick Pearse wrote his masterpiece speech for the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, in August 1915.] Is furasta do scríbhneoirí comhaimseartha cineál idéalachais a fheiceáil sa tóir a bhí ag an bPiarsach ar áilleacht agus ar íonacht mhuintir an Gaeltachta. Áitíonn scríbhneoirí dá leithéid nár thuig an Piarsach i
gceart an deargbhochtanas agus an imní roimh ghorta a thug ar go leor daoine dul ar imirce ó Iarthar na hÉireann. Leoga, ba mhór an díol iontais dó é nár leor do na daoine sin caomhnú a n-oidhreachta uathúla féin. Ba é a theastaigh ón bPiarsach go gcuirfidís an tslí mhaireachtála a bhí acu, in ainneoin an bhochtanais, a bhí gar don nádúr agus lán de thírúlacht, i gcomparáid lena bheith ag maireachtáil ar imeall sochaí uirbeach agus thionsclaíoch. [It is somewhat easy for some contemporary writers to see in Pearse’s fascination with the beauty and purity of the Gaeltacht people a form of idealisation. Such writers have argued that Patrick Pearse failed to fully grasp the extent of the grinding poverty and the fear of famine that led so many from the West of Ireland to emigrate. Indeed it quite bewildered him that these true Gaels did not find satisfaction in the preservation of their unique heritage. What Pearse sought of course was for them to contrast the way of life they had, yes in poverty, but close to nature, rich in sociability, with an existence at the edge of urban and industrial society.] Ní mór dúinn a aithint sa lá atá inniu ann go raibh Pádraig Mac Piarais ceannródaíoch ó thaobh chosaint na Gaeilge mar mheán cumarsáide, seachas mar dhíol spéise i measc lucht léinn, ó thaobh ról phobal na Gaeltachta i slánú na Gaeilge beo, agus ó thaobh na spéise a bhí aige sa dátheangachas. Chuige sin, ní mór cuimhneamh nár áitigh an Piarsach riamh go mbeadh Éire ina tír aon-teanga Ghaeilge ach go raibh súil aige go mbainfí Éire dhátheangach amach. [Today we must recognise that Patrick Pearse was visionary in his defence of the language as a spoken living medium, rather than a mere object of scholarly interest, in his insistence on the role of the Gaeltacht people in ensuring the survival of this living language, as well as in his interest in bilingualism. In that regard, it is important to remember that Pearse never advocated for an all Irish-speaking Ireland, but hoped, rather, for a bilingual Ireland.] Pearse’s interest in bilingual education was first stirred during a trip he made to Wales in 1899, to attend a panCeltic gathering, and then deepened over the month he spent in Belgium in July 1905 to study the French and Flemish bilingual system of education. He was particularly taken by the so-called Direct Method, a technique of language teaching through conversation widely used in continental schools. In the columns of An Claidheamh Soluis, Pearse tirelessly advocated for bilingualism to be operated throughout the country, and not just in Gaeltacht areas. In the proposals he set out in 1906, he not only stated that: “Every child has a right to be taught his mother tongue”
but also that: “Every child ought to be taught at least one other language, as soon as he is capable of learning it.” The modernity of Pearse’s defence of bilingualism, his grasp of language acquisition and classroom practice, are elements that point to the deep relevance of his legacy as an educator. And while his educational thought and work has not always garnered all the attention it deserves, it is appropriate that we, today, in these premises, recall the achievements of Patrick Pearse as an educational theorist, a teacher, and the founder of what was one of Ireland’s most innovative schools in the early 20th century. Fiú sa chás nár tharla an tÉirí Amach ar chor ar bith, bheadh a cháil ar an bPiarsach ó thaobh na smaointeoireachta réabhlóidí toisc a theoiric oideachais agus a oideolaíocht. [Even if the Rising had not taken place, Patrick Pearse would have carved out a place in revolutionary consciousness for his educational theory and pedagogy.] Frustrated by the failure of his ideas for educational reform to gain wide traction amongst his contemporaries, Pearse characteristically resolved to take the matter into his own hands. He was determined to demonstrate the possibility of an alternative model of schooling by opening his own school, one where a bilingual environment would be created, where pupils would be made aware of Irish history, and where each child’s individuality would be cherished. Convinced that schooling in Ireland amounted to an act of cultural assimilation – and indeed the provision of education under British rule betrayed an agenda of cultural, religious and linguistic assimilation – Pearse wanted his school to have an “Irish standpoint and ‘atmosphere’” and be based on what he saw as two characteristics of the old Irish system of education: freedom for the individual student and inspirational teaching. Pearse was also anxious to restore an awareness of the value of the Irish past. This concern of his must be placed in the context of imperial assumptions as to the inherent inferiority of the Irish as a people. It is hard to believe that at the dawn of the Enlightenment, it was argued that the Irish were too backward to have been the location for any myth’s origin. An extreme example of such views was provided by David Hume in his History of England (1754-62): “The Irish, from the beginning of time, had been buried in the most profound barbarism and ignorance;
and as they were never conquered or even invaded by the Romans, from whom all the western world derived its civility, they continued still in the most rude state of society, and were distinguished by those vices alone, to which human nature, not tamed by education or restrained by laws, is for ever subject.” Scoil Éanna, St. Enda’s, the school which opened its doors in Cullenswood House, Rathmines, in 1908, took its name from the patron saint of Pearse’s beloved Aran. It attracted many pupils from prominent nationalist families, to whom Pearse endeavoured to teach a love of Irish history, language, literature and poetry. He also sought to cultivate in those boys a mixture of virtue and valour by telling them of the life of the early Irish saints such as Enda and Columcille, and of the great deeds of the heroes of Ireland’s mythical cycles, such as Cúchulainn and Fionn. According to Desmond Ryan, a former pupil of St. Enda’s who later became Pearse’s secretary (as well as one of his biographers), the boys were so taken by the Cúchulainn saga, which Pearse distilled to them day after day, that: “The dark, sad boy [became] an important member of staff.” St. Enda’s pupils did not just triumph on the hurling and football fields of Dublin and Leinster, they also starred on the stage of the Abbey Theatre, attracting glowing reports in the nationalist press. St. Enda’s finest dramatic production, for which the boys joined forces with the girls of their sister school, St. Ita’s, was a passion play that was shown in the Abbey in Holy Week 1911 (and in which some have read signs of the events to come five years later). Pearse’s theatrical sense and romantic imagination, both of which had been extremely vivid from childhood, found vast room for expression in St. Enda’s plays. Through them he breathed new life in the mythical figures of his youth, many of whom had been fed to him by his octogenarian grand-aunt, Margaret, who was his link to his mother’s Co. Meath culture, and who had fascinated him with her stories, tales and songs about Fionn, Tone and Emmet, but also Napoleon. The photographs of St. Enda’s youths dressed up as early Irish saints and heroes enjoyed widespread dissemination amongst cultural revivalist circles. Those images emblematised the contemporary hopes for a national future that would draw its strength and inspiration from Ireland’s great past. Yet, Patrick Pearse’s educational project was broader
than a mere nationalist agenda. His description of schooling in Ireland as a Murder Machine – the title of his famous 1916 essay – does not only refer to the use of education as an agent of colonialism that instilled an ignorance of their own past and self-hatred in Irish pupils; it also refers to the pedagogical poverty prevalent at the time.
“Cuimhnímid go háirithe ar an ngrá a bhí ag Pádraig Mac Piarais don teanga aoibhinn seo, ar an gcion saoil a rinne sé chun an teanga a athnuachan agus a leathnú.” The scholars who have studied Pearse’s educational work, such as Séamas O’Buachalla, or, more recently, Brendan Walsh and Elaine Sisson, have all highlighted Pearse’s commitment to a child-centred education, whereby each pupil is encouraged to develop the best of his or her unique potential. Pearse was virulent in his denunciation of the repressive spirit of Ireland’s Intermediate system, which, in his view, crushed the individuality of pupils by imposing on them a brutal discipline, a narrow curriculum and a rigid, resultsoriented, system of examination. To him, this system was but “instruction without education”, which he described in these terms – I quote: “It grinds day and night; it obeys immutable and predetermined laws; it is as devoid of understanding, of sympathy, of imagination as is any other piece of machinery that performs an appointed task. Into it is fed all the raw material in Ireland: it seizes upon it inexorably and rends and compresses and remoulds; and what it cannot refashion after the regulation pattern it ejects with all the likeness of its former self crushed from it, a bruised and shapeless thing, thereinafter accounted waste.” Pearse recognised the existence of different kinds of intelligence, as is revealed in this small episode he related in one of his speeches, Of Freedom in Education from 1912: “I knew another boy of whom his father said to me: ‘He is no good with books, he is no good at work; he is good at nothing but playing a tin whistle. What am I to do with him?’ I shocked the worthy man by replying
(though really it was the obvious thing to reply): ‘Buy a tin whistle for him’.” Thus in St. Enda’s, alongside the classical subjects, great attention was granted to the ‘modern’ subjects and science, as well as to the development of artistic and sportive skills, to the study of nature and the love of animals, to the nurturing of observation and reasoning, and to the formation of moral character. According to Brendan Walsh, Pearse also prepared his boys to be future citizens of an independent Ireland by the cultivation of democratic participation in the life of the school. Importantly to Pearse, the school was embellished by the work of such well-known artists as Beatrice Elvery and Sarah Purser, as well as by original pictures by Jack B. Yeats and George Russell, friezes by Edwin and Jack Morrow, and sculptures by Willie Pearse and others. True to his conviction that, as he put it: “It is only by making his own life a thing of grace and beauty that the teacher will gain the happiness of seeing successive generations of good men and women grow up around him.” Patrick Pearse endeavoured to recruit the best of teachers for his pupils. His right-hand man during the first years of St. Enda’s was Thomas MacDonagh, a poet and playwright whose infectious cheerfulness infused the school with a gaiety and laughter that were in stark contrast with the gloomy silence imposed in most Irish schools of the time. Another central figure in the life of the St. Enda’s boys was the gardener, Micheál Mac Ruaidhrí, a native speaker of Irish who was also a folklorist and the winner of several Oireachtas medals. For us today, it is impressive to recall how eminent intellectual figures of the era came and went to dispense what Pearse had called “half-holiday lectures,” on a variety of unconventional subjects. Those occasional lecturers included W.B. Yeats, Douglas Hyde, Padraic Colum, Standish O’Grady, Edward Martyn, Agnes O’Farrelly, Eoin MacNeill, Alice Stopford Green, and even Roger Casement. St. Enda’s was also, we should never forget, the family home of the Pearses, all of whom took an active part in the life of the school. This was in conformity with Pearse’s interest in the old Gaelic institution of fosterage and his belief that the school environment should be a nurturing one. Willie, who had studied at the Metropolitan School of Art, taught art in the school; Mrs Pearse acted as matron and housekeeper; Mary Brigid taught music; and Margaret taught junior French as well as keeping a correspondence with the
pupils when they went on holidays. St. Enda’s move from Cullenswood House to this beautiful 18th century house known as the Hermitage, in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains, was financially disastrous for the Pearses, as well as marking a sharp decline in the number of enrolled pupils. This move also marked the beginning of Patrick Pearse’s contemplation of physical force as the best path to Ireland’s freedom. Here at the Hermitage, Pearse became haunted by the figure of Robert Emmet, who had reportedly walked these grounds with his sweetheart Sarah Curran. He also immersed himself in the writings of other revolutionaries, particularly Wolfe Tone’s Autobiography and John Mitchell’s Jail Journal, as well as the work of the Young Irelanders Thomas Davis and James Fintan Lalor. But Patrick Pearse did not just spend his time reading, teaching and daydreaming during his walks around this park. Over the very short period from June 1913 to February 1914, he acted as co-founder of the Irish Volunteers, joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and, developing a new social awareness in the face of the brutality of the Great Lockout, he also came closer to the two giants of the Irish labour movement – Jim Larkin, whose sons attended St. Enda’s, and James Connolly, whose intellectual stature greatly impressed him. The American tour Pearse undertook in early 1914, bringing him in contact with such radical IrishAmerican Fenians as John Devoy and Joseph McGarrity, only strengthened his conviction of the necessity of military action. We have had ample opportunity, during this centenary year, to recall the unfolding of the Easter Rising of 1916 and the prominent part that Pearse played in it. For all of us Irish people, the name of Patrick Pearse remains associated with the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, of which he was the main drafter as well as a signatory, and which he read out from under the portico of the GPO shortly after noon on Easter Monday 1916. Pearse was very aware of being part of a wider tradition of Irish armed rebellion. And while his exaltation of bloodshed and sacrifice as a means to regenerate the nation is sometimes misconstrued nowadays, recent scholarship has shown that such rhetoric was in keeping with the language of European nationalist discourse a century ago, as well as with the aggressive tone of army recruitment propaganda in those first years of the First World War, which invoked the patriotism of shedding blood for Empire. The First World War was after all, we must never forget, a contest between six imperial powers. As Elaine Sisson has recently argued, Patrick Pearse’s
appeals to the manhood of the Irish nation was largely a translation into the Irish context of imperial values of masculinity and warfare that had wide currency at the time. It seems to me, too, that Patrick Pearse was very likely attracted to the aesthetic of battle between friends, present, not just in the Fiannaíocht saga but also in the European classics with which he was familiar, such as the contest between Nisus and Euryalus in Virgil’s Aeneid. It would take four years of very real and massive bloodshed in the trenches of France and Belgium to teach Pearse’s generation that total war is a horrendous thing. Patrick Pearse, of course, did not live to reflect back on those devastating years in the history of Europe. Courtmartialled for his leadership in the Rising, he was shot at 3:30 am on 3rd May 1916 at Kilmainham Gaol. His friend and fellow schoolmaster at St Enda’s, Thomas MacDonagh, was executed the same day. Willie Pearse died the following day, and Con Colbert, who had been employed at St. Enda’s as a drilling instructor, was executed on 8th May. As hinted by the last section of this Museum’s new permanent exhibition, so diligently curated by Brian Crowley, Patrick Pearse’s postmortem life also proved to be an eventful one. While Pearse was an uncontested figure in Ireland up to the 1966 anniversary – indeed in 1970 Éamon De Valera accepted the keys of St. Enda’s on behalf of the Irish State – his legacy became the focus of some tendentious writings in the subsequent decades. In the context of what has been called “the Troubles”, loose revisionism sought to make the suggestion that Pearse had provided the ideological template for the Republican violence of 1969 and later. This was of course a somewhat simplistic and ideological assumption, and contemporary historians are more interested in the human rights breaches and the political and social basis of conflict and exclusion as a source of violence in the Northern Ireland of the 1970s. Today we are able, I believe – I hope – to avoid any schematic alternative between the idealisation of Patrick Pearse on the one hand, and the debunking of his myth on the other. A hundred years on, we can better see the man behind the icon. We are better able, for example, to be moved by the exceptional quality of the affection which united Patrick Pearse with the other members of his family, in particular his mother, Margaret, and his brother, Willie, of whom Patrick said: “As a boy he was my only playmate; as a man he has been my only intimate friend.” I know that this is a dimension of Pearse’s life that is especially meaningful to the members of the Pearse family who are with us today, and whom I salute. A
century later, we are, too, more open to acknowledging the deep sensitivity which underpinned Pearse’s sense of his own identity. For example we know now that Pearse’s habit of offering his profile to photographers – a tendency ironically conducive to future iconisation – stemmed, in fact, from his self-consciousness about the squint he had had in his eye from early childhood.
including education and language proficiency, are too often placed in a utilitarian relationship to the overarching goal of economic efficiency, we are grateful too, for the idealistic, non-instrumental, conception of language and education which that revolutionary generation bequeathed to us. May these commemorations be an opportunity to salvage something of their positive idealism to guide our present and future.]
Pearse’s autobiography, of which the original is on display in the new permanent exhibition we are opening today, also demonstrates Pearse’s remarkable awareness of his own complexity, as a man who was passionate about Ireland’s old myths but also had a deep interest in modernity, as a defender of the Irish language who greatly admired English literature, Milton, and above all Shakespeare, and as the son of a mixed marriage between an Irishwoman and an Englishman. He wrote:
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
“These two traditions worked in me, and, fused together by a certain fire proper to myself, made me [at this point we can see clearly that Pearse crossed out the words “an Irish Rebel”, with a capital I and a capital R, he had initially pencilled on the page, and wrote instead]... the strange thing that I am.” Is mór an sásamh a thugann sé domsa inniu, mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, an buíochas atá dlite ag Pádraig Mac Piarais agus ag na fir agus na mná ar oibrigh sé go díograiseach leo, uainn mar náisiún a chur in iúl as an gcion a rinneadh ionas go mbainfeadh stair na nGael, litríocht na nGael agus an Ghaeilge an áit a bhí dlite dóibh amach i scoileanna na tíre. Mar a deir duine de bheathainéisithe an Phiarsaigh: gur thug an ghlúin sin de ghníomhaithe cultúir “eochair an fhéinmheasa” don Ghaeilge, agus is mór againn é sin. [Today, it is my great pleasure, as President of Ireland, to express the debt of gratitude that we as a nation owe to Patrick Pearse and the men and women alongside whom he worked tirelessly so that Irish history, literature, and our Irish language would gain the place they deserve in our schools. As one of Pearse’s biographers put it, that generation of cultural activists gave the Irish “the key to self-respect”, and we are immensely grateful for that.] In aois ina gcuirtear go leor gnéithe d’éachtaíocht an duine, an t-oideachas agus cumas teanga ina measc, i gcomhréir le sprioc uileghabhálach an tís gheilleagraigh, is mór againn freisin coincheap idéalach, neamh-uirliseach na teanga agus an oideachais a bhronn an ghlúin cheannródaíoch orainn. Go dtuga na hócáidí comórtha seo deis dúinn cuid dá n-idéalachas dearfach a thabhairt slán mar threoir don ghlúin reatha agus do na glúinte atá fós le teacht. [In an age when so many spheres of human achievement,
Over 35 young people created Aerdheacht – Taking the Air, a reimagining of the St Enda’s Open Day of 1914, by young people from Tallaght Community Arts. Pictured are performers outside the Pearse Museum, St Enda’s Park, Rathfarnham.
Chuir níos mó ná 35 dhuine óga Aerdheacht – Taking the Air le chéile, ar athshamhlú ar Lá Oscailte Naomh Éanna in 1914 é a rinne daoine óga ó Ealaíona Pobail Thamhlachta. Sa phictiúr tá taibheoirí lasmuigh de Mhúsaem na bPiarsach, Páirc Naomh Éanna, Ráth Fearnáin.
Photo: Conor McCabe Photography Ltd www.conormccabe.ie
Pictured (L-R) OPW Commissioner John McMahon, President Michael D. Higgins, Sabina Higgins, Margaret Gormley, Chief Park Superintendent, OPW, and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Brendan Carr.
Sa phictiúr (C-D) Coimisinéir OOP John McMahon, An tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn, Sabina Uí hUiginn, Margaret Gormley, Ard-Cheannfort Páirce, OOP, agus Ard-Mhéara Bhaile Átha Cliath, Brendan Carr.
Photo: OPW www.opw.ie
A Living Memorial Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at the Official Opening of the Commemorative Tree Avenue, Phoenix Park Phoenix Park, Dublin Saturday 30th July, 2016
Many of the formative events commemorated during the Decade of Centenaries were accompanied by considerable bloodshed, none more so than the First World War, in which 49,000 Irish people lost their lives. On the 30th July 2016 an avenue of 180 Plane trees commemorating the unsung heroes and victims of that tumultuous decade of 1912 to 1922 was oﬃcially opened by the President. Bhain doirteadh fola nach beag le go leor de na himeachtaí múnlaitheacha a ndearnadh comóradh orthu i rith Dheich mBliana na gCuimhneachán, ach thit an doirteadh fola ba mhó amach sa Chéad Chogadh Domhanda, inar maraíodh 49,000 Éireannach. An 30 Iúil 2016, d’oscail an tUachtarán ascaill 180 crann Plána go hoifigiúil a rinne comóradh ar laochra agus íospartaigh na tréimhse suaite deich mbliana sin idir 1912 agus 1922 nár aithníodh.
Tá áthas orm a bheith anseo inniu chun Ascaill na gCrann Comórtha anseo i bPáirc an Fhionnuisce a oscailt go hoifigiúil. Tán lá inniu ina chuid de Chomóradh an Chéid a thugann deis ar leith dúinn cuimhneamh orthu siúd a cailleadh le linn tréimhse na réabhlóide. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le hOifig na nOibreacha Poiblí as a gcuireadh dom páirt a ghlacadh san ócáid seo, agus libhse ar fad as bhur bhfíorchaoin fáilte. [I am delighted to be here today for the official opening of this special Commemorative Tree Avenue, here in the Phoenix Park. Today is an important part of Ireland’s centenary celebrations as we specifically remember all those who lost their lives during the revolutionary period. I would like to thank the Office of Public Works for inviting me to join you here today, and all of you for that great welcome.] This Commemorative Tree Avenue will stand as a living, and indeed flourishing, memorial, to all those who lost their lives during that turbulent period of Irish and world history. I understand that over 180 Plane trees have been planted on the avenue, considerably adding to the ten thousand trees already established over the last century in the Phoenix Park. It is uplifting to know that these trees will live on for several centuries, reminding many generations to come of those who lost their lives between 1912 and 1922 – the period which we have been remembering during this Decade of Commemorations. Mar náisiún, i mbliana tá muid ag smaoineamh ar an mhóimint a bunaíodh an Stát s’againne i 1916 agus a cuimhneamh ar na híobairtí móra a rinne siad siúd a throid ar son na glúnta a tháinig ina ndiaidh, le go
mbeidís in ann cónaí mar shaoránaigh i ndaonlathas neamhspleách. [This year we have, as a nation, been recollecting in particular the founding moment of our State that was 1916 and recalling the many generous sacrifices made by those who fought in order that future generations could live as citizens of an independent democracy.] The various commemorative events held over the last few months have allowed us to re-engage with the Ireland of the early 20th century, to witness through the prism of time that multifaceted and complex place where many different cultures and ideologies impelled the stories of bravery, vision and determination that comprised that vibrant moment in Irish history. The Ireland of that time was an Ireland undergoing extraordinary change. Meanwhile, on the European continent, a seismic and historic tragedy unfolded that would see the loss of a generation to war in the collision of imperialist hubris. It was an era of turmoil that developed in the shadow of the Home Rule Acts, and included the Lockout of 1913, the outbreak of the World War in 1914, the Rising of 1916 and the Battle of the Somme, the end of the World War and the Election of 1918, the War of Independence which commenced in 1919, and finally the bitterly divisive Civil War of the years 1922-23. In taking a long view of history, we have been reminded of the many unsung heroes and forgotten victims of those tumultuous events, recalling, not just the extraordinary figures who have been immortalised in our history books, but also the ordinary lives defined by extraordinary courage and dignity in the face of adversity. In doing so, we have finally reclaimed those forgotten victims of the Easter Rising – the women of 1916 and the many civilians who lost their lives on the streets of Dublin during the final days of April 1916, including the 40 children who were killed in crossfire. That this commemorative Tree Avenue honours all those who lost their lives during that critical decade between 1912 and 1922 demonstrates a real understanding of the challenges, complications and contradictions that defined an Ireland seeking independence from an Empire engaged in a World War which consumed the lives of so many, and which had postponed parliamentary initiatives for self rule. In commemorating, this year, the centenary of the Easter Rising, we have aspired to do so in a way that makes space for the multitude of voices which, together, spoke of a new and independent Ireland. We have also viewed the events of 1916 from a distance that
has enabled us to grasp the Rising as part of a series of efforts at achieving independence and as part of a broader historical experience. All of the varied creeds, principles and ideals which drove that seminal period of our history are critical elements of the whole, and all are equally important in enabling us to engage with history and commemoration in a way that is ethical and honest. We can now view the First World War as an important context for the Rising. Good social history has taught us that so many of the 49,000 Irishmen who lost their lives in it had not been motivated to fight in the armies of Great Britain by any idealism or a desire for adventure, but were motivated more urgently by a desperate need to support their families as a consequence of their debarment from working in Ireland following the Great Lockout of 1913. Our period of commemoration has taught us, too, that engagement with the past is rarely a simple or easy process. It is, so often, painful and morally challenging, to engage with and interpret the memories, hurts, legacies and emotions of all those affected by events. I have also emphasised, throughout this year, how imagining is an essential part of commemoration. Imagination was also a central feature of the period we commemorate, and we have had ample opportunity to focus on the idealism, the dreams, and the creativity of the great Irish men and women of a hundred years ago, who made the bold and courageous decision to strike for Ireland’s independence. Importantly, we have used this commemorative occasion to take inspiration from their ideas, dreams and deeds, and to forge their words and actions into useful tools for our present circumstances. This concern with creating something new from the process of ethical remembering resonates strongly, I believe, with today’s event. The founders of our State did sow the seeds of the free Ireland which we enjoy today. Our political system and the social structures which have emerged over the intervening years are organic institutions – constantly growing and adapting, sturdy and resilient, but also in need of care and nourishment. From our founding generation, we have been given a living legacy; and it is so wonderfully appropriate that we will have these magnificent living monuments to our freedom and the sacrifices of those who gave us that freedom. Whereas in past centuries, statues of great men and women would be erected, today we mark our past with
the planting of these great trees that will provide shelter and oxygen, remembering loss by celebrating life.
“It is uplifting to know that these trees will live on for several centuries, reminding many generations to come of those who lost their lives.” Democracy is always organic and must always be a work in progress. The manner in which we use the independence gifted to us by our forefathers is an enduring challenge, morally and ethically, as we continue the work of achieving a Republic of which our founders would be proud; a nation rooted in courage, vision and a profound spirit of generous humanity. In the coming years we will be remembering the tragedies and great human cost of the War of Independence and the Civil War, which were part of the irreversible momentum towards independence following the tragic consequences of the Easter Rising. As we move towards that next period of commemoration, it is critical that we also continue to meet the challenge of remembering ethically, remaining open to a critical revisiting of the collective myths and beliefs by which we have defined ourselves as a nation. We will now have this beautiful and peaceful place to remind us of the life that has sprung from past tragedies and loss, and this will be a great resource to us all in the years to come, one that will endure and flourish for future generations. Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil libh arís as bhur bhfíorchaoin fáilte inniu. Is mór an phribhléid dom é an Ascaill seo a oscailt go hoifigiúil, áit a bheidh ann mar nasc leis an Éirí Amach agus leis an méid a tháinigh ina dhiaidh do mhuintir na hÉireann go ceann na mblianta, agus fiú na céadta bliain amach romhainn. [In conclusion, may I thank you once again for welcoming me here today. It is a great privilege to formally open this Commemorative Tree Avenue, which will provide such a deep rooted connection to a critical chapter of our past in the years, and decades, and centuries to come.] Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
President Michael D. Higgins presents the 1916 Centenary Commemorative medals to a number of Defence Force personnel in Dublin Castle.
Bronann an tUachtarán, Michael D. Higgins, boinn Chuimhneacháin Céad Bliain 1916 ar roinnt ball de na Fórsaí Cosanta i gCaisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath.
Photo: Defence Forces www.military.ie
Óglaigh na hÉireann — The Irish Volunteers Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at a State Ceremony to award 1916 Centenary Commemorative Medals to the Defence Forces Dublin Castle Sunday 4th December, 2016
In December 2016 the President presented members of the Defence Forces who had served during 2016 with a commemorative medal to mark their role and involvement in the Centenary year. The President spoke of the important contribution the Defence Forces make, at both a national and global level, to the creation of a safer and more secure world and commended its members for their courage and selfless dedication to duty. I Nollaig 2016, bhronn an tUachtarán bonn comórtha ar chomhaltaí na bhFórsaí Cosanta, a d’fhóin i rith 2016, chun a ról agus an bhaint a bhí acu sa bhliain Chomórtha Céad Bliain a thabhairt chun suntais. Labhair an tUachtarán ar an rannchuidiú tábhachtach a dhéanann na Fórsaí Cosanta, ar leibhéal náisiúnta agus domhanda araon, le domhan níos sábháilte agus níos sláine a chruthú agus mhol sé a gcomhaltaí i ngeall ar a misneach agus a dtiomantas neamhleithleasach don dualgas.
A Árd Mhéara, a Thánaiste, a Airí, a Aoianna oirirce, agus a Cháirde, Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann agus Ardcheannasaí ar na Forsaí Cosanta, tugann sé sásamh faoi leith dom a bheith in bhur dteannta inniu don ócáid thabhachtach seo. Is í ocáid ina mbeidh deis agam, agus ag na baill den Rialtais anseo atá in éineacht liom, in ainm muintir na hÉireann, ár meas agus ár mbuíochas a chur in iúl daoibhse, baill de na forsaí cosanta, as ucht an seirbhís díograsach speisíaltá atá tugtha agaibhse le linn na bliana chomóradh seo. Comh maith le sin, tugann an ócáid inniú agus bronnadh na mboinn a tharlóidh ar ball, deis dom aitheantas a thabhairt daoibhse agus do bhur gcomhleacaithe sa forsaí ó a bhunaíodh an Stáit, don seirbhís poiblí den scoth atá sibh ag tabhairt ar bhonn leanúnach agus atá tugtha agaibh thar na blianta. Lord Mayor, Tánaiste, Ministers, distinguished guests, fellow citizens and friends, As President and Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces, I am particularly pleased to be here at this event today on behalf of the people of Ireland. The awarding of the 1916 Centenary Commemorative Medal to serving members of the Permanent Defence Forces and to members of the Reserve Forces is, I believe, a fitting acknowledgement for all members
of Óglaigh na hÉireann who have served during this centenary year of 2016. It is also an opportunity to publicly acknowledge the dedicated and selfless service of the volunteer soldiers, sailors and aircrew of Óglaigh na hÉireann, who serve Ireland every day and night on a continuous basis, and who have served Ireland and the Irish people since the foundation of the State. The Irish Defence Forces, has its roots in the Irish Volunteers and the title in our first language Óglaigh na hÉireann is common to both organisations. The volunteers provided the template for the modern Defence Forces that came into existence following the establishment of the Free State. To this day, the buttons of the army uniform contain the initials IV in recognition of this heritage. Over a hundred years ago, Eoin MacNeill sought three qualities from those who had volunteered to serve; courage, vigilance and discipline. These are the same attributes that are embodied in the modern Defence Forces with members of the Army, Air Corps, and the Naval Service expected to demonstrate these qualities in their daily duties. Tá sé le tabhairt faoi deara go soiléir go bhfuil árd meas agus dea-thoil faoi leith ag muintir na hÉireann ar ár saighdeoirí, mairnéiligh agus baill den Aer Chór. Tá tuiscint faoi leith ag an bpobal gur fórsa cosanta atá i gceist seachas airm ionsaitheach nó bagrach den tsaghas ar a raibh taithí againn in ár stair féin, agus atá le feiceáil fós thar timpeall na cruinne. Tá an fealsúnacht sin go mór le feiscint i meon na mban agus na bhfear atá ag tabhairt faoina ndualgaisí lá i ndiadh lae, in Éireann agus thar lear. Ceapaim gur sin an fáth go bhfuil sibh comh héifeachtach is atá sibh mar chosainteoirí shíocháin agus ag tabhairt faoi obair dhaonnúil. Gan aibhreas ar bith, tá ard-mheas na tíre agus an domhain tuilte agaibh dá bharr.
“The international reputation of our Defence Forces, and, by extension, of our country, has been greatly enhanced through your performance as UN Peacekeepers.”
During my time as Uachtarán na hÉireann I have had the opportunity to regularly hear the high estimate in which our forces are held; the respect and pride that exists within Ireland for the professionalism and dedication of the men and women of our Defence Forces. You are giving public service in a very literal sense, and have volunteered for a life in the service of others, ‘a life less ordinary’ at home and abroad. The demands placed upon you are not insignificant. As your loved ones will know, extended periods away from your families are part of what is expected. As they, your families also know, your job puts you in situations of danger, in order to protect your fellow citizens and those vulnerable communities and individuals around the world who have required your protection. At home, the permanent and reserve defence forces are of vital assistance both to the civil power and to the civil authority. Your contribution in this respect to your community is immense. Each of the branches of Óglaigh na hÉireann is called upon at times to assist the civil authorities in various ways, to ensure the safety and well-being of your fellow citizens and of the State. I have seen this at first hand in the expertise and capacity that you brought to bear earlier this year in the assistance you delivered so many of our fellow citizens who were affected by severe flooding across the country, drawing on all the skills required and that were part of your preparation. The international reputation of our Defence Forces, and, by extension, of our country, has been greatly enhanced through your performance as UN Peacekeepers continuously over the past 58 years, since the first contingent of Irish troops was deployed to the Lebanon. Over that time, generations of school children have become familiar with the places in the world where you represented us with such distinction and where you came to the aid of the vulnerable and those at risk. The Congo, Cyprus, Sinai, the Golan Heights, East Timor, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Liberia, Sierra Leone, to name just some of the areas of deployment over that period. We also remember all our soldiers who died on service overseas, and those who were killed while serving in Ireland, and we recall the very real dangers that you face and the price paid by your fallen comrades and by their families and friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha. In recent times, the Naval Service, with the assistance of Army and Air Corps medical personnel, has been engaged in missions abroad, particularly on the vital
work in the Mediterranean, where literally thousands of lives have been saved, with over 14,700 people plucked from the sea. For us Irish these scenes might be reminiscent of a darker period in our own history, where we also took to the seas, risking everything to survive, so many lost at sea, those who survived relying on the humanity and decency of other nations to give us refuge.
through the formal State Ceremonies during Easter Week or the countless other events around the country in which you generously, in so many places, took part. One initiative which was particularly well received by our youngest generation was the delivery by uniformed personnel of the Defence Forces to all primary schools in the State, of our National Flag and a copy of the Proclamation.
This humanitarian and peace keeping work in which you have been engaged is an act of global citizenship, and is an expression of solidarity with our fellow human beings on this fragile planet.
At all of these ceremonial and symbolic events our Defence Forces have performed with the professionalism by which you have become known and to which I have already referred. You have displayed at all times your customary dignity, pride and respect.
Your work, and the way you go about it, reflects the best of our nation and you can be justifiably proud of your record and the positive influence you have had, and continue to have. I have little doubt that the men and women who we have been commemorating in this centenary year would look approvingly at how our Defence Forces have developed since the foundation of the State and of how you and your families have given of yourselves on behalf of your country. The 1916 Centenary Commemorative Medal being awarded today is firmly rooted in our history with the design taking its inspiration from both the 1916 Medal and the 1916 Survivors’ Medal which were issued to persons with recognised military service during Easter Week 1916. In awarding this medal, we commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising and we recognise the central role played by Óglaigh na hÉireann, not only in your general duties, but also the very special and particular contribution you have made in this centenary year. I recall standing in this very location in Dublin Castle on New Year’s Day to mark the opening of our year of recollection. In a solemn ceremony the Roll of Honour of those volunteers who lost their lives during the 1916 Rising was read out and we then raised the three flags which were flown on O’Connell Street on Easter 1916: the Irish Citizen Army flag, which was flown from the Imperial Hotel on O’Connell Street; and the Irish Republican and National flags, both of which were flown from the GPO.
Over the year, we have had much reflection on the men and women of 1916, people who were not afraid to dream of a new and re-imagined Ireland. They had the vision and the courage to act according to their convictions. Against the odds, they set us on a path that was to lead to an independent State, through which we became free to imagine and realise our own version of Ireland. This remains a precious opportunity. As I have stated over this year, the generous, inclusive, prosperous Republic for which many of them hoped remains a work in progress. But their aspirations did not die. We are all here today and we have the opportunity to shape our future in ways of which they could only have dreamed. Those same aspirations for true equality, for justice and for real independence can sustain us today in the task of rebuilding and reshaping our society and our economy and re-imagining an Ireland that fulfils the hopes and ideals that we hold in common with the men and women of a century ago. Today’s ceremony and the medal you are about to be presented with are fitting and well-deserved tributes, on behalf of the people of Ireland, to you, the women and men of our Defence Forces. Ar mo shon féin agus thar cheann Muintir na hÉireann, tréaslaim libh as ucht na héachtanna atá bainte amach agaibh, molaim sibh as ucht bhur gcur chuige mar bhaill de na Fórsaí Cosanta, agus gabhaim buíochas libh as ucht an sár-seirbhís atá a thabhairt agaibh don phobail agus dóibh siúd atá i ngéarghá le bhur gcabhair, sa bhaile agus i gcéin.
Since then, I, along with members of the Government and hundreds of thousands of citizens of this country, have participated in the numerous remarkable and moving ceremonies commemorating the key events that took place 100 years ago this year. A uniting element in all of these events has been the presence of members of our Defence Forces. You have played an essential role in our national commemorations whether
Library assistant with young boy (possibly Seán T. O’Kelly) in Reading Room of National Library of Ireland. Taken by J. J. Clarke (1879-1961) of Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan while he was studying in Dublin.
Cúntóir leabharlainne i dteannta buachaill óg (Seán T. O’Kelly, b’fhéidir) i Seomra Léitheoireachta Leabharlann Náisiúnta na hÉireann. Tógtha ag J. J. Clarke (1879-1961) ó Bhaile na Lorgan, Co. Mhuineachán fad is a bhí sé ag staidéar i mBaile Átha Cliath.
Photo: National Library of Ireland www.nli.ie Ref: CLAR 71
Custodians of our History Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at the presentation of the 1916 Rising Oral History Collection to the National Library of Ireland National Library, Kildare Street, Dublin Thursday 21st January, 2016
The Rising Oral History Collection consists of audio material recorded by 230 individuals whose forebears played a role in the Easter Rising. At the presentation of the collection to the National Library of Ireland the President spoke of how this material has added greatly to our understanding of the events that led to the Easter Rising. Tá i mBailiúchán Stair ó Bhéal an Éirí Amach closábhair a chuir dhá chéad agus a tríocha duine aonair i dtaifead ar ghlac a sinsear le ról in Éirí Amach na Cásca. Ag bronnadh an bhailiúcháin ar Leabharlann Náisiúnta na hÉireann, labhair an tUachtarán ar conas a chuir an t-ábhar seo go mór leis an tuiscint atá againn ar na himeachtaí ónar eascair Éirí Amach na Cásca.
The names of the leaders of the 1916 Rising come easily to our lips. They have been immortalised in some of our streets and buildings, in statues in public spaces, and in well loved films, songs and drama. There can be no doubt that those brave revolutionaries, who fought and in many cases gave of their lives so that we could become a free nation and an independent Republic, have earned their places in the history books of Ireland. We have now, 100 years on, a set of informed historographies which context each others’ assumptions but which add to our understanding of a formational and complex decade in our history. We also have new information, and the benefit of accounts that the distance of time released to us. Tá céad bliain tar éis dul thart ó mhí Aibreán 1916 agus caithfimid smaoineamh siar ar an am sin ar bhealach atá uileghabhálach, agus scéalta gach saoránach a bhí páirteach, ina mbealaigh éagsúla, san am cinniúnach sin in ár stair a insint. [One hundred years now separate us from April 1916 and we must recall that time in a way that is inclusive of the narratives of all citizens who became involved, in their different ways, in that profound moment of our history.] It is important that, during this year of significant commemoration, we remember the context of 1916 and its decade as a complex and multifaceted one, influenced by a context of much change including the contest of Europeans in decline, a chapter that comprises many different stories. They are, in our experience of 1916, stories of unsung heroes, of forgotten victims, and of ordinary lives touched by the extraordinary, and it is through the bringing together
of these separate but rich strands, all necessary if we are to respect complexity, that we can engage with the reality of our shared past. Today, as this Oral History Collection is presented to our National Library, we have the opportunity to remember so many individual stories, many from below, those of both the sung and unsung heroes of that time, all of which are critical elements of the whole, and all equally important in enabling us to engage with history and commemoration in a way that is ethical and honest. That is why the imperative of such collections is not only to preserve, but to provide access. I am delighted that this collection will be housed here, in our National Library with its stated mission to “To collect, preserve, promote and make accessible the documentary and intellectual record of the life of Ireland”. I was also pleased to learn that audio clips from the collection will shortly be distributed to designated websites, including those of libraries around the country. When I was Minister with responsibility for the National Archives, the means of facilitating the public to access archives were considerably different from what pertains today. While many thousands of people still visit this beautiful library every year for research purposes it is important that it, like all repositories of important public information, avail of technological advances to allow critical material to be accessed on line. The 1916 Rising Oral Collection leads us deeply into the story of 1916; including into its back streets and covert corners and into the quiet heroism of those whose names, despite not being widely known to later generations, are as permanently stitched into the fabric of the Irish Republic as the names of James Connolly, Padraig Pearse, Cathal Brugha and Michael Collins. It allows us a long view, stretching back from the seismic events at the GPO to the tenement buildings and cottages of Dublin City, and outwards to the suburbs of Finglas and Swords and Dollymount and to the rural villages and towns beyond, where so many lives became interconnected as they took their place in the march towards the creation of an independent state. I have spoken before of the important distinction between “common memory” and “shared memory”, a distinction established by Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit, in his book The Ethics of Memory. In Margalit’s definition, “common memory” is an aggregate notion that combines the memories of all those people who remember a certain episode which each of them experienced individually.
“Shared memory”, on the other hand is an indirect memory – a memory of memory – which requires communication and seeks to integrate into one version the different perspectives of those who might have directly remembered a given episode. This is never a finished task. Rather it is a process requiring constant return, the taking account of new evidence, new perspectives. If we are to construct a trustworthy shared memory, collections built on the memories of individuals are important. They allow for a wider participation in the production of history, and a gathering of memories that bring new perspectives to events of the past.
“It is important that, during this year of significant commemoration, we remember the context of 1916 and its decade as a complex and multifaceted one.” Today we are reminded that we are all custodians of history, recipients of stories, anecdotes and accounts of the past, handed on to us by previous generations. While they may be stories unique to individual families they are also, in so many cases, a critical part of Ireland’s shared social history. It is only by gaining a complete and balanced view of our shared past, through the exploration of the different but interconnecting experiences and individual voices that comprise that past, that we can engage in a genuine search for the truth and a real understanding of the journey that has brought us to the contemporary moment. That is why we owe a great debt of gratitude to the sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, grandchildren and other relatives here today who have so generously shared their family stories, allowing them to be united in this great oral collection. That generosity has ensured that irreplaceable and historically important memories can now be preserved and archived and made available to all. The late Tony Judt, the great historian and political commentator has spoken of the importance, in any given society, of supplying ‘the dimension of knowledge and narrative without which we cannot be a civic whole’. Collections such as this one which we celebrate today play a vital role in safeguarding and protecting a clear and reliable narrative of our nation; one which allows us to view our past in a way
that is truthful and honest; and which prevents us from idealizing that past and failing to learn from our complex history as we seek to craft our shared future. Ghlac dhá chéad is a tríocha duine páirt i dtaifeadadh an chlos-ábhar seo. Is méid mór sa bhreis ar an t-ábhar a bhí ar fáil dúinn faoi Éirí Amach 1916 é seo, agus tabhairfidh sé tuiscint níos doimhne agus níos leithne dúinn ar eachtraí agus ar dhearcthaí na linne sin. [Two hundred and thirty individuals have taken part in the recording of this audio material. That is a greatly significant addition to the material already available to us on the 1916 Rising, and will allow for a deeper and wider understanding of the events and perspectives of that time.] May I conclude by thanking each and every individual who has contributed to the 1916 Rising Oral History Collection. May I also thank and commend Maurice and Jane O’Keeffe, who have compiled this remarkable collection, which is a great gift to Irish society. I have no doubt that this Oral History Collection will add a significant dimension to the knowledge of many generations of future Irish citizens, a legacy of which you can all be very proud indeed.
Tábhacht na Teanga — The Irish Language Revival and Irish Independence Óráid an Uachtaráin Micheál D. Ó hUigínn ag Oscailt Oifigiúil Ard-Fheis Chonradh na Gaeilge 2016 Caisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath Dé hAoine 26 Feabhra, 2016
A Dhaoine Uaisle,
Bunaíodh Chonradh na Gaeilge in 1893, agus bhí Dubhghlas de hÍde mar Uachtarán air agus tá an Conradh tiomanta d’athbheochan na Gaeilge. Ba chomhaltaí de Chonradh na Gaeilge go leor díobh siúd a throid san Éirí Amach, Pádraig Mac Piarais ina measc, a chuir An Claidheamh Soluis, an chéad nuachtán a chuir an Conradh i gcló, in eagar ar feadh tréimhse. Agus Ard-Fheis 2016 Chonradh na Gaeilge á hoscailt, sheol an tUachtarán Seachtain na Gaeilge, d’aithin sé an obair a rinne an Conradh i rith a staire fada agus ar leith, agus labhair sé faoi ról na Gaeilge i mbeatha na hÉireann. Founded in 1893, with Douglas Hyde as its President, Conradh na Gaeilge is dedicated to the revival of the Irish language. Many of those who fought in the Rising were members of Conradh na Gaeilge, including Patrick Pearse, who, for a period, edited An Claidheamh Soluis, the first newspaper produced by Conradh. Opening the 2016 Ard Fheis of Conradh na Gaeilge, the President launched Seachtain na Gaeilge, recognised the work carried out by Conradh during its long and distinguished history, and spoke of the role of the Irish language in Irish life.
Tá an-áthas orm bheith anseo ag Ard-Fheis Chonradh na Gaeilge anocht chun Seachtain na Gaeilge 2016 a sheoladh go hoifigiúil. Cuirim fíorchaoin fáilte roimh gach duine anseo anocht agus táim cinnte go mbainfidh sibh taitneamh as an ócáid stairiúil seo agus as na himeachtaí gaolmhara a bheidh ar siúl i rith na bliana amach romhainn. Agus muid ag breathnú siar ar an gcéad atá imithe, is fiú nóiméad a ghlacadh chun a chuimhneamh go bhfuil mórchuid tar éis titim amach san am sin. B’fhéidir go dtabharfadh sé sásamh éigin do na fir agus na mná a bhí ag tabhairt faoin éirí amach a phleanáil cúig scór bliain ó shin go mbeadh Uachtarán na hÉireann ag labhairt inniu i gCaisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath i nGaeilge ar lá ar a bhfuil muintir an Stáit seo ar tí an dara Dáil is tríocha dár gcuid a thoghadh. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, Uachtarán Chonradh na Gaeilge, agus le Julian de Spáinn, an tArd-Rúnaí, as ucht caoinchuireadh a thabhairt dom bheith i láthair ag an ócáid seo. Bhí mé an-sásta glacadh leis an gcuireadh chun aitheantas agus ómós a léiriú don obair thábhachtach atá ar bun ag Conradh na Gaeilge ón mbliain 1893 i leith. Mar atá ráite agam, cuireann sé go mór leis an ócáid go bhfuil sí ar siúl i bhfoirgneamh ársa Chaisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath. Is foirgneamh é seo atá sáite i stair agus i gcultúr na hÉireann le breis agus ocht gcéad bliain anuas. Is liosta le háireamh atá sna tréimhsí stairiúla atá feicthe aige, idir na Lochlannaigh, na Normannaigh, na Sasanaigh, Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916 agus bunú Stát na
hÉireann. Sa lá atá inniu ann, i measc ócáidí Stáit eile, is sa Chaisleán a dhéantar Uachtaráin na tíre a oirniú agus caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil cuimhní cinn sona agam ón lá a oirníodh mé féin mar Uachtarán i mí na Samhna 2011. Tráthúil go leor agus pobal na hÉireann ag comóradh na bliana stairiúla 1916, is é ‘Saoirse Intinne’ a roghnaíodh mar théama don Ard-Fheis i mbliana. Tá comóradh 1916 lárnach i saol na nGael ar fud na hÉireann agus ar fud an domhain mhóir. Chun aitheantas a thabhairt d’áit lárnach na Gaeilge in idéil na glúine réabhlóidí mar aon le deis a thapú ár dteanga dhúchais a cheiliúradh, tá clár ilghnéitheach imeachtaí ar siúl i mbliana agus, ar ndóigh, tá Conradh na Gaeilge sáite san obair sin. Ceann de na himeachtaí suimiúla atá idir lámha ag an gConradh ná sraith seimineár darb ainm Plé 2016 a thionscnamh chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar oidhreacht athbheochan na Gaeilge. Reáchtálfar dhá sheimineár déag (12) phoiblí ar fad. Ní hé amháin go mbeidh siad ar siúl ar fud oileán na hÉireann, beidh imeachtaí ar siúl thar sáile freisin chun comhrá a spreagadh i measc an diaspóra. Baineann roinnt spriocanna leis na seimineáir sin: déanfar cuimhneamh ar thábhacht na Gaeilge in Éirinn agus thar sáile sa bhliain 1916; déanfar ceiliúradh ar ról an Chonartha agus na hathbheochana cultúrtha mar fhoinse inspioráide agus athshamhlaithe do lucht eagraithe an Éirí Amach; agus déanfar comhrá leathan a spreagadh maidir le ról na Gaeilge i sochaí na linne seo. Bhí athbheochan na Gaeilge ina príomhaidhm ag an nglúin ar ar tugadh an Ghlúin Réabhlóideach. Bhí cuid mhór de smaointeoireacht na gceannairí i 1916 bunaithe ar fhís a léireodh Éire neamhspleách a mbeadh a teanga labhartha agus scríofa féin aici, nithe a bheadh mar bhunchlocha dá cultúr uathúil. Mar sin féin, bhí smaointe Dhubhghlas de hÍde agus a chomhghleacaithe bunaithe ar an mbunphrionsabal radacach nárbh fhéidir leis an bpearsantacht Éireannach dul i mbláth i gceart agus nach mbeadh sí in ann lán a cumais a bhaint amach de bharr na srianta agus na mbacainní a bhain leis an tsochaí a bhí ann ag an am. Sochaí a bhí ann a cruthaíodh agus a treoraíodh den chuid ba mhó ar mhaithe leis an Ríocht seachas ar mhaithe leis na hÉireannaigh. Cé go raibh athbheochan na teanga mar chuid lárnach den fhealsúnacht sin, ní raibh sí ach ina cuid di. An t-idéal a bhí acu ná sochaí Ghaelach a athchruthú a bheadh oiriúnach don phobal Éireannach agus ag a mbeadh ceangal díreach lena n-oidhreacht Ghaelach. Ba é aidhm na físe nua ná áit na bréagshochaí coilíní a líonadh. Caithfear a aithint go ndearna Conradh na Gaeilge
dianiarracht dul i ngleic leis an dúshlán teanga. I Márta 1893, leag Eoin Mac Néill a thuairim síos in Irisleabhar na Gaeilge. Dar leis: “...gan amhras is féidir linn an Ghaeilge a choinneáil beo. Mura gcoinnítear beo í, is sinne a bheas ciontach lena bás. Cuirimis romhainn feasta í a choinneáil beo.” Go bunúsach, bhí an tUasal Mac Néill ag éileamh go mbunófaí eagraíocht chun ceannaireacht a léiriú agus ba go fonnmhar a ghlac Conradh na Gaeilge leis an dúshlán sin. Nuair a bunaíodh an Conradh an 31 Iúil 1893 i mBaile Átha Cliath, bhí pobal na hÉireann in ísle brí agus bhí an tír faoi réimeas Impireacht na Breataine. Bhí an lámh in uachtar ag Béarla agus bhí ár dteanga dhúchais faoi chois, gan stádas agus ag fáil bháis de réir a chéile. Caithfimid a chuimhneamh gur straitéis faoi leith a bhí ag baint leis an teanga a dhíbirt ón tír. Rinneadh é sin d’aon ghnó tríd an gcóras oideachais, mar shampla, áit ar cuireadh ar pháistí Béarla a labhairt agus a ndroim a chasadh ar an nGaeilge. Toisc go raibh an chumhacht ar fad ag lucht labhartha an Bhéarla a chuid beartas a chur i gcrích, mhéadaigh an tuairim láidir i measc an phobail nach raibh sa Ghaeilge ach bac le páirt iomlán a ghlacadh i sochaí na tíre. Mar aon leis sin, mar gheall ar an slad eacnamaíoch a thit amach sa naoú haois déag sna ceantair ina raibh an Ghaeilge fós beo, ar cheantair bhochta iad an chuid ba mhó díobh, is ó na háiteanna sin a chuaigh na milliúin duine ar imirce chuig an mBreatain agus an Domhan Nua. Cé go ndearnadh iarrachtaí an Ghaeilge a choinneáil beo i measc na n-imirceach, i Meiriceá go háirithe, glacadh leis go mbeadh Béarla ní b’úsáidí dóibh siúd a raibh iallach orthu an tír a fhágáil. Is mór an dúshlán é teanga a chur faoi chois, agus is mór an dúshlán fós é teanga a athbheochan. Cé go bhfuil sé deacair é a shamhlú, bhí ceithre mhilliún cainteoir Gaeilge ann in Éirinn dhá chéad bliain ó shin. Tar éis an Ghorta Mhóir, thit an daonra ó ocht milliún duine go leith sa bhliain 1845 go cúig mhilliún duine sa bhliain 1851 agus thit líon na nGaeilgeoirí go milliún go leith. Faoin mbliain 1911, mar gheall ar imirce agus cúinsí eile, bhí an daonra tite go 3.1 milliún duine agus gan ach leathmhilliún duine díobh ag maíomh go raibh cumas sa Ghaeilge acu. Sna cúinsí sin, is dea-scéala é, céad bliain ina dhiaidh sin, go bhfuil daonra na tíre, ó thuaidh agus ó dheas, méadaithe go 6.5 milliún duine agus 2 mhilliún duine díobh ag maíomh go bhfuil cumas sa Ghaeilge acu. Mar a thug Seán Ó Tuama faoi deara, thóg sé trí chéad bliain agus tubaiste an Ghorta Mhóir sular brúdh an cultúr Sasanach ar Éirinn, agus is mór an dúshlán dúinn é ár gcultúr a tharrtháil. Tá lucht na Gaeilge ag tabhairt faoin athbheochan anois lé nach mór céad fiche cúig bliain, ach níl san am sin i saolré teanga ach faiteadh na súl, agus níor cheart díomá a bheith orainn de bharr ár n-easpa ratha go dtí seo.
Maidir leis na staitisticí, ba cheart túr dóchais a bheith ionainn do phobal na Gaeilge sa mhéid is go bhfuilimid ag dul sa treo ceart. Cé go raibh bunlaigí ag baint leis na cineálacha cur chuige a ghlac na rialtais a bhí againn maidir leis an teanga ó bunaíodh an Stát i leith, is léir go bhfuil cumas an daonra sa Ghaeilge agus an deathoil atá acu i leith na Gaeilge ina mbunús láidir dúinn úsáid na teanga a neartú agus a leathnú amach anseo. Tá an athbheochan ar bun agus tá ag éirí léi, agus beidh sí ar bun go mbainfimid an sprioc amach. Tugann sé sásamh faoi leith dom breathnú ar an dul chun cinn atá déanta ag pobal na Gaeilge sa Tuaisceart le blianta beaga anuas agus ar an bhfuinneamh atá le feiceáil go soiléir ina n-iarrachtaí scoileanna agus cultúrlanna a bhunú agus ranganna Gaeilge a reáchtáil. Ag an am seo anuraidh, bhí mé féin i mBéal Feirste ag seoladh Sheachtain na Gaeilge agus ag labhairt faoin tsuim atá á tabhairt ag roinnt Aontachtaithe i gcúrsaí Gaeilge agus sna ranganna Gaeilge atá ar siúl san East Belfast Mission. Is gné shuimiúil í sin i stair na teanga agus caithfimid a chuimhneamh nach le haon fhealsúnacht pholaitiúil faoi leith ná le haon chreidimh faoi leith an teanga. Tá fáilte roimh chách i bpobal na Gaeilge agus is féidir gach saghas ‘saoirse intinne’ a chleachtadh, is cuma cén dúchas atá ag duine. An méid sin ráite, caithfimid a admháil go raibh dlúthcheangal idir an tsaoirse agus an teanga céad bliain ó shin agus, dá réir sin, bhí go leor de cheannairí na saoirse ina mbaill de Chonradh na Gaeilge. Bhí Dubhghlas de hÍde, ár gcéad Uachtarán agus laoch don teanga, mar dhuine de bhunaitheoirí Chonradh na Gaeilge agus mar Uachtarán ar an eagraíocht óna bunú go dtí an bhliain 1915. Chaith triúr den seachtar a shínigh Forógra na Poblachta tréimhsí ar Choiste Gnó Chonradh na Gaeilge, eadhon, Pádraig Mac Piarais, Éamonn Ceannt agus Seán Mac Diarmada. Bhí beirt eile de na sínitheoirí, Tomás Mac Donnchadha agus Seosamh Pluincéad, gníomhach sa Chonradh freisin, agus ba bhall den Chonradh é Tomás Ó Cléirigh ón uair a tháinig sé abhaile ó na Stáit Aontaithe sa bhliain 1907. Ní ionadh ar bith é, mar sin, go dtugtar an Ghlúin Réabhlóideach ar an nglúin sin agus gurbh í Éire láidir, Éire neamhspleách agus Éire Ghaelach an fhís a bhí acu don tír. Mar gheall ar éacht na gceannairí sin agus daoine eile nach iad, is freagartha atá an dúshlán a leag Eoin Mac Néill amach, rud ar thagair mé dó níos túisce. Cé go bhfuil go leor dúshlán le sárú ag an nGaeilge mar theanga mhionlaigh atá timpeallaithe ag mórtheanga dhomhanda an Bhéarla, tá ár dteanga dhúchais féin againn. Is teanga í ag a bhfuil cosaint bhunreachtúil agus aitheantas mar theanga oifigiúil de chuid na hÉireann agus de chuid an Aontais Eorpaigh. Ó thaobh na hEorpa de, is fiú a aithint go mbíonn an dátheangachas nó an t-ilteangachas níos coitianta ná an
t-aonteangachas, agus tá ciall ag baint leis an argóint, a phléigh Peadar Kirby, óna mbeimid ag cloisteáil níos déanaí, go raibh agus go bhfuil dúshlán le sárú againn. Ní hé amháin go bhfuil sé i gceist ann Éire a dhíghalldú, mar a mhol an Craoibhín, tá orainn í a ath-Eorpú chun go dtiocfaimid slán as tionchar an choilínithe. Ar an mbealach sin, b’fhéidir go ndruidfimis amach ó scáth na staire agus ó na bacainní éagsúla a chuireann sí romhainn, ní hamháin maidir leis an nGaeilge ach maidir leis na tréithe eile atá coitianta i measc tíortha iarchoilíneacha.
“Tá an athbheochan ar bun agus tá ag éirí léi, agus beidh sí ar bun go mbainfimid an sprioc amach.” Ní iontas ar bith é go bhfuil ár meon maidir leis an nGaeilge fós sáite go mór sa choilíneachas agus inár n-iarrachtaí an teanga a úsáid chun ár bhféiniúlacht a scaradh ón mBreatain Mhór. B’fhéidir go bhfuil rian den smaoineamh fós ann go bhfuil an Ghaeilge, agus úsáid na Gaeilge, frith-Shasanach, agus go bhfuil sé sin ina bac ar úsáid níos leithne a spreagadh i measc an phobail. Feicim, áfach, agus mé ag taisteal ar fud na tíre, go bhfuil féinmhuinín ag daoine óga as a dteanga dhúchais a úsáid sna Gaeltachtaí, sna Gaelscoileanna agus sna heagrais éagsúla. Nuair a fheicim an chruthaitheacht, an smaointeoireacht agus an spraoi trí Ghaeilge atá le feiceáil agus le cloisteáil gach oíche sna cláir éagsúla ar TG4 agus ar na stáisiúin eile raidió agus teilifíse, creidim go bhfuil fuinneamh agus muinín nua ann i leith na teanga agus is cúis dóchais dom é. Sa lá atá inniu an, tá suim as cuimse sa Ghaeilge agus i léann na Gaeilge ar fud an domhain mhóir agus tá sí á teagasc i mbreis agus daichead (40) ollscoil i Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá, i gCeanada, san Eoraip agus in Ollscoil Bhéising sa tSín fiú. Ní beag an t-éacht é sin chun dóchas don todhchaí a thabhairt dúinn agus chun oidhreacht cheannairí 1916 a choinneáil beo. Táim thar a bheith sásta go bhfuil an Ghaeilge fite fuaite i gclár comórtha 1916 agus go bhfuil clár ar leith ag baint léi – is é sin, An Teanga Bheo. Tá súil agam go mbainfear taitneamh agus tairbhe as an gclár ilghnéitheach imeachtaí agus tionscnamh atá curtha le chéile chun an Ghaeilge a cheiliúradh i rith na bliana speisialta seo. Is deis faoi leith é seo a chuireann ar ár gcumas machnamh a dhéanamh ar an méid atá bainte amach le céad bliain
anuas mar aon le pleanáil chun a chinntiú go mbeidh áit na Gaeilge mar theanga bheo inár sochaí rachmasach nuaaoiseach ag dul i méid i gcónaí. Is é mo rún féin don bhliain stairiúil seo ná páirt a ghlacadh san oiread imeachtaí agus is féidir a mbeidh an Ghaeilge agus todhchaí na Gaeilge á bplé iontu. Táim ag tabhairt faoi Thionscnamh don Ghaeilge chun aird an phobail a dhíriú ar chúrsaí teanga i rith na bliana seo 2016. Táim anseo in bhur measc anocht agus tá súil agam go nglacfaidh mé páirt i roinnt mhaith de na heachtraí spéisiúla atá leagtha amach dúinn i mbliana. Beidh mé ag freastal ar Chomhdháil Chumann Idirnáisiúnta na gCoimisinéirí Teanga i nGaillimh an mhí seo chugainn, áit a mbeidh deis agam taithí agus dea-chleachtas idirnáisiúnta i leith mionteangacha a phlé; beidh mé ag tabhairt cuairt i gcaitheamh na bliana ar phobal na Gaeilge sna Gaeltachtaí agus lasmuigh díobh in Éirinn agus i dtíortha thar lear agus beidh mé ag reáchtáil ócáidí chun fearadh na fáilte a chur rompu in Áras an Uachtaráin. Tá súil agam go nglacfaidh mé páirt in imeachtaí ina ndéanfar plé agus scrúdú ar théamaí éagsúla a bhaineann leis an nGaeilge, lena n-áirítear na bacainní agus na cúiseanna nár éirigh, den chuid ba mhó, le beartas an Stáit maidir leis an dátheangachas, agus cad é an bealach is fearr le cur leis an dearcadh dearfach atá ag pobal mór na tíre i leith na teanga agus conas cur ina luí orthu í a úsáid. Níor chóir aon eagla a bheith orainn ár n-aghaidh a thabhairt ar bhealaí nua chun an teanga a mhúineadh, a fhoghlaim agus a úsáid, sa chóras oideachais agus lasmuigh de araon. Bheadh suim agam féin i bplé a dhéanamh ar an ról atá ag oifigigh shinsearacha sa státchóras ceannaireacht a thaispeáint maidir le húsáid na Gaeilge agus conas úsáid níos forleithne a spreagadh i measc a eagras agus an phobail mhóir. Ar ndóigh, táim ag tnúth go mór le freastal ar roinnt de na hócáidí ceoil agus ealaíon trí Ghaeilge, an “Ravelóid” atá á reáchtáil ag an gConradh, ag Glór na nGael agus ag eagraíochtaí Gaeilge eile nach iad, i mBaile Brigín sa samhradh go háirithe. Mar fhocal scoir, tréaslaím le Conradh na Gaeilge a sheas an fód go láidir ón am ar bunaíodh é go dtí an lá inniu agus guím gach rath ar an obair atá ar bun acu, go háirithe sa bhliain speisialta seo. Gan a thuilleadh moille, fógraím Ard Fheis Chonradh na Gaeilge agus Seachtain na Gaeilge 2016 a bheith ar oscailt go hoifigiúil. Bainigí sult as an oíche, as Seachtain na Gaeilge agus as an mbliain mhór comórtha amach romhainn. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
President Michael D. Higgins speaking at Dublin Castle.
An tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn ag caint ag Caisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath
Photo: Conor McCabe Photography Ltd www.conormccabe.ie
A green tabby weave wool flag removed from Liberty Hall in Dublin during the Easter Rising of 1916 by the 3rd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Bratach olla glas fí pléineálta a bhain 3ú Cathlán Fiúsailéirí Ríoga Inis Ceithleann ó Halla na Saoirse i mBaile Átha Cliath le linn Éirí Amach 1916.
Photo: Inniskillings Museum www.inniskillingsmuseum.com
The Workers’ Army Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at a Reception to Mark the 102nd Anniversary of the Irish Citizen Army Áras an Uachtaráin Tuesday 22nd March, 2016
A Cháirde go léir,
Bhí idé-eolaíocht éagsúil ag Arm Cathartha na hÉireann, a bunaíodh mar mhílíste i ndiaidh Fhrithdhúnadh 1913, i gcomparáid le hidé-eolaíocht na bpríomhnáisiúnaithe a throid ar son neamhspleáchas na hÉireann. Baí an fhís a bhí acu go mbeadh Éire daonlathach i dtaobh na brí is iomláine atá ag an bhfocal sin – go mba thír í ina mbeadh na saoránaigh go léir cothrom i dtaobh cúrsaí sóisialta agus geilleagracha, agus cúrsaí polaitiúla. I Márta 2016, chuir an tUachtarán fáiltiú ar siúl in Áras an Uachtaráin chun suntas a thabhairt do Chomóradh 102 Bliain bhunú Arm Cathartha na hÉireann. The Irish Citizen Army, founded as a workers’ militia following the 1913 Lockout, diﬀered ideologically from the mainstream nationalists who fought for Ireland’s independence. Their vision was one of an Ireland that would be democratic in the fullest sense of that word- a country in which all citizens would be equal in social and economic as well as political terms. In March 2016 the President held a reception in Áras an Uachtaráin to mark the 102nd anniversary of the formation of the Irish Citizen Army.
You are all most welcome to Áras an Uachtaráin for this very special afternoon of history, music and literature. It was Sabina who suggested this special occasion and I am grateful to her, as I am sure you are, that we have this opportunity to recall and honour, among friends, the distinctive contribution of the Irish Citizen Army to Ireland’s freedom. As all of you here are well aware, amidst the various formations which took part in the Easter Rising of 1916, the Irish Citizen Army stands out from all others as an organisation with a markedly egalitarian outlook – a workers’ army whose members were committed not just to national independence, but to the social and economic transformation of Ireland. The Republic of which those men and women dreamt was one that would enable the full participation of all its citizens, as well as a more equal redistribution of the fruits of labour among them. In that sense, the Citizen Army was part of a global movement for democracy in its fullest sense. It is important to recall, of course, that the Irish Citizen Army is sourced in an event which stands in its own right as one of huge political significance in the history of Ireland – the Great Lockout of 1913 and the response to it organised by the leader of the new Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), Jim Larkin. As Pádraig Yeates put it in the introduction to his seminal book Lockout. Dublin 1913: “The lockout is the nearest thing Ireland has ever had to a socialist revolution, and it therefore provides a glimpse of an alternative Ireland that people strove
for before competing nationalisms imposed their own social straightjackets, ones that proved immensely durable as well as restrictive.” As a workers’ militia created to defend the strikers against the attacks of the police and the strike-breakers during what was an extremely violent confrontation with capitalism, the Citizen Army springs from the experience of the working people of Dublin: it was from the tenements and the ranks of the excluded that so many of its members came, and the transformation of the dreadful social conditions endured in those tenements was part of what they sought to achieve. While an attempted Lockout had been defeated in Wexford, in 1912, the Dublin Lockout of 1913 exacted a heavy price. Although it may have been a defeat in the short term, the principle objective of the employers, which was to destroy a general union, to forbid union membership – to defeat ‘Larkinism’, as they put it – was not successful. The revolutionary ambition of the Citizen Army became much more explicit in its second phase, from March 1914 onwards, when the force was entirely reorganised, following a damaging charge on a rally of the unemployed by the metropolitan police. This reorganisation – of which we are celebrating today, 22nd March, the 102nd anniversary – was brought about at a large meeting in Liberty Hall, during which an Army Council was elected and a Constitution adopted. Sabina’s readings will give some of the atmosphere of the day. Drafted by Seán O’Casey, the Citizen Army’s Constitution asserted, in Article 1, that: “The ownership of Ireland, moral and material, is vested of right in the people of Ireland.” This article indicates how aware its authors were of the political thought and the turmoil of a world stirring in its democratic demands. It is important to note how this first article subsequently made its way into the 1916 Proclamation and – despite the hostility of the IRB – into the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil, thus making of the Constitution of the Irish Citizen Army one of the founding documents of our State. Very importantly, these words also reflect the coming together of Patrick Pearse’s and James Connolly’s language in the wake of the Lockout of 1913. The Citizen Army changed thoroughly, therefore, from the loosely organised group equipped with sticks and bats it had been before March 1914, to the armed and well-trained, though smaller, force that would take part in the Rising of 1916 under the command of James
Connolly. Indeed, after Larkin’s departure for America, in October 1914, the Irish Citizen Army passed under the direction of James Connolly. It was he, together with Michael Mallin, who turned the Citizen Army into a highly motivated and disciplined military force. Tellingly, as a result the Irish Citizen Army did much better in mobilising its troops than the Volunteers after Eoin MacNeill’s countermanding order. Indeed, it is doubtful if the Rising would have gone ahead without the Citizen Army’s 250 men and women combatants, i.e. almost a third of the troops who became available on Easter Monday. Over the months following the reorganisation of the force, such figures as Seán O’Casey and the pacifist, feminist and labour sympathiser Francis Sheehy Skeffington left the Irish Citizen Army. The former outlined his reasons for resigning from his office as Secretary of the Military Council of the Irish Citizen Army in his Story of the Irish Citizen Army, published in 1919. Before we hear Sabina reading from this account by O’Casey of the history of the Irish Citizen Army, I think that it is important that we reflect briefly on the difference between Seán Ó Cathasaigh – as he then signed himself as Secretary of the Irish Citizen Army – and James Connolly, over the issue of a possible, or realistic, rapprochement between the workers’ force and nationalist forces heavily influenced by the IRB. One can understand Seán O’Casey’s view. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, one of the voices of nationalism abroad, had after all supported William Martin Murphy during the Lockout. Then too, a native land-grabbing element had recently emerged in rural Ireland in the form of a politically ambitious grazier class. The language revival had been traded for economic advantage and prospects for personal advancement rather than any utopian notions of cultural replacement or revival. Irish nationalism had a faint content of egalitarianism. It was also strongly individualistic in its US influences. However, in Connolly’s view, the question was – should the moment be lost? O’Casey’s quarrel initially came to a head over the matter of Constance de Markievicz’s dual membership of both the Volunteers and the Citizen Army. This “serving of two masters” Seán O’Casey saw, as William Irwin Thompson puts it in his The Imagination of an Insurrection, “as absurd as being a capitalist and a communist at the same time”. O’Casey’s demand that the Countess resign from one of these organisations was not supported by the majority of the others in the
Irish Citizen Army and its Army Council, including Larkin. The Countess, after all, had manned the soupkitchens during the lockout, and it was a friend of hers, Captain Jack White, who had started the Citizen Army with 50 pounds of his own money. Captain White had been patient too in his response to Jim Larkin’s occasional differences with him, based on class suspicion. However, O’Casey’s handling of his motion at the General Meeting of the late summer 1914 was so confrontational that it drew a response from Larkin himself, who might have been assumed to be sympathetic to his views. O’Casey having lost the vote, the pressure for an apology from him was too much to take – he resigned. O’Casey’s retrospective view, as stated in his Story of the Irish Citizen Army, was that “Connolly had stepped from the narrow byway of Irish Socialism onto the broad and crowded highway of Irish Nationalism”. This too must be treated critically. The suggestion that, when the First World War broke out, James Connolly scrapped his faith in socialism to embrace pure nationalism is contradicted by Connolly’s writing and journalism both before and after 1914. James Connolly was deeply concerned with the context of turmoil in Europe and the world, whose revolutionary potential was, in his view, being squandered in defence of imperialist adventurism. In Connolly’s estimation, a blow against Empire was a clearing of the ground for future socialist struggle. Desmond Ryan was therefore correct, I think, in calling Connolly’s commitment to socialism “the most vital and consistent thing about him”. We should also recall that such devoted socialists and trade unionists as William Partridge and P.T. Daly stayed with the Citizen Army until 1916. As for O’Casey’s declaration, also in his Story of the Irish Citizen Army, that “in Sheehy Skeffington, and not in Connolly, fell the first martyr to Irish Socialism” – such a statement must be put in perspective. As Manus O’Riordan has argued in his pamphlet James Connolly Re-Assessed, while Francis Sheehy Skeffington could not in conscience take up arms himself, there was no essential political difference in purpose between him and Connolly. Francis Sheehy Skeffington’s speech from the dock, during his June 1915 trial for anti-recruiting activities, strongly echoed Connolly’s views in hoping that the War might result in the break-up of the British Empire. Then too, James Connolly’s choice of Francis Sheehy Skeffington as his literary executor also confirms their mutual accord in ideological terms. It is important, therefore, not to rush to judgment on what James Connolly’s motivations were for
orchestrating a joint action with the Volunteers. One can understand how, in despair at the collapse of his and other socialists’ internationalist hopes after the outbreak of the War, appalled by the breakdown of the international proletariat into nationalities who were slaughtering one another on the Western Front and in the Middle East, James Connolly resolved to seize the opportunity of the war to strike a blow against the British Empire. James Connolly was familiar, too, with a deeper literature on the changing balance between nationalism and socialism as the struggle against imperialism developed. Those of the Irish Volunteers who were under the control of the IRB had been made aware of James Connolly’s conclusion that the time to strike against empire had come, and that the opportunity had to be seized. Conscious of Connolly’s inclination for action, they decided to induct him into the IRB. The rapprochement between Connolly and Pearse should not, however, obscure the fundamental ideological difference that existed, and continued to exist even after the 1914 split between Redmonites and separatist Volunteers, between the men and women of the Irish Citizen Army and mainstream nationalists. We should never lose sight of the fact that the members and leaders of the Irish Citizen Army, who drew their inspiration from the contemporary upsurge in labour movements internationally, asserted the rights of workers over the fields and factories in which they laboured, while the owners of those fields and factories, some of whom were nationalists, staunchly opposed, together with Ireland’s Catholic hierarchy and Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin, any radical ideas of redistribution. Indeed, the ranks of mainstream nationalists, and particularly those of the Irish Parliamentary Party, comprised a significant number of industrialists and graziers who were happy to secure the advantages of a political independence within the Empire but who would resist economic, social, or as both O’Casey and Synge would learn, cultural, innovation. Thus, while the 1916 Proclamation had promulgated “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland”, the men and women who were ‘out’ in 1916 had very different understandings as to who exactly should own Ireland in the new Republic they were calling forth. This profound divergence would be further revealed during the drafting of the 1922 Constitution of the Free State, when the suggested inclusion of Pearse’s words on equality were dismissed as ‘Bolshevist’ by the British authorities to whom it was submitted. The words were
dropped. In 1922, when Labour threatened to withdraw its 19 members unless the Dáil was called into session, the response from IRB members of the War Council was that a military victory in the Civil War would give notice, as Eoin O’Duffy put it in a letter to Michael Collins, to “the Labour element and the Red Flaggers... at the back of all the moves to make peace” as to how any future Bolshevism would be dealt with. But let us go back to March 1914: for those who formed or joined the Irish Citizen Army, it was clear that the future Republic would not be about replacing an alien landlord class with a native one, or one form of conservative nationalism with another one. Their ambition was to transform the social, economic and cultural, as well as political, hierarchies of the Ireland of the turn of the 20th century. The ideological difference between the Irish Citizen Army and mainstream nationalists comes across very strongly in the earlier writings of James Connolly, who was deeply wary of the ambitions of those whom he identified as “gombeenmen”, who had already manifested themselves among the grazier class and who were eyeing the possibility of a new independent state for further opportunities. Those were people who, in Connolly’s view, wanted nothing more than a transfer in their favour of the administration of Ireland. As Connolly had put in his 1897 pamphlet entitled Erin’s Hope: “Their political influence, they derived from their readiness at all times to do lip service to the cause of Irish nationality, which in their phraseology meant simply the transfer of the seat of government from London to Dublin, and the consequent transfer to their own or their relatives’ pockets of some portion of the legislative fees and lawyers pickings.” In a further article, entitled “The coming generation”, published in The Workers’ Republic on 15th July 1900, James Connolly had outlined the difference between the nature of his struggle for Ireland and the basis on which the patriotic feelings of many mainstream nationalists were grounded. Connolly’s thorough, indeed emotional, concern for the welfare of Ireland’s poorer people surfaces in the words of the much quoted passage: “Ireland without her people is nothing to me, and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for ‘Ireland’, and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland, aye, wrought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women, without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that
combination of chemical elements which he is pleased to call ‘Ireland’.” While nationalism and religion could have been invoked against an absentee landlord class, neither could be invoked against a native predator. I believe, too, that Irish historiography has insufficiently addressed the differences that were deepening between an increasingly impoverished urban working class and a rural Ireland from which so many of the marginalised had migrated. James Connolly’s own upbringing in poverty stricken Edinburgh made him sensitive to the plight of the children of Dublin’s tenements, where, within a half day’s journey from the Empire’s centre in London, some of the worst conditions in the world prevailed. Connolly ended this same article I have just quoted with a poem that includes the lines: Think of the children who swarm and die In loathsome dens where despair is king, Like blackened buds of a frosty spring That wither sunless, remote they lie From the love that nurtures each quickening sense... Thus the experience of the most vulnerable was the living pulse at the heart of the transformative social vision heralded by the Irish Citizen Army. It was certainly the motivation for those who joined after having experienced the brutality of the Great Lockout, its deprivations and confrontations, but it was also so for those from a wealthier background who, like Constance de Markievicz or Dr Kathleen Lynn, had gained a profound understanding of what life was like in the slums of Dublin through their participation in the Lockout’s soup-kitchens. Their membership in the Citizen Army shows how the ethical appeal of egalitarianism, an awareness of the consequences of imperialism, with its notions of the inherent superiority of those who held power – that consciousness was not confined to one class or the direct experience of poverty. Most worthy of note is the place the Irish Citizen Army carved out for women, both among its ranks and in its vision for the Ireland of the future. Indeed, Francis Sheehy Skeffington and James Connolly alike saw women’s emancipation as being essential for any genuine social progress. If I may, again, quote from James Connolly’s own work in The Re-Conquest of Ireland: He stated: “Of what use... can be the re-establishment of any form of Irish State if it does not embody the emancipation of womanhood. As we have shown, the whole spirit
and practice of modern Ireland, as it expresses itself through its pastors and masters, bear socially and politically, hardly upon women. None so fitted to break the chains as they who wear them, none so well equipped to decide what is a fetter. In its march towards freedom, the working class of Ireland must cheer on the efforts of those women who, feeling on their souls and bodies the fetters of the ages, have arisen to strike them off, and cheer all the louder if in its hatred of thraldom and passion for freedom the women’s army forges ahead of the militant army of Labour. (1915)” Ag déanamh beart de réir a bhriathar, practicing as he had written, James Connolly, Helena Molony recalled, “gave out revolvers to our girls” during the Rising, whereas Éamon de Valera, for example, refused to allow women into Boland’s Mills. The Irish Citizen Army’s chief medical officer, Dr Kathleen Lynn, was of course also second in command at City Hall, while Constance de Markievicz and Margaret Skinnider, members of the Irish Citizen Army, played an important combatant role at St. Stephen’s Green. None of this makes of Irish Citizen Army members, or of James Connolly, irresponsible, blood-thirsty revolutionaries, as some contemporary commentators might like to portray them. On 22nd January 1916, after he had agreed that the Citizen Army should join an armed insurrection together with the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Irish Volunteers, James Connolly published an editorial which is at once both a call to arms and an embodiment of his constructive thought. Entitled What is Our Programme?, this text proves that Connolly issued the call for a Rising as a Socialist, as a theorist and practitioner who never lost sight of his vision for an inclusive and peaceful new society that could be created in a post imperialist setting. Yes, it would require further struggle, but the conditions would have changed. After the famous lines “The time for Ireland’s battle is NOW, the place for Ireland’s battle is HERE”, but as Connolly went on to write: “But the moment peace is once admitted by the British Government as being a subject ripe for discussion, that moment our policy will be for peace and in direct opposition to all talk or preparation for armed revolution. We will be no party to leading out Irish patriots to meet the might of an England at peace. The moment peace is in the air we shall strictly confine ourselves, and lend all our influence to the work of turning the thought of Labour in Ireland to the work of peaceful reconstruction.”
years later, to end a desperately destructive Civil War. But some of the forces in that war were pressing for a military resolution, as showed by the O’Duffy letter to Michael Collins I have quoted earlier, a message from a senior IRB figure, so that workers should know that any future confrontation would be met with force. One hundred years on, Ireland is at peace. Often fragile, this peace is a real achievement and a source of hope, supported by an overwhelming majority on this island. A century after the Rising, Irish and British people enjoy constructive and trusting relations within a common European Union. I am delighted that we will have the opportunity, this afternoon, to admire the uncrowned green harp flag of the Citizen Army which one Royal Inniskilling Fusilier found in the rubble of Liberty Hall on Wednesday, 26th April 1916. The decision of the Inniskillings Museum at Enniskillen Castle, Co. Fermanagh, to loan this flag to SIPTU, an appropriate successor as an amalgamation of the ITGWU and the FWUI as a contribution to the 1916 commemorations – is, I believe, a generous gesture, a clear manifestation of the mutual respect, friendship, and the new hospitality to different versions of history that can now prevail between the citizens of these islands. We are, in Ireland today, at a critical juncture. The work of social and economic reconstruction is only starting, in the aftermath of what was an unprecedented property and credit bubble followed by a catastrophic financial collapse. The recent decades have seen a weakening of the role of the State, as well as an exponential growth in what is unaccountable to democratic voice. We are losing social cohesion and riding a wave of populism. We do need again to hear an appeal to solidarity, emancipatory ideas and transformative policies. The vision of a society held by James Connolly and the Citizen Army at the turn of the 20th century was a noble and practical programme. It is a vision that can still sustain us. Let us, then, seize these centenary commemorations of the 1916 Rising as an opportunity to rekindle the ethical promise heralded by the women and men of the Irish Citizen Army. Let us take on the struggle for equality and social justice, and make, once again, of the experience of the most vulnerable among us the lifeblood of our political thought.
That too was Labour’s initiative, in its attempts, several
The Ethics of Commemoration Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at a Symposium entitled ‘Remembering 1916’ Mansion House, Dublin Monday 28th March, 2016
A Cháirde Gael,
On Easter Monday 2016 RTÉ held a symposium entitled ‘Remembering 1916’ at the Mansion House. The use of physical force to achieve national independence has been, for some time, a contested strategy, contrasted with a parliamentary tradition dedicated to achieving legislative independence from Westminster through parliamentary agitation. At the Symposium, the President spoke of the importance of remembering the past ethically, and of critically reflecting on both the use of violence during the Rising and the violence brought about by participation in the First World War. Ar Luan Cásca 2016, chuir RTÉ siompóisiam ar siúl dar teideal ‘Cuimhneamh ar 1916’ ag Teach an Ard-Mhéara. Ba straitéis chonspóideach, le tamall fada, úsáid a bhaint as fórsa fisiciúil chun neamhspleáchas náisiún a bhaint amach, agus, ar an taobh eile den phingin, bhí traidisiún parlaiminteach ann a bhí tiomanta do neamhspleáchas reachtaíochta a bhaint amach ó Westminster trí shuaitheadh parlaiminteach. Ag an Siompóisiam, labhair an tUachtarán ar an tábhacht chun cuimhneamh ar an am atá imithe thart go heiticiúil, agus machnamh criticiúil a dhéanamh ar fhoréigean a úsáid i rith an Éirí Amach agus ar an bhforéigean a thit amach i measc iad siúd a ghlac páirt sa Chéad Chogadh Domhanda.
Is mór an phléisiúr dom tús a chur leis an gcomhrá seo tráthnóna ar an eachtra ríthábhachtach a bhí in Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916. Tugann sé sásamh faoi leith dom go bhfuil an ardán á roinnt agam inniu le scoláirí den scoth – gach duine acu, trína saothair agus taighde, a chur go mór lenár dtuiscint maidir leis an tréimhse sin inar saolú ár Stáit. It is my great pleasure to be opening this discussion on the seminal event in the history of Ireland that was the Easter Rising of 1916. I am especially pleased to be sharing this exercise in collective reflection with such a distinguished panel of scholars – all of whom have contributed to enhancing our understanding of the founding moments of our State. May I, then, take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work of so many historians, in Ireland and abroad, who – with the benefit of newly available archival material – have enabled us to gain a deeper grasp of the cultural and intellectual ebullience that stirred the Ireland of 1916, the overlapping loyalties and passions held by the men and women of the time, the influences of the Enlightenment, romanticism, mysticism, suffragism, socialism, pacifism – all the complexities of the wider global context of which they were part and from which they drew. It is especially fitting that we undertake this discussion here, in this Round Room of the Mansion House, where, in January 1919, the first meeting of the First Dáil was held. This was a key moment in our history, when the revolution of 1916 was to take on the form of a parliamentary democracy.
The presence of eminent historians here today also reminds us of the complicated relationship between the act of commemoration and the discipline of history. History and commemoration operate, of course, on different registers. Commemoration inevitably involves a selection of events, actors, ideas and consequences and it requires a dialectic between remembering and forgetting that tends to be mediated through the prism of contemporary concerns.
“My emphasis, as President of Ireland, has been on the challenge of remembering ethically as we engage with the ongoing Decade of Commemorations.” There is always a risk, then, that commemoration might be exploited for partisan purposes, and some historians have rightly warned us against the perils posed to historical truth by any backward imputation of motives, any uncritical transfer of contemporary emotions onto the past. Commemoration can also lead to a form of public history aimed at securing the present, whether by invoking an ‘appropriate’ past, or, in desperation, by calling for such an amnesia as might allow a bland transition to the future. Such approaches are often those that least discomfit those who wield power. As Diarmaid Ferriter will show, each anniversary of the Easter Rising has had a different focus, a distinctive way of looking back at the past, which tell us at least as much about the zeitgeist of every commemorative period, and perhaps about those who controlled the process of commemoration, as they do about the events of 1916 themselves. Conscious of these risks, my emphasis, as President of Ireland, has been on the challenge of remembering ethically as we engage with the ongoing Decade of Commemorations – a Decade that encompasses not just the Easter Rising, but other defining events such as the Great Lockout of 1913, the outbreak of the First World War, the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. There are several aspects to such ethical remembering. On one level, it entails the inclusion of the voices
of the marginalised and the disenfranchised in our recollections of the past, a willingness to do justice, for example, to the essential part played by women and the working people of Dublin in the Easter Rising. The ethics of commemoration also entails an openness to the dissonant voices and stories of ‘the other’, the stranger, the enemy of yesterday – a disposition described by philosopher Paul Ricoeur as “narrative hospitality”. In speeches I have given in the North and South over the last years, I have often drawn on Paul Ricoeur’s suggestive conceptual work, and I have emphasised in particular the importance of avoiding any false or comforting amnesia. Neither is ethical remembering one that dispenses with historical empiricism, acknowledging as it does that the selection or exclusions of facts or from facts can close doors to reflection and research. Furthermore, while commemoration is always, as I have just observed, a process of selective remembering, ethical commemoration is that which seeks to respect context and complexity, as well as the agency and the integrity of the motivations of the men and women from the past. Crucially, and perhaps most importantly, there is an introspective dimension to ethical remembering, inviting us to revisit critically the collective myths and beliefs by which we have defined ourselves as a nation. Commemoration provides an opportunity to address at a profound level the assumptions of competing foundational mythologies, mythologies that may, and have at periods turned our historiography into a space of contestation with fluctuating passions. Such a critical examination of the nature of nationalism as it prevailed at the time of the Rising is the subject of my address today. I should say, as a preface, that such a critical examination of nationalism by no means amounts to a disqualification of national pride or national feelings. Quite the contrary: my purpose is to seek those elements within Ireland’s rich and diverse nationalist tradition that are most meaningful to us today – elements from which we might draw; elements whose emancipatory potential, once retrieved, might better enable us to rekindle the purpose and joy of our living together as a nation. Of course, a critique of Irish nationalism such as it manifested itself at the turn of the last century is a task that many have already undertaken. By relocating the Easter Rising within the frame of the First World War, but also in the context of the wider currents of ideas that then stirred the world – movements such as
socialism, feminism, but also militarism, imperialism and racialist ideologies – there has been a great deal of critical reassessment of aspects of the Rising and, in particular, of the myths of redemptive violence that were at the heart, not just of Irish nationalism, but also of Imperial nationalism. My view is that the latter has not, perhaps, been revisited with the same fault-finding edge as the former. Indeed, while the long shadow cast by what has been called ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland has led to a scrutiny of the Irish Republican tradition of ‘physical violence’, a similar review of supremacist and militarist imperialism remains to be fully achieved. In the context of 1916, this imperial triumphalism can be traced, for example, in the language of the recruitment campaigns of the time, which evoked mythology, masculinity and religion, and glorified the Irish blood as having “reddened the earth of every continent”. But this is for another day. Today I would like to offer to our collective reflection a brief, but, I hope, constructive, appraisal of Irish nationalism from the point of view of the egalitarian tradition which manifested itself before and during the Easter Rising, but which was progressively and, I shall argue, consciously, repressed over the subsequent decades. What is the nature of our nationalist movement, and where is its egalitarian element? Why and how has the flame of equality and social justice been quenched? What Republicanism are we talking about in Ireland? Can these centenary commemorations be an occasion to redefine what constitutes a real Republic, a polity of meaningful and celebratory co-existence, reaching back to the generous aspirations of the men and women who preceded us – to the ‘unfulfilled future of our past’ – and reaching forward to the generations who will succeed us? In taking up these questions and tracing the journey which took us from the promises of equality contained in the Proclamation of 1916 and in the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil, through to the socially conservative clauses enshrined in the Constitution of 1922 and that of 1937, it might be useful, I suggest, to consider in more detail the sequence of events along the way. One of the great milestones of Ireland’s egalitarian tradition is, of course, the Lockout of 1913, which galvanised the Irish trade union movement, and precipitated the formation of the Irish Citizen Army as an organisation whose members distinguished themselves, amongst all the formations that took part in the Easter Rising, by their commitment to equality
and revolutionary social transformation. The combination of public intellectuals and activists who engaged in the events surrounding the Lockout was an extraordinary one. It included people who differed on certain issues and on questions of tactics, for example George Bernard Shaw and James Connolly; but they were united in an appeal for justice that was far greater than what divided them. It was their response to the Lockout which brought James Connolly and Patrick Pearse closer together, as attested to by Pearse’s references in his letters of the time to the appalling living conditions in the tenement slums of Dublin. This rapprochement was manifested in the lines on equality woven into the Proclamation of the Republic which Patrick Pearse read out from under the porch of the GPO on Monday, 24th April, 1916. If I may quote those lines which remain with us as, perhaps, the most meaningful promise bequeathed to us across the century by the men and women of 1916: “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally...” Addressed to Irishmen as well as Irishwomen, in years when women in most of the wider world had not yet secured the right to vote, the Proclamation was, for its time, an exceptional document. It was not a description of the actual state of Irish society, but a compelling vision of what it might become. And while we might, nowadays, choose to forget some of the other ideas or formulations contained in the Proclamation, its emancipatory call is certainly one that still resonates strongly with us, a century later. Importantly, this call for egalitarianism was taken on in another, and too often neglected, founding document of our State, i.e. the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil. This Programme, which was drafted in January 1919 by Labour member Tom Johnson, with the help of William O’Brien and Cathal O’Shannon, and with some final editing by Seán T. O’Ceallaigh, was indeed, chronologically, the next important text that would proclaim the equal right of all citizens to access education, decent housing, clothing, and other essential social goods. As I have written elsewhere, the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil was: “The shining evidence of a possibility being expressed at the birth of a State, a vision that was powerfully egalitarian, celebratory, asserting a deep humanity, and
linked to an international movement that was pushing a great change towards a socialist version of politics, economy and society... The Democratic Programme gave a glimpse of the possibility of dealing with the injustices that motivated the founders of Labour – that is, of eliminating poverty, inequality, the exploitation of vulnerable workers; of advancing the rights of women and children; of dealing with inadequate access to education and healthcare, amongst other things.” The Irish Republican Brotherhood, though, did not approve of this Programme, and indeed there were some in the IRA leadership who undertook to suppress it. Kevin O’Higgins later referred to the text as “largely poetry”, while the leader of Sinn Féin, Arthur Griffith, who was in prison with others and therefore precluded from attending this historic meeting of the First Dáil, did not only object to the principles of the Programme, but wrote comprehensively in that regard before the meeting. These were but a few of the signs announcing a wider rolling back of the aspirations for social and economic equality over the decades following the Easter Rising. Before I proceed to describing in more detail the nature of that conservative reaction, it is important, I think, that we go back to the process of socio-economic transformation which occurred in rural Ireland over the period preceding the Rising. Indeed those were changes which informed the ideological substance of the form of nationalism that ultimately triumphed in the first decades of our independence. This ideological influence thoroughly shaped the character of the new State, manifesting itself, not only in the immediate actions and policies of the first Irish government, but also in how it structured future intentions. I believe that Irish historiography, with some notable exceptions, has insufficiently addressed the way in which those later developments were fuelled by the differences that were deepening in the Ireland of the turn of the 20th century; especially those differences between an impoverished urban working class and a rural Ireland from which so many of the marginalised had been forced to emigrate. More specifically, it is important to recall how the implementation of the Land Acts, a great achievement for parliamentarism in combination with rural agitation, had turned tens of thousands of rural tenants into peasant proprietors. Concomitantly, famine and emigration had seen the virtual disappearance of the class of land labourers. This profound change of rural Ireland was vividly
captured by Joe Lee, when he described how, before the Great Famine, fields gave way to families, whereas after the Famine families gave way to fields. And, may I add, as the stone walls outlined the boundaries of new property, the desire for such property grew to become insatiable. Beyond any notion of sufficiency or security of tenure, a new grazier class emerged, often in alliance with professionals and with those who controlled rural commerce and credit. These were the classes who would be set to rise in the new State. Thus, by the time the Easter Rising happened, this native class of land owners, many of whom defined themselves as nationalists, had largely replaced AngloIrish landlords. The collusion between ideas of class, property and respectability heralded by that new category of native land owners made up the ideology that was to have a huge influence on Irish political life throughout the 1920s and 1930s. And while there were many socially transformative dimensions to Irish nationalism – expressed, for example, in the movement for women’s suffrage, in labour tendencies, and in the outburst of creativity that characterised part of the cultural Revival – this ascendancy of the more conservative trends within Irish nationalism proceeded to smother the call for equality expressed in both the Proclamation of 1916 and the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil. We should not forget, however, that for a brief period after the Rising, ordinary men and women did seek to make the principle of popular ownership a living reality. Between 1918 and 1923, five general strikes and 18 local strikes occurred in Ireland. Workers took over the running of more than 80 workplaces, and established soviets at the Cleeves factory in Limerick, in the neighbouring coalmines of Castlecomer, and at the foundry in Drogheda. The West was particularly awake. A network of popularly elected, local arbitration courts sprung up, sometimes to decide the terms of land redistribution. But these bold moves resulted in the country’s wealthier land owners turning from Westminster to the Sinn Féin party to put an end to ‘agrarian Bolshevism’. The events and debates that surrounded the drafting of the Constitution of the Irish Free State, in 1922, further signalled the gradual retreat of conservative nationalist leaders from what might be regarded as any dangerous ideas of redistribution. The suggested inclusion of the Proclamation’s lines on equality were dismissed as ‘Bolshevist’ by the British authorities to whom the draft 1922 Constitution was submitted. The words were dropped.
Such rejection of egalitarianism by some members of the Provisional Government was, in several instances, expressed in the most brutal manner. Hugh Kennedy, the Provisional Government’s senior law officer, argued, for example that popular disorder would have to be overcome by “utterly ruthless action”.
Many women who had participated in the Rising, either directly or indirectly, such as Kathleen Clarke or Helena Molony, vehemently opposed the inscription, in the new Constitution of 1937, Bunreacht na hÉireann, of those articles limiting the participation of women in the public sphere.
Similarly, when the Labour Party, appalled by what was happening, threatened in 1922 to withdraw its 19 members unless the Dáil was called into session – so that terms might be discussed and a horrific Civil War brought to an end – the response from the Irish Republican Brotherhood members of the War Council was sharp. As Eoin O’Duffy put it in a letter to Michael Collins on 19th August 1922:
But despite such efforts, new levels were reached in the 1930s, in terms of bigotry, censorship, and a subjugation of the State and its institutions to hierarchical and patriarchal values. A property-driven conservatism thus grew into the dominant ideology, at the expense of any wide-ranging social transformation of an egalitarian kind. The fetishing of land and private property, a restrictive religiosity, and a repressive pursuit of respectability, affecting in particular women, became the defining social and cultural ideals of the newly independent Ireland.
“I believe the Labour element and the Red Flaggers are at the back of all the moves to make peace, not for the sake of the country but in their own interests.” The letter also made it clear that a military victory would give notice as to how any future egalitarian movement would be dealt with: “When the National Army have entered this conflict with such vigour,” O’Duffy wrote, “labour realised that there would be much more vigorous to crush any Red Flag or Bolshevist Troubles.” The Constitution of 1922 did, admittedly, make space for some innovative political advances. Provisions for direct democracy, for example, facilitated a citizen’s initiative to draft legislation. But subsequent governments amended the Constitution with a view to preventing any such subversive provisions from coming into effect, with the result that the new Constitution was ultimately a minimalist document, which belied the radical proposals advanced during the early stages of its drafting. There are, of course, constitutional theorists, who hold for minimalism in Constitutions, but in the Irish case, I suggest that the why and the how of such minimalism is of historical interest and significance. A further sign of the conservative reaction that unfolded in Ireland after the Easter Rising was manifested in the muting of cultural creativity over those years. While the period 1890-1910 had witnessed an extraordinary output of new ideas and debates, reflected in a remarkable flood of publications, the new State brought about a form of censorship which derived more from the authoritarianism of the war period than from the flowering of intellectual and cultural creativity of the Revival years. From the 1920s onwards, anti-conformism and cultural innovation were encouraged to express themselves abroad.
How, then, to Remember 1916? The question has often been raised during these ongoing commemorations, as to whether, in our political independence, we have lived up to the ideals articulated during the foundational events of the Irish Republic. This is, as I have suggested, an insufficient question. Indeed we must never forget how, at the beginnings of our independence, Irish society as a whole was neither factually equal, nor ideologically drawn to egalitarianism. It was then, and it remains, a challenge to create such a society as will enable all of its children, women and men to flourish. We did not descend from equality into inequality; an inequality that may be described today as ever deepening. The early years of our State did not represent any idyll of liberty and freedom – but the study of the revolutionary moment does present to us a moment of idealism and hope, the promise of what our nation might yet become. Let us put it positively: the joy of making equality the central theme of our Republic remains for us. Agus muid ag tabhairt faoin saothair seo, b’éigean dúinn, i mo thuairim, athchúirt a dhéanamh ar an tuiscint atá againn ar cad is brí le fíor Phoblacht; Poblacht ina mbeadh smaointe maidir le dlúthpháirtíocht, an Pobal agus an réimse poiblí ina cheartlár.; fíor phoblacht a aithníonn go bhfuil an Stáit féin ina fhreagracht do chách, agus a thuigeann an ról lárnach atá ag an Stát chéanna ar mhaitheas a saoránaigh ar fad. As we set to this task, we are also called, I believe, to revisit our conceptions of what constitutes a real Republic – a Republic that would have solidarity, community and the public world at its heart; a Republic that would acknowledge the State as a shared responsibility, and recognise, too, its vital role in
achieving the common welfare of all citizens. This conception of the State and the Republic is so much richer that any limiting, individualistic definition of citizenship – and it is also, I suggest, closer to what the leaders of 1916 had in mind. They were advanced thinkers, selfless women and men, who took all the risks to ensure that the children of Ireland would, in the future, live in freedom and access their fair share of Ireland’s prosperity. The passage of one hundred years allows us to see the past afresh, free from some of the narrow, partisan interpretations that might have restricted our view in earlier periods. We have a duty to honour and respect that past, and retrieve the idealism which was at its heart. But we have a greater duty to imagine and to forge a future illuminated by the unfulfilled promises of our past. All of us are invited, then, in this year of 2016, to reach for the ideals and hopes that animated so many of the men and women of 1916 in their struggle for freedom, equality and social justice. Informed by the manifest needs of our times, let us test again these ideals; let us retrieve the courage, the utopianism, of 1916 – and let us add to it, as we craft, together, a new and inspiring vision for the coming generations. Let us revive the best of the promise of 1916, so that those coming generations might experience freedom in the full sense of the term – freedom from poverty, freedom from violence and insecurity, and freedom from fear.
(L-R): Noel Curran (Former Director-General, RTÉ), President Michael D. Higgins, Sabina Higgins and the Lord Mayor of Dublin Críona Ní Dhálaigh. (C-D): Noel Curran (Iar Ard-Stiúrthóir, RTÉ), an tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn, Sabina Uí hUiginn agus Ard-Mhéara Bhaile Átha Cliath Críona Ní Dhálaigh. Photo: RTÉ www.rte.ie
Peadar Kearney — The Soldier’s Song Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at Peadar Kearney – Presentation of Papers Áras an Uachtaráin Tuesday 29th March
Peadar Kearney, a member of the Gaelic League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a founder of the Irish Volunteers, and a veteran of the Rising and of the War of Independence, was the composer of many of the nationalist ballads of the 1910s. The words of his most popular ballad, The Soldier’s Song, later translated into Irish as Amhrán na bhFiann, became the National Anthem in 1926. On the 29th March 2016 the relatives of Peadar presented the President with his mobilisation order for Easter Sunday 1916 and the original manuscript of a verse of The Soldier’s Song. Ba é Peadar Ó Cearnaigh, comhalta de Chonradh na Gaeilge, Bráithreachas Phoblacht na hÉireann, bunaitheoir Óglaigh na hÉireann, agus iarshaighdiúir an Éirí Amach agus Chogadh na Saoirse, cumadóir go leor de bhailéid náisiúnacha na 1910idí. Rinneadh an tAmhrán Náisiúnta i 1926 d’fhocail an bhailéid ba mhó a raibh tóir air, The Soldier’s Song, a aistríodh go Gaeilge ní ba dhéanaí mar Amhrán na bhFiann. An 29 Márta 2016, bhronn gaolta Pheadair a ordú slógtha ar an Uachtarán le haghaidh Dhomhnach Cásca 1916 chomh maith le lámhscríbhinn bhunúil véarsa de The Soldier’s Song.
Tá fíorchaoin fáilte rómhaibh anseo chuig Áras an Uachtaráin inniu. Ar dtús báire ba mhaith liom tosnú trí mo bhuíochas a ghabháil libh as ucht Ordú Slógaidh bhur ngaol Peadar Ó Cearnaigh a bhronnadh ar muintir na hÉireann comh maith leis an lámhschíbhinn fíor thábhachtach seo ar a bhfuil breactha síos an chéad vearsa d’ár Amhrán Náisiúnta. You are all most welcome here today to Áras an Uachtaráin. May I commence by thanking you for presenting the Irish people with Peadar Kearney’s mobilisation order and this most important original manuscript of the opening verse of our National Anthem. Seasann an dá doiciméid seo mar dlúth-cheangal díreach le bhaint amach neamhspleachas ár Stáit, agus toisc bhur bhflaithiúlachas beidh siad anois mar acmhainn phoiblí don chomóradh atá faoi bhun againn uile faoi láthair agus beidh said ar fáil do na glúnta atá le teacht agus iad ag dul i ngleic lena stair agus a n-oidhreacht. Both of these documents represent profound connections to the achievement of our nation’s independence, and your act of generosity ensures that they will now become a public resource for our shared commemoration and engagement with our history. Peadar Kearney is, perhaps best remembered, as the writer who composed the words of our National Anthem A Soldiers’ Song, or Amhrán na bhFiann as it is better know to today’s Irish citizens. This lyric began its life as a marching and rallying song amongst the Irish Volunteers; having a particular
importance in confirming to those Volunteers that they were Óglaigh na hÉireann – Soldiers of Ireland – a national force and not mere rebels. The acceptance of A Soldier’s Song, as our National Anthem in 1926, without publicity or formality, is a mark of how this song had become intertwined in public consciousness with the new Free State and all it stood for. Peadar is also of course remembered as a proud Republican who, like so many of his generation, made generous sacrifices in order that future generations could live as citizens of an independent democracy. He played his own important role in the Easter Rising, which we commemorate this week, fighting with Tomás MacDonagh when the Second Battalion of the Volunteers occupied Jacob’s biscuit factory during the Rising.
“Inniu, céad bliain ónar scríobhadh ar dtús iad, tá focla Amhrán na bhFiann le chloisteáil go rialta ag eachtraí móra Stáit agus faid páirceanna imeartha roimh ócáidí spóirt.” He also participated in the importation of arms at Howth and Kilcoole and was imprisoned as a result of his active service during the War of Independence. Of course the family involvement in the political activism and in the cultural life of Ireland would continue through Peadar’s descendants and extended family, including of course his sister Kathleen who married Stephen Behan, and their sons Dominic and Brendan. As a defender and teacher of our beautiful Irish language Peadar also played an important role in the Irish Revival which, as you will be aware, was a time when many ardently sought to ensure the preservation of, and to stimulate pride and interest in, a national language after many years of British rule and the stealthy inroads of Anglicisation into our culture. Peadar’s role in the Gaelic League, during which Sean O’Casey became one of the pupils at his night classes,
was a valuable and important one. Last Saturday I spoke in the RDS at an event which brought together many of the relatives of those who had been involved in the Easter Rising. It was an uplifting occasion defined by a great sense of shared pride in the profound connections which the families attending had and maintain to the men and women who, on Easter Monday 1916, took to the streets of Dublin and rose up against Empire. It is a pride which I am sure you can also understand and relate to. Through Peadar Kearney you have a direct and important link to a dynamic and critical moment in our nation’s history. Inniu, céad bliain ónar scríobhadh ar dtús iad, tá focla Amhrán na bhFiann le chloisteáil go rialta ag eachtraí móra Stáit agus faid páirceanna imeartha roimh ócáidí spóirt, sa bhaile agus thar lear. Is cuid de bhur n-oidhreacht agus d’oidhreacht na tíre í seo agus is ceart dúinn a bheidh bródúil as. Today, over a hundred years since they were first written, the words of Amhrán na bhFiann continue to be sung at important State events and official occasions, and to ring out across sporting fields during many of our proudest moments at home and abroad. That is also a legacy of which to be greatly proud. Lig dom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl daoibh arís as ucht teacht anseo inniu, agus as ucht na cáipéisí luachmhair seo a bhronnadh ar muintir na hÉireann, agus tugann se fíor shásamh dom iad a ghlacadh ar a son. May I thank you all once again for coming here today, and for gifting the Irish people with these precious papers; which I am very proud to accept on their behalf.
President Michael D. Higgins with the match mascots ahead of the national anthems at Ireland vs Scotland in the NatWest 6 Nations Championship, Dublin 10th March, 2018. An tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUigínn in éineacht le sonóga an chluiche roimh sheinm na n-amhrán náisiúnta ag cluiche na hÉireann in aghaidh na hAlban i gCraobh 6 Náisiún NatWest, Baile Átha Cliath 10 Márta, 2018. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan www.inpho.ie
Ruairí Mac Easmainn agus an Ghaeilge Óráid an Uachtaráin Micheál D. Ó hUigínn le linn a chuairt ar Ghaelscoil Mhic Easmainn Ghaelscoil Mhic Easmainn, Trá Lí, Co. Chiarraí Déardaoin 21 Aibreán, 2016
Tá i nGaelscoil Mhic Easmainn, bunscoil Ghaeilge i dTrá Lí, ainm Roger Casement, a léiríonn ní hamháin an ról lárnach a bhí ag a ghabháil ar Thrá na Beannaí, atá suite i ngar don scoil, inár stair náisiúnta ach an grá a bhí aige don Ghaeilge, chomh maith. I 1904, chuaigh Roger Casement le Conradh na Gaeilge, agus thosaigh sé ag freastal ar fheiseanna agus thosaigh sé ag tabhairt tacaíocht airgeadais do choláistí samhraidh i gceantair Ghaeltachta. Le linn cuairt a tugadh ar Ghaelscoil Mhic Easmainn, labhair an tUachtarán ar ról na Gaeilge inár mbeatha náisiúnta, agus i saol Roger Casement. Gaelscoil Mhic Easmainn, an IrishMedium primary school in Tralee, bears the name of Roger Casement, reflecting not only the pivotal role that his capture at nearby Banna Strand plays in our national history but also his love of the Irish language. In 1904, Roger Casement joined Conradh na Gaeilge, began attending feiseanna and financially supporting summer colleges in Gaeltacht areas. At a visit to Gaelscoil Mhic Easmainn, the President spoke of the role of the Irish language in our national life, and in the life of Roger Casement.
A Dhaoine Uaisle, A Chairde Gael, Agus a bhuachaillí agus a chailíní ach go háirithe, Ar an gcéad dul síos is mian liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl do phobal Ghaelscoil Mhic Easmainn ar fad as ucht bhur gcuireadh dom féin agus do mo bhean Saidhbhín bheith libh inniu. Tá áthas orm an deis seo a bheith agam, mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, saol Ruairí Mhic Easmainn a chomóradh libh anseo i gCiarraí. Bhí Ruairí Mac Easmainn ina thírghráthóir Éireannach, ach bhí sé ina fhile, ina thaidhdeoir, ina thaistealaí agus ina dhaonnúlach chomh maith. D’oibrigh sé ar son na cúise anseo in Éirinn, ach rinne sé an t-uafás do chosmhuintir an domhain le linn a thréimhse mar Oifigeach do Ghnóthaí Eachtracha na Breataine i gCongó na hAfraice, i Meireacá Theas agus in áiteanna eile nach iad chomh maith. Cé nár throid Mac Easmainn le linn Seachtain na Cásca 1916, bhí ról lárnach aige sa phleanáil a tharla roimh ré. Chreid sé nach n-éireodh leis an Éirí Amach mura mbeadh rialtas na Gearmáine sásta cúnamh míleata a thabhairt do réabhlóidithe na hÉireann, agus chaith sé bliain go leith i bpríomhchathair na Gearmáine ag iarraidh an cúnamh sin a shocrú. Níor éirigh leis morán saighdiúirí a mhealladh chun troid ar son na hÉireann, ach d’éirigh leis cúnamh na Gearmáine a fháil i bhfoirm gunnaí agus armlóin. Go deimhin, is ar an lá seo céad bliain ó shin, an t-aonú lá fichead (21ú) Aibreán, 1916 a rinne Mac Easmainn iarracht bád Gearmáineach a bhí lán le gunnaí, An Aud, a leagadh le balla ar Thrá na Beannaí. Ní raibh
sé ar bord na loinge, mar gur tháinig sé féin agus a chompánaigh i dtír níos luaithe sa ló, tar éis dóibh an turas ón Ghearmáin a dhéanamh ar fomhuireán. Ar an drochuair, níor éirigh leis an phlean a bhí acú, agus gabhadh Mac Easmainn. Tógadh go Londain é chun dul chun trialach de barr tréasa in aghaidh Impireacht na Breataine. Fuarthas ciontach é sa triail agus cuireadh chun báis é ar an tríú lá de mhí Lúnasa, 1916. Mar a dúirt mé cheana, tá áthas orm an deis seo a bheith agam saol Mhic Easmainn a chomóradh, agus is íontach go bhfuil scoil lán-Ghaelach anseo i gCiarraí a bhfuil ainmnithe ina onóir. Thuig ceannairí 1916 an tábhacht a bhí, agus atá fós, ag ár dteanga agus ár gcultúr dúchais agus iad ag iarraidh neamhspleachais a bhaint amach. Bhí athbheochan na Gaeilge ina príomhaidhm ag na ceannairí agus bhí cuid mhór dá smaointeoireacht bunaithe ar fhís a léireodh Éire neamhspleách a mbeadh a teanga labhartha agus scríofa féin aici. Táim cinnte go mbeadh na ceannairí ar fad, agus Ruairí Mac Easmainn ach go háirithe, an-sásta go deo go bhfuil an Ghaeilge á fhoghlaim agus á úsáid ag glún óg Gael, céad bliain ó a d’íobair siad ar son na hÉireann. Is mór an dúshlán é teanga a chur faoi chois, agus is mór an dúshlán fós é teanga a athbheochan. Cé go bhfuil sé deacair é a shamhlú, bhí ceithre mhilliún cainteoir Gaeilge ann in Éirinn dhá chéad bliain ó shin, ag tús an naoiú aois déag. Thit líon na ndaoine in Éirinn go tobaisteach thar chaitheamh na mblianta agus b’iad muintir na Gaeilge ba mheasa a buaileadh. Céad bhliain ó shin, de bharr tionchar an Ghorta Mhór and polasaithe an Rialtais i leith an oideachais agus na heisimirce, agus toisc go raibh an smaoineamh ann ag an am gur cheart an Béarla a úsáid i gcúrsaí gnó, dlí agus go forleathan i gcúrsaí creidimh, ní raibh ach leathmhilliún Éireannach ag maíomh go raibh cumas sa Ghaeilge acu. Sna cúinsí sin, is dea-scéala é, sa lá atá inniu ann, go bhfuil 2 mhilliún duine in Éirinn díobh ag maíomh go bhfuil cumas sa Ghaeilge – ach an dúshlán atá romhainn anois ná na daoine sin a spreagadh len í a úsáid. Cuireann sé gliondair i mo chroí nuair a bhuailim le páistí, le tuismitheoirí agus le múinteoirí cosúil libhse atá ag treabhadh i ngort na Gaeilge. Tá lucht na Gaeilge ag tabhairt faoin athbheochan anois le nach mór céad fiche cúig bliain, ach níl san am sin i saolré teanga ach faiteadh na súl. Le blianta anuas tá borradh tagtha ar líon na bpáistí, cosúil libhse, atá ag freastal ar scoileanna lán Ghaelach. Is láidir an bunús í sin don todhchaí. Tugann sé sásamh faoi leith dhom go raibh páirt agam féin i bpolasaith teanga agus mé mar Aire Rialtais agus i go háirithe go ribh deis agam páirt a ghlacadh i mbunú TG4.Inniú tá an achmhainn fuinneamhach agus cruthaitheach lárnach in imeachtaí agus i gcumarsáid pobal na Gaeilge. Ní h-amháin sin
ach tríd an ard-chaighdeán chraolacháin atá leagtha síos acu, tá siad ag mealladh h-iad siúd atá ar bheagáinín Gaeilge nó atá as cleachtadh le tamailín.
“Tá lucht na Gaeilge ag tabhairt faoin athbheochan anois le nach mór céad fiche cúig bliain, ach níl san am sin i saolré teanga ach faiteadh na súl.” Maidir leis na staitisticí, ba cheart túr dóchais a bheith ionainn do phobal na Gaeilge sa mhéid is go bhfuilimid ag dul sa treo ceart. Tugann sé ardú croí dom nuair a fheicim an ghlún óg ag leanacht ar aghaidh le cur chun cinn na teanga agus mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, is mian liom pobal na scoile seo ar fad, idir dhaltaí, múinteoirí agus tuismitheoirí a mholladh as bhur dtiomantas agus as bhur ndílseacht d’ár dteanga, d’ár gcultúr agus d’fhís na daoine, ar nós Ruairí Mhic Easmain, a d’éirigh amach céad bliain ó shin, le linn Seachtain na Cásca 1916. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir, agus go d’téigh sibh slán.
Grúpa Ceoltoirí Gaelscoil Mhic Easmainn who performed some traditional music including The Lonely Banna Strand for President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina. (L-R) Aoife Ní Ruairc, Jane Akinrinlade, President Higgins, Shane Ó Ceallaigh, Ciara Ní Ghearáin and Cuileann Nic Gabhann. Grúpa Ceoltoirí Ghaelscoil Mhic Easmainn a sheinn roinnt ceoil thraidisiúnta lena n-áirítear The Lonely Banna Strand don Uachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn agus dá bhean Sabina. (C-D) Aoife Ní Ruairc, Jane Akinrinlade, An tUachtarán Ó hUiginn, Shane Ó Ceallaigh, Ciara Ní Ghearáin agus Cuileann Nic Gabhann. Photo: Joe Hanley Photography
Roger Casement – Humanitarian and Revolutionary Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at the Official Opening of the exhibition, ‘Casement in Kerry: A Revolutionary Journey’ Kerry County Museum, Tralee, Co. Kerry Thursday 21st April, 2016
Over the course of his life Roger Casement became, in succession, an imperial diplomat, a champion of human rights in Peru and what was then the ‘Free State of Congo’, and finally, turning his face to colonialism, an Irish revolutionary. On the centenary of the capture of Roger Casement the President spoke of Casement’s contribution to human rights at the oﬃcial opening of the Roger Casement Exhibition at Kerry County Museum, part of a number of events to commemorate the life of the great humanitarian and revolutionary. I gcaitheamh a shaoil, rinneadh taidhleoir impiriúil agus curadh ceart daonna i bPeiriú ina dhiaidh sin, ar tugadh ‘Saorstát an Chongó’ air ag an tráth sin, de Roger Casement agus rinneadh réabhlóidí Éireannach de, ar deireadh, nuair a thug sé aghaidh ar an gcoilíneachas. Ar chomóradh céad bliain ghabháil Roger Casement, labhair an tUachtarán ar an méid a chuir Casement le cearta daonna ag oscailt oifigiúil Thaispeántas Roger Casement ag Músaem Contae Chiarraí, mar chuid de roinnt imeachtaí chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar shaol an tsárdhaonnúlaigh agus an réabhlóidí.
A Aire Ambassadóirí, Your Excellencies A dhaoine uaisle, Is mór an pléisiúir dom é an taispeántas seo a oscailt, taispeántas a thugann léargas dúinn ar shaol Ruairí Mhic Easmaill, arbh é duine de mhór-phearsana na hÉireann sa 20ú aois é. Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, tá áthas orm an deis seo a thapú chun ómós a thabhairt don méid a bhain Ruairí Mac Easmainn amach, ní hamháin san Éirí Amach atá muid ag comóradh i mbliana, ach ar son cosmhuintir an domhain a bhí faoi chos ag Impireachtaí na hEorpa chomh maith. [It is my great pleasure to be opening this important exhibition that gives texture and context to the life of Roger Casement, one of the most captivating figures of Ireland’s 20th century history. As President of Ireland, I am delighted to have this occasion to pay tribute to the great achievements of Roger Casement, not just in his contribution to the seminal event we are commemorating this year – the Easter Rising of 1916 – but also in his passionate exposure of the ruthless system of human exploitation that lay at the heart of the European colonial enterprise.] Few figures in Irish history have become internationally celebrated on three separate occasions during their lives, as Roger Casement has. Indeed today we do not only honour the memory of Casement the Irish revolutionary; we also recall the great humanitarian who campaigned for the human dignity of the indigenous peoples of the Congo and the Putumayo. The richness of Casement’s life is reflected in the eclectic nature of this exhibition, which brings together artefacts from Africa, from South America, and from
Casement’s last adventure in the name of Irish Freedom – an adventure which took a fatal turn here in Kerry, with his capture at McKenna’s Fort, in Ardfert, on Good Friday 1916, leading to his eventual execution by hanging at London’s Pentonville Prison, on 3rd August 1916.
“Today we not only honour the memory of Casement the Irish revolutionary; we also recall the great humanitarian who campaigned for human dignity.” May I take this opportunity to thank all of you here who have contributed to making this important chapter in our national history available to the public in this centenary year. I extend my sincere thanks to Helen O’Carroll and everybody in the Kerry County Museum, to those historians whose scholarship has enabled us to see Roger Casement’s life and legacy in a new light, including Angus Mitchell and Jeffrey Dudgeon who are with us here today, to all those, including local families, descendants of Roger Casement and a number of Irish and British officials, who have generously allowed for the loan of the objects on display here today. One of the focal points of this exhibition is the small wooden, flat-bottomed boat that brought Roger Casement and his two compatriots, Robert Monteith and Daniel Bailey, to shore on Banna Strand one hundred years ago today. This episode was humorously described by Monteith as: “Three men in a boat – the smallest invading party known to history”. The frailty of this boat symbolises for us today the extraordinary imagination and commitment of the small group of men and women who planned the Easter Rising, who decided to strike a blow against what was then one of the world’s mightiest Empires – the British Empire. I am aware that the authenticity of this boat, on loan from the Imperial War Museum, has been subject to debate. Another boat, on display at North Kerry Museum, had previously been thought to be the original one used by Roger Casement and his two companions – indeed debate and controversy seem to shroud anything that relates to the life of Roger
Casement; or perhaps this is a reflection of the healthy intra-county discussions that never fail to animate the life of Kerry! Notwithstanding these considerations, it is important to recall that this boat was presented to King George V in June 1916 as a trophy for the capture of the Great Traitor that Roger Casement was then held to be in the eyes of many British, but also Irish, people. Indeed, up to the present day, Roger Casement’s and the other 1916 leaders’ seeking of German support for their armed rebellion, is a fact that some have found uncomfortable to acknowledge. Yet, when reflecting back on those founding events of our State, it is essential, I believe, that we endeavour to do justice to the motivations of the actors of the time, and the manner in which they seized the opportunities afforded by the context of the clash between Empires that was the First World War to advance a cause they believed was just. By Easter 1916, Roger Casement, once a conscientious member of the British Foreign Service, had become entirely disillusioned with what he saw as the moral breakdown of the British free-trading Empire. This brutal nature of European colonial rule and global trade strategies at the turn of the last century is brought home to us in a most compelling manner by this exhibition. The rubber baskets on display were those used by the people of the so-called “Free State of Congo” who were forced to collect wild rubber for the benefit of King Leopold II of Belgium and his favourite concessionaires, and who were routinely submitted to the most brutal forms of atrocities. Roger Casement’s report on these atrocities, published in 1904, was a ground-breaking and formidable indictment of a system based on the crudest violations of human rights. As Joseph Conrad, who met him during his time in Congo, put it: “He could tell you things! Things I have tried to forget, things I never did know.” The gift of fame which Heart of Darkness would bring to Joseph Conrad from his conversations with Roger Casement would not be repaid by Conrad who refused to sign, with others, the plea for clemency as Casement awaited his hanging. This exhibition also displays drum beaters from the Putumayo, that remind us of that other great investigation Roger Casement led on behalf of the Foreign Office, initially because of the exploitation of Barbadian workers, who were British citizens, and who were victims of the activities of an Anglo-Peruvian
rubber company operating in the frontier region of the north-west Amazon. Incorporating first-hand accounts of both the victims and the perpetrators of atrocities, Casement’s report, published in 1911, reflects his profound humanitarian concerns for the unspeakable suffering of the Putumayo Indians. Reading the journal Roger Casement wrote during this journey, one cannot but be moved by the profound compassion Casement felt for the Indians. Such empathy, which was indeed exceptional in a diplomat of his epoch and upbringing, comes across very powerfully in an excerpt, such as the following, as does his sense of outrage at the atrocities committed by the local taskmasters and, by association, their commercial accomplices back in London: “All that was once [the Indian’s] has been taken away from him – his forest, his home, his domestic affections even – nothing that God and Nature gave him is indeed left to him, save his fine, healthy body capable of supporting terrible fatigue, his shapely limbs and fair, clear skin – marred by the lash and scarred by execrable blows. His manhood has been lashed and branded out of him. I look at the big, soft-eyed faces, averted and downcast and I wonder where that Heavenly Power can be that for so long allowed these beautiful images of Himself to be thus defaced and shamed. One looks then at the oppressors – vile cut-throat faces; grim, cruel lips and sensual mouths, bulging eyes and lustful – men incapable of good and it is this handful of murderers who, in the name of civilisation and of a great association of English gentlemen, are the possessors of so much gentler and better flesh and blood.” Such commemorations, then, as this today, are an important opportunity to go back to the writings of Roger Casement. They are an invitation to appreciate more fully the motivation which led this Irishman to evolve from a mere witness into a staunch critic of global trade strategies that were predicated upon the seizure of land, the appropriation of natural resources and the violent exploitation of the indigenous people without any regard for their most fundamental rights. Roger Casement ceased to regard commerce as a means of “civilising” primitive peoples, understanding how, instead, the appetite for wild rubber during that first era of globalisation was underpinned by widespread violations of the human dignity of labourers. He asked unsettling questions, about power, about the rules guiding foreign policy and international trade. If I may, once again, let us hear the voice of Roger Casement, on his way back to London after his journey through the Putumayo:
“Has our modern commercialism, our latter-day company promoting – whose motto would seem to be that a Director may pocket the proceeds without perceiving the process – no part in this enterprise of horror and shame? The Aranas “brought their wares (50,000 Indian Slaves) to market” in London. Not, be it observed, to Madrid or to Lima, but to London. And they found English men and English finance prepared without question to accept their Putumayo “estates” and their numerous native “labourers” at a glance, a glance at the annually increasing output of rubber. Nothing beyond that was needed. The rubber was there. How it was produced, out of what hell of human suffering no one knew, no one asked, no one suspected. Can it be no one cared?” These are questions which, I believe, continue to challenge us today, as we recall with great pride Roger Casement’s idealism, his passionate defence of the human dignity of those who were the victims of history, and his commitment to the cause of Freedom, in Ireland and abroad. We are invited to make our own response, for example, to those multi-nationals who seek again today immunity for their actions of pouring millions of gallons of poison into the river systems of the countries where Roger Casement was led. Dear Friends, may I conclude with Roger Casement’s last mission in the name of Irish Freedom, here in Kerry. It was, as you know, a mission that was beset by misfortune and, ultimately, tragedy, and it was also one that had ramifications throughout the local community. Today, then, we also honour the memory of all those quiet lives who were touched by that tragedy. We recall, for example, how John A. Kearney, Head Constable in Tralee, showed compassion and kindness to Roger Casement during the night he spent at the Tralee police barracks. We remember the tragic car accident at Ballykissane, near Killorglin, in which three Volunteers lost their lives. We remember, too, the local people from Ardfert who were forced to testify against Casement during his trial in London and who returned home and, in a radically altered political climate, suffered from their association. We remember the German servicemen who were imprisoned as a result of their efforts to land the cargo of The Aud. May I, once again, say how delighted I am to be here today, and congratulate all those of you who have contributed, through the loan of objects, through your scholarship and your insights, to creating this important exhibition. It is a very timely and fitting tribute to a great man of compassion and integrity, who showed the courage of his convictions and gave his life for Irish freedom.
Arís, is mian liom a rá cé chomh sásta is atá mé a bheith anseo inniu, agus chun comhghairdeas a dhéanamh libh ar fad atá tar éis cur leis an taispeántas seo trí bhur léann, bhur léargais agus trí ábhar a thabhairt ar iasacht. Is tráthúil agus is oiriúnach go bhfuilimid ag tabhairt ómóis don fear mór seo a raibh trua agus sláine go smior ann, fear a rinne beart de réir a bhriathar agus a thug a shaol ar son saoirse na hÉireann. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Promotional poster created for a major exhibition at Kerry County Museum tracing Roger Casement’s fascinating life journey – from Crown servant to celebrated humanitarian to doomed revolutionary washed ashore on Banna Strand, Co. Kerry in April 1916.
Postaer promóisin a rinneadh le haghaidh taispeántas mór i Musaem Chontae Chiarraí ina leantar cúrsa saoil Ruairí Mhic Easmainn – ó ghéillsineach na Corónach go daonnúlach cáiliúil go réabhlóidí míchinniúnach a tháinig i dtír ag Trá na Beannaí, Co. Chiarraí in Aibreán 1916.
Image: Kerry County Museum www.kerrymuseum.ie Design Gang www.designgang.ie
RC EXPO POSTER A3_Layout 1 12/04/2016 22:08 Page 1
“When I landed in Ireland swamped and swimming ashore on an unknown strand … I was for one brief spell happy and smiling once more … I was back in Ireland”
Casement in Kerry: a revolutionary journey
Mac Easmainn i gCiarraí: aistear réabhlóideach A M A J O R E X H I B I T I O N AT
OPENING HOURS January - May Tues to Sat, 9:30am to 5pm June - August Open daily, 9:30am to 5:30pm September - December Tues to Sat, 9:30am to 5pm Bank Holiday weekends Sun & Mon, 10am to 5pm Ashe MemorialHall Denny Street Tralee Co Kerry 066 712 7777 www.kerrymuseum.ie email@example.com
Recovering the Republican Ideal Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at a Tree Planting Ceremony Murroe, Co. Limerick Saturday 23rd April, 2016
A Dhaoine Uaisle,
Though the men and women who participated in the Rising and in the War of Independence held competing visions for the future of the nation, they all shared a common dedication to achieving an independent republic. The act of commemorating their sacrifice prompted many Irish citizens to reflect upon the ideals of a revolutionary generation who sought to give shape to the republican ideal. At the planting of sixteen trees in commemoration of the Rising at the Murroe Memorial Cross, the President spoke of the centrality of the concept of citizenship in republicanism, and the duties it demands in the contemporary moment. Cé go raibh físeanna do thodhchaí an náisiúin ag na fir agus na mná a ghlac páirt san Éirí Amach agus i gCogadh na Saoirse a chuaigh in adharca a chéile, bhí an tiomantas céanna acu go léir do phoblacht neamhspleách a bhaint amach. Spreag comóradh a dhéanamh ar a n-íobairt go leor saoránaigh Éireannacha chun machnamh a dhéanamh ar idéil ghlúine réabhlóidí a lorg chun an t-idéal poblachtach a mhúnlú. Nuair a cuireadh sé chrann déag i gcomóradh an Éirí Amach ag Cros Chuimhneacháin Mhaigh Rua, labhair an tUachtarán ar lárnacht choincheap na saoránachta sa phoblachtachas, agus ar na dualgais a theastaíonn uaidh sa ghluaiseacht chomhaimseartha.
Is mór an pléisiúir a bheith in bhur dteannta inniu don searmanas cur crann seo. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis an tAthair Simon Sleeman dá chuireadh dom páirt a ghlacadh san ócáid seo, agus libhse ar fad as bhur fíorchaoin fáilte go Maigh Rua. [It is a great pleasure to join you all here today for this tree planting ceremony. I am very grateful to Father Simon Sleeman for inviting me to take part in this event, and to all of you for welcoming me to Murroe.] May I commence by saying how greatly uplifting it has been to witness how so many of our communities have taken the initiative to develop and deliver their own unique commemorations of the events of 1916. The Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme has encouraged our communities to embrace this historic moment in a spirit of creativity and the reaction has been immense. All across the country, communities have responded with energy and enthusiasm, conceiving and developing projects which have a very personal and local perspective, adding a very important layer of context to this year’s commemorations. The planting, throughout 2016, of sixteen trees that will take root, grow and flourish within the community of Murroe and will provide a profound connection to the past in the years and decades to come, is one such inspiring and imaginative commemoration. It is most apt that we plant this tree beside the Murroe Memorial Cross, erected in 1923 to honour those from the Limerick Brigades who fought and died during the Irish War of Independence, and which today stands as
a beautiful and fitting monument to the sacrifice of a generation.
“This national moment of commemoration prompts us to reflect on what it is to be an active, caring and responsible citizen.” In this important year of commemoration we have, at events and celebrations across the country, been recalling the selflessness of the many men and women who aspired towards, and fought for, Irish independence. They may have differed in the ideals they emphasised, yet all of them, with their different ideas for the future of the nation, came together to pursue what they shared, a dream of independence.
vision for a coming generation; honouring the memory of the men and women who fought for a free Irish State, and continuing the important work which they envisioned and for which so many were prepared to give up their lives. Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom buíochas a ghabháil libh ar fad as an fíorchaoin fáilte a d’fhear sibh romham inniu. Is mian liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le gach éinne a d’oibrigh ar an ócáid comórtha luachmhar seo, a thugann deis dúinn smaoineamh ar na himeachtaí a churthaigh ár stair, ár náisiún agus ár bpobail. [I would like to conclude by thanking you all very sincerely for welcoming me here today. Finally may I congratulate and commend all those involved in providing this valuable and imaginative commemoration of the events of 1916; events which have shaped our history, our nation and, of course, our communities.] Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Indeed, this national moment of commemoration prompts us to reflect on what it is to be an active, caring and responsible citizen; of the capacities, opportunities, but also the responsibilities, including those of solidarity, that come with the freedom of citizenship. At the very heart of republicanism lies the principle of participative citizenship, and the right of all citizens to be represented and to have their voice heard. It is a concept based on an understanding of the accountable State as a shared responsibility, rather than an abstract entity, of an economy that is seen to serve all of the people in their sufficiency’s rather that the insatiable consumption of the few. It is important that we remember and acknowledge that 1916 was about more than military or political actions. The leaders, in the best of their aspirations and writings, were inspired by the idea of creating a very different Ireland and they believed in a social as well as a national revolution in which every facet of Irish life could be improved. Of course there is, today, a global dimension to those duties; and we must, as global citizens play our role in meeting the challenges set to us by issues of an ethical and ecological kind, such as climate change, global hunger and environmental degradation, accepting our obligations in an increasingly interdependent world. The Ireland we know today began its life as a courageous vision. One hundred years later we are called to consider, in a new way, the ideals which inspired those men and women in 1916, to test them, retrieve them, add to them, and make our own new
President Higgins planted a tree in the company of his wife Sabina and Fr Simon Sleeman on the occasion of his visit to The Great Memorial Cross in Murroe, Co. Limerick. Chuir an tUachtarán Ó hUiginn crann i ndáil a mhná Sabina agus an tAthair Simon Sleeman ar a chuairt ar an gCros Mhór Chuimhneacháin i Maigh Rua, Co. Luimní. Photo: Dave Gaynor Photography
He loved his country and served his kind Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at a reception for the family of Richard O’Carroll Áras an Uachtaráin Wednesday 27th April, 2016
In the years leading up to the Rising, the trade union movement throughout the world continued to grow in strength, winning struggles for worker’s rights from the United States to Russia. Richard O’Carroll, as Secretary of the Ancient Guild of Incorporated Brick and Stonelayers Trade Union, was one of those remarkable individuals who led the expansion of the trade union and urban co-operative movement in Ireland. As a member of the Irish Volunteers he died in action on the 5th May, 1916. On the 27th April 2016 the President welcomed the descendants of Richard O’Carroll to a reception in Áras an Uachtaráin. Sna blianta a fhad leis an Éirí Amach, chuaigh gluaiseacht na gceardchumann ar fud an domhain ó neart go neart, agus bhain sí go leor amach do chearta oibrithe ó na Stáit Aontaithe agus an Rúis. Ba é Richard O’Carroll, agus é ina Rúnaí ar Cheardchumann Ghild Ársa na Saor Cloiche agus na mBríceadóirí Corpraithe, duine de na daoine aonair ar leith siúd a rinne fairsingiú an cheardchumainn agus na gluaiseachta comhoibrithí uirbí a stiúradh in Éirinn. Mar bhall d’Óglaigh na hÉireann, maraíodh é le linn dó gníomhú an 5 Bealtaine, 1916. An 27 Aibreán 2016, chuir an tUachtarán fáilte roimh shliocht Richard O’Carroll freastal ar fháiltiú in Áras an Uachtaráin.
A Dhaoine Uaisle, Tá áthas orm féin agus ar Shaidhbhín fáilte a fhearadh romhaibh chuig Áras an Uachtaráin tráthnóna. Tá a fhios agam go raibh roinnt agaibh anseo don ócáid a bhí againn i Seomra de hÍde ar an 22 Márta d’Arm Chathartha na hÉireann, agus is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil libh as teacht ar cuairt orainn arís inniu. [Sabina and I are delighted to welcome you to Áras an Uachtaráin this afternoon. I know that some of you were here for the event we held on 22nd March in the Hyde Room for the Irish Citizens’ Army, and I wish to thank you for visiting us again today.] I am delighted to have this opportunity, as President of Ireland, to acknowledge the contribution of Richard O’Carroll to the cause of Irish freedom. The opening decades of the 20th century, that period during which the Rising would take place, was a time when one third of the population of Dublin inhabited tenement slums in the city centre. It was a time, too, when, in the absence of effective union organisation, more than a quarter of male workers were engaged in unskilled labour, were being paid ‘slave wages’, and were unable to access decent housing and food for themselves and their families. Richard O’Carroll, as you know, hailed from Hanover Square in the Liberties. He was a bricklayer by trade, and in 1906, following a divisive lockout of Dublin bricklayers the preceding year, was elected General Secretary of the Ancient Guild of Incorporated Brick and Stonelayers Trade Union. Instilling the body with a renewed vitality, he rebuilt its strength and extended
its organisation beyond the Dublin region; by 1913 he had established fourteen branches throughout Ireland, travelling to building sites and provincial offices on a motorcycle provided for his use by the union.
“We should never lose sight of the fact that many of the participants and leaders of the Rising drew their inspiration from the contemporary upsurge in labour movements internationally.” His political star rose with his Trade Union career and he was elected to Dublin Corporation as an independent member in 1907 and 1910. He had been a member of the executive of Sinn Féin prior to this but reportedly left the organisation, with others, following a disagreement with Arthur Griffith about Trade Unionism. A tension that permeated nationalism generally at that time and subsequently. We should never lose sight of the fact that many of the participants and leaders of the Rising drew their inspiration from the contemporary upsurge in labour movements internationally, asserting the rights of workers for decent conditions and wages in return for their labour in the fields and factories in which they worked. However, the ranks of constitutional nationalists, and particularly those of the Irish Parliamentary Party, comprised a significant number of industrialists and graziers who were openly hostile towards trade unionism, ‘Larkinism’ and socialism in general, and who would resist economic, social or cultural innovation among the working classes. Thus, while the 1916 Proclamation had promulgated “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland”, the men and women who were ‘out’ in 1916 had very different understandings as to who exactly should own Ireland in the new Republic they were calling forth.
Labour banner. O’Carroll was firmly on the side of the working class, and in 1914 was central to the establishment of an urban housing cooperative which aimed to provide homes for Dublin’s poor and marginalised citizens. His union work continued while the national situation became increasingly tense. His experiences during the lockout and his membership of the O’Donovan Rossa Funeral Committee brought him in close contact with other members of the Irish Volunteers whose ranks he joined, rather than those of the Citizen’s Army. In Easter week, he fought alongside Thomas MacDonagh and Major John MacBride, sadly succumbing on 5 May, 1916 to a fatal injury he had received some days earlier. He was 40 years old. It was reported that he had been dragged off his motorcycle in Camden Street and was shot by an English officer, Captain Bowen-Colthurst. In his personal life, O’Carroll was married to Annie Esther Power in 1902, and the couple had seven children. The youngest of these, baby Seán, was actually born two weeks after O’Carroll’s death in 1916. Seán would die at only eight months of age, compounding the grief of the O’Carroll family. I spoke at an event in the RDS last month which brought together many of the relatives of those who had been involved in the Easter Rising. It was an uplifting occasion defined by a great sense of shared pride in the profound connections which the families attending had and maintain to the men and women who, on Easter Monday 1916, took to the streets of Dublin and rose up against Empire. It is a pride which I am sure you can also understand and relate to. Through Richard O’Carroll you have a direct and important link to a dynamic and critical moment in our nation’s history, a link which you are rightly very proud of. The words carved into his headstone in Glasnevin Cemetery put it most eloquently. “He loved his country and served his kind” Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom a rá arís cé chomh sásta is atá mé gur tháinig sibh ar cuairt chugam inniu, agus is mian liom sibh a mholadh as Richard O’Carroll, a íobairtí agus a chuid éachtaí, a choimeád inár gcuimhne. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
In 1912, on the founding of the Labour Party by James Connolly, O’Carroll joined its ranks and along with five colleagues was elected to the Corporation under the
Portrait of Richard O’Carroll, printed on postcard. Published by Powell Press, 22 Parliament St., Dublin [ca. 1900-1920].
Portráid de Richard O’Carroll, priontáilte ar chárta poist. Arna foilsiú ag Powell Press, 22 Sráid na Parlaiminte, Baile Átha Cliath [ca. 1900-1920].
Photo: National Library of Ireland www.nli.ie Ref: NPA POLF218
Thomas Clarke by David Rooney, taken from 1916 Portraits and Lives, Royal Irish Academy.
Tomás Ó Cléirigh le David Rooney, tógtha ó 1916 Portraits and Lives, Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann.
Picture: David Rooney www.davidrooney.com
Thomas Clarke – Architect of the Rising Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at the Unveiling of the Tom Clarke Bridge Tom Clarke Bridge, Dublin Tuesday 3rd May, 2016
Thomas Clarke was the first signatory to the Proclamation. He embodied many of the qualities of his generation of revolutionaries – fortitude, courage, resilience, physical and mental toughness – and experienced many of their paradigmatic struggles – resistance, imprisonment, exile – and brought all of those characteristics to bear, as the most respected leader of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, on the organisation of the Rising. On the 3rd May 2016, the centenary of the execution of Tom Clarke in Kilmainham Jail, the President spoke at the naming of the Tom Clarke Bridge. Ba é Tomás Ó Cléirigh an chéad sínitheoir leis an bhForógra. Bhí aige go leor de shaintréithe a ghlúine de réabhlóidithe – neart, misneach, spleáchas diongbháilteacht fhisiciúil agus mheabhrach – agus bhí go leor dá streachtailtí eiseamláireacha le sárú aige – cur in aghaidh, príosúnacht, deoraíocht – agus chothaigh sé na saintréithe uile siúd, mar an gceannaire ba mhó meas ar Bhráithreachas Phoblacht na hÉireann, nuair a bhí an tÉirí Amach á eagrú. An 3 Bealtaine 2016, ag comóradh céad bliain chur chun báis Thomáis Uí Chléirigh i bPríosún Chill Mhaighneann, labhair an tUachtarán ag ainmniú Dhroichead Thomáis Uí Chléirigh.
Is mór an pléisiúir dom a bheith anseo ar maidin chun Droichead Thomáis Uí Chléirigh a athainmniú. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Brendan Kenny as cuireadh a thabhairt dom páirt a ghlacadh san ócáid seo, agus libhse ar fad as an fíorchaoin fáilte sin. [It is a great pleasure to be here this morning at the official naming of the Tom Clarke Bridge. I would like to thank Brendan Kenny for inviting me to take part in this event, and all of you for that generous welcome.] I am delighted that we are joined by members of the Clarke family, the Tom Clarke Memorial Committee and members and officials of Dublin City Council. In recent weeks we have, as a nation, been reflecting on the Proclamation of 1916, the idealism that inspired it, and the great debt of gratitude we owe to the many brave men and women who offered their lives in order that Ireland could become a free and independent state. The names of the leaders of the 1916 Rising are written indelibly into the history books of Ireland. Some of them have also been immortalised in the names of Dublin streets and buildings, becoming embedded into the daily lives of thousands of citizens as they go about their normal business. Today the name of Tom Clarke, the first signatory to the Proclamation, will join that honourable roll call. It is, perhaps, an honour that many would consider overdue. There can be no doubt that he is a figure that links the revolutionary generations. Tom Clarke stands alongside figures like O’Donovan Rossa, John Devoy, and Robert Emmet. He also
symbolises the integration of the variety of experiences of prison; exile; return; IRB, Volunteer and military action, finally of course leading to his execution. When names such as Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett spring to mind in recalling the seismic events of that Easter week of 1916, we should always remember that Tom Clarke is the connection to the previous generation and the Irish across the Atlantic.
“Tom Clarke joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood as a young man and thereafter devoted his life to the liberation of Ireland from British rule.” Kathleen Clarke is symbolic of those widows who, while suffering great loss, turned their efforts into providing relief for others and continuing a struggle for equality. Tom Clarke has rightfully been described as one of the key architects of the Easter Rising. Born in England in 1857 to Irish parents, Tom Clarke joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood as a young man and thereafter devoted his life to the liberation of Ireland from British rule. Clarke’s road to the Rising was not an easy one, requiring much sacrifice and hardship; but it was a road defined by great resilience and determination as he resolutely proceeded in the direction of an independent Ireland. Having gone to New York as a young man he joined Clan na nGael and became active in their campaign for Irish independence. He was arrested in London in 1883. He endured many years of harsh imprisonment and was later to describe his time in prison as an ‘earthly hell’, adding that: “The horror of those nights and days will never leave my memory”. He remained, however, committed in his resolve to strike against the British Empire. He spent some further years in America after his release from prison and returned to Ireland in 1908 with the intention of initiating an armed insurrection. Because of his criminal convictions, Tom Clarke maintained a low profile back in his home country. He sought a tactical rather than a visible presence amongst the revolutionaries who dreamt and spoke of a new
Ireland in the years leading up to the Rising. His was, however, a profoundly influential presence, one of planning and pragmatism, as he played a key role in the revitalisation of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. His tobacconists shop was a centre for the exchange of intelligence and not only among those of the IRB. Photographs show advertisements for literature and pamphlets in both English and Irish on display. It was closely watched by British Intelligence, yet business continued, the business of preparing for a Rising. Later, Tom Clarke would stand beside Patrick Pearse in front of the GPO during that iconic moment when the Proclamation was read aloud for the very first time on the 24th April 1916. Following the Rising, Tom Clarke faced death bravely. The actions of 1916 gave, he believed, hope for a future Ireland of freedom and great possibility. He, and all of the leaders of 1916, died sharing a vision of a brave new Ireland; a nation rooted in courage, vision and a profound spirit of generous humanity. As we continue to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising, we are invited to continue the work of building a Republic of which our founders would be proud; to seek to achieve the unfulfilled promises of the past as we imagine, together, new possibilities for our present and collective future. For 32 years this bridge has served Dublin well; providing a vital link between the north and south sides of our capital city. It is greatly apt that a structure so strongly symbolic of unity, connection and the overcoming of obstacles be named after the committed, determined and inspirational Tom Clarke, a man who dedicated his entire adult life to the vision of a liberated and just Ireland. Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Coiste Cuimhneachán Thomáis Uí Chléirigh agus le Comhairle Cathrach Bhaile Átha Cliath as Droichead an Nascbhóthair Thoir a athainmniú. Molaim sibh as bhur gcinneadh aitheantas atá thar ré a thabhairt don laochra mór agus don ceannaire Tomás Ó Cléirigh. Is mian liom chomh maith buíochas a ghabháil libh ar fad atá bailithe i gcuimhne ar Tomás Ó Cléirigh, fear a bhfuilimíd ar fad faoi chomaoin aige. [May I conclude by thanking the Tom Clarke Memorial Committee and Dublin City Council for the renaming of the East Link Bridge. I commend you for choosing to honour a great hero and leader for whom recognition is long overdue. I also thank all those who have gathered here today in memory of Tom Clarke, a man to whom our nation is so indebted.] Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.
Ollscoil na Réabhlóide — The University of the Revolution Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at Westport 1916 Centenary Commemorations Westport, Co. Mayo Sunday 8th May, 2016
A Chairde Gael,
As a consequence of the countermanding order issued on the 23rd April 1916 by Eoin MacNeill, the Chief-of-Staﬀ of the Irish Volunteers, many Volunteer Brigades outside Dublin did not participate in the Rising. Hearing of the Rising, 31 members of the Volunteers and Fianna Éireann from Westport undertook a route march on Sunday the 30th April 1916. In response, they were arrested and ultimately interned in Frongach Prison in Wales. The President spoke of their bravery and of the example of fellow Mayo men, Michael Davitt and John MacBride, at the Westport 1916 Centenary Commemorations. Mar thoradh ar an bhfreasordú a d’eisigh Eoin Mac Néill an 23 Aibreán 1916, Ceann Foirne Óglaigh na hÉireann, níor ghlac go leor Briogáidí d’Óglaigh lasmuigh de Bhaile Átha Cliath páirt san Éirí Amach. Ar scéala faoin Éirí Amach a chloisteáil, thug 31 comhalta de na hÓglaigh agus d’Fhianna Éireann ó Chathair na Mart faoi mháirseáil bhealaigh Dé Domhnaigh, an 30 Aibreán 1916. Mar fhreagairt air sin, gabhadh iad agus cuireadh i bpríosún iad, ar deireadh, i bPríosún Frongach sa Bhreatain Bheag. Labhair an tUachtarán ar a misneach agus ar eiseamláir chomhfhir Mhaigh Eo, Michael Davitt agus John MacBride, ag Comóradh Céad Bliain Chathair na Mart 1916.
Is mór an pléisiúir dom féin agus do Saidhbhín é teacht ar cuairt chuig an cheantar álainn seo d’Iarthar na hÉireann, agus tá áthas ar leith orm an deis a ghlacadh le teacht chugaibh i mbliana agus muid ag comóradh céad bliain ó Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Cumann Staire Chathair na Mart as an ócáid seo a eagrú chun aitheantas a thabhairt do mhuintir Mhaigh Eo a throid ar son saoirse na hÉireann, agus libhse ar fad a d’fhear fíorchaoin fáilte romhainn chuig Cathair na Mart agus chuig Chontae Mhaigh Eo. [It is always a great pleasure for Sabina and I to visit County Mayo, and particularly this beautiful Westport area. I have strong personal connections to this part of the country, as well as a longstanding interest in its history: one of my most distinguished fellow students and research collaborator on the subject of land agitation in 19th century Mayo is Dr John Gibbons, now a senior university lecturer in Manchester, and whose family I used to visit frequently.] I am especially delighted to be able to visit Westport on this important Centenary year. May I thank the Westport Historical Society for giving me this opportunity to acknowledge the great contribution of the people of Mayo to the struggle for Ireland’s Freedom, and all of you here for your warm welcome to Westport and to Mayo. May I extend a special salute to all those who have travelled from afar to share in these commemorations. The presence of relatives of the MacBride and Doris families, as well as descendants of the 31 Westport men who were imprisoned in Frongoch in the aftermath of
the Rising, lends special warmth and significance to today’s commemorations, reminding us of the human chain of familial and communal memories, of hopes and stories passed down and cherished, that connect us so strongly to the founding events of our State. In this centenary year when we recall the Easter Rising of 1916, the name of Westport – Cathair na Mart – is, of course, associated more particularly with that of John MacBride, a son of this town who played a prominent military role in the Rising. In fact, while he was a pivotal figure in Irish nationalist politics at the turn of the last century, and while he had, for many years, been involved in the preparation for a rebellion, it was by quite fortuitous circumstances that MacBride came to assume a leadership role in the Rising when it actually happened. “Well-dressed in a blue suit, carrying a cane and smoking a cigar,” John MacBride had arrived in Dublin early on Easter Monday to meet with his brother, Anthony, who was to be married on the following Wednesday. There he happened to cross paths with Thomas MacDonagh, who was leading his troops to their position at Jacob’s factory. Concerned with the lack of military experience of MacDonagh’s Second Battalion, MacBride, who was, as you know, a Boer War veteran, reportedly declared that: “He would like to give these amateurs a hand.” He was immediately appointed second-in-command at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, where he fought throughout Easter Week. In Irish popular memory, John MacBride holds a prominent place as one of the 16 leaders who were executed after the Easter Rising. But he is also remembered far beyond the shores of Ireland, for the part he played in the Second Boer War of 1899-1902. Last February, I had the pleasure of attending a symposium entitled “After Empire” at University College Dublin, which brought together leaders of former British colonies to share the experience of their nation’s struggle for independence. During those discussions, the former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, described John MacBride as a principled figure, a man whose stance against British imperialism had been a source of inspiration for the African National Congress (ANC). This provides an illustration of the circulation – through space and time – of ideas, aspirations, and indeed men, which energised the decolonisation
movement throughout the 20th century. The war in South Africa was, in its own time, an important influence for many Irish nationalists, and we recall, for example, how another illustrious Mayo man, Michael Davitt, left his seat in parliament in 1899 to protest against the Boer War and how he travelled to South Africa to lend support to the Boer cause. Because of the central role John MacBride played in the Irish Transvaal Brigade, which joined the Boers’ fight against the British Empire, it became known in Ireland as ‘MacBride’s Brigade’. We should never forget, however, that the several hundreds of Irish and Irish-American men who filled the ranks of MacBride’s Brigade were often fighting opposite such large Irish regiments as the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. It is estimated that over 25,000 Irishmen fought in South Africa as members of the British forces. This participation of Irishmen on both sides of the conflict was registered in popular song from the period, in such lines as: “McGarry took O’Leary, O’Brien got McNamee, That’s how the English fought the Dutch at the Battle of Dundee!” These lines bring home to us the complex place that Ireland held in the British Empire a hundred years ago, the overlapping senses of identity that existed amongst Irish people at the time, the different aspirations, and even the divisions, that existed between them as to the question of Ireland’s future government. The ability to address and explore such complexity with authenticity, respect and serenity has been, I believe, one of the most positive features of the ongoing decade of commemorations. Another valuable dimension of these commemorations has been the readiness manifested by our citizens to go beyond the celebration of the iconic leaders of 1916, so as to reach out to the memory of so many men and women who, although their names are not registered in our national school books, played their part in the events of a hundred years ago. Today’s celebration is an important example of such a willingness to save from oblivion the local experience of the rebellion which unfolded on the streets of Dublin during Easter 1916, by telling the story of those Westport people whose lives were profoundly affected by the Rising. This afternoon we remember more particularly the men from the Westport area who were arrested and interned in the wake of the Easter Rising. Those men – local Irish Volunteers and members of the Westport Fianna Éireann – had been getting ready for a national
uprising in the lead up to Easter 1916, as had so many other men and women across Ireland. As a result of Eoin MacNeill’s famous countermanding order, the Westport Volunteers did not take up their arms on Easter Monday; yet, when they heard news of the Rising in Dublin, they decided to have a route march on Sunday, 30th April, 1916. As a consequence of that symbolic action, a total of 31 men were arrested over a period of 10 days, from the 2nd May to the 12th May. They were first sent to Castlebar Jail, then transferred to Dublin’s Richmond Barracks, and then deported by cattleship to Wandsworth detention centre in England, until, eventually, most of them were interned in Frongoch, a tiny village in North Wales.
“The human chain of familial and communal memories, of hopes and stories passed down and cherished, that connect us so strongly to the founding events of our state.” I am aware that Vincent Keane will, on behalf of the Historical Society, speak in more depth about those men in a few moments, therefore I shall content myself with saying a few words about the conditions endured by the internees of Frongoch detention camp – a significant chapter in the history of Ireland’s revolution which is sometimes overlooked. The Westport men were held without trial alongside about 1,800 other Irishmen in what had formerly been a distillery, turned into a makeshift detention centre during the First World War, first for German prisoners, and then for those suspected of seditious activity against Britain. The prisoners included men from all walks of life. As is revealed in the summary of the Castlebar prison records, which the Westport Historical Society has made available online, the Westport internees included carpenters, teachers, farmers, tailors, shop assistants (six of those being drapers’ assistants) as well as a butcher, a baker and a coach painter – in other words, the whole range of professions that formed Ireland’s social fabric at the turn of the last century. May I remark how those drawn from ‘the trades’, as they were called – who had been brought together by the legacy
of the indenture system, and who were excluded from inheriting property – were to become the active core in the War of Independence. There were also poets, artists, trade unionists and military strategists at Frongoch. Most able-bodied British men being away in the war, the camp was, in fact, largely run by the prisoners, who organised many classes there, so that Frongoch became known as Ollscoil na Réabhlóide – the University of the Revolution. The internees perfected their writing and reading skills; they learned crafts, languages – including Welsh –, as well as military organisation and strategy. The biographies compiled by James Kelly remind us that many of the 31 Westport men proceeded, after their liberation, to engage in years of guerilla warfare in the fight for Irish Independence. Here as everywhere else in Ireland, the Civil War then caused bonds of companionship and kinship to be torn up in the most tragic manner, as those Mayo men went on to take different sides on the Treaty issue. Today it is also important that we recall the hardship endured by the 31 Westport prisoners and their families. Frongoch’s stone buildings were cold, damp, and overrun with rats; indeed a bitter joke among the detainees was, reportedly, how close the place name was to the Irish word for rat, francach. The executions of the 1916 leaders, combined with the reports of the wives, mothers, sisters and friends of the prisoners, however, soon turned the tide of public sympathy in Ireland, with the effect that controversy rapidly spread over the degrading conditions in the camp, leading to questions in the British Parliament – and causing the Manchester Guardian to comment that: “The Irish have a notorious aptitude for making their grievances audible.” A handful of the prisoners were tried, but most were simply gradually released over the second half of the year 1916. The last and longest serving Westport internees were freed just before Christmas 1916. Many of those men suffered from ill-health throughout their lives as a result of the harsh treatment they had experienced during their time in jail, and it is documented that at least one of the 31 Westport prisoners died from the consequences of this imprisonment. Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom Cumann Staire Chathair na Mart a mholadh arís as ócáid an lae inniu a eagrú. Cuirfidh an phlaic atá á nochtadh againn tráthnóna i gcuimhne dúinn gur throid agus gur íobair muintir Chathair na Mart ionas go bhféadfaimis maireachtáil in
Éirinn atá saor agus neamhspleách. [To conclude, may I, once again, commend the Westport Historical Society and all those involved in organising today’s commemorations. The plaque we are unveiling this afternoon will stand as an important and enduring reminder of the struggle and sacrifices made by the people of Westport so that we, today, could live in a free and independent Ireland.] Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
President Michael D. Higgins as he arrives on the quayside for the 1916 Centenary Commemorations in Westport, Co. Mayo. An tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn agus é ag teacht cois cé le haghaidh Cuimhneacháin Céad Bliain 1916 i gCathair na Mart, Co. Mhaigh Eo. Photo: Michael Mc Laughlin www.michaelmclaughlinstudios.com
Moblising the Country – The Role of Music Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at the launch of Féile Chnoc na Gaoithe Cnoc na Gaoithe Comhaltas Cultural Centre, Tulla, Co. Clare Friday 13th May, 2016
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is the largest group involved in the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music. Speaking at the launch of Féile Chnoc na Gaoithe at the Comhaltas Cultural Centre in East Clare, the President paid tribute to the local members of Cumann na mBan and the Irish Volunteers who took part in the Rising, including Mick O’Dea, who lost his life during Easter Week, and Dan and Joe Canny, who were interned for their part in the action, and celebrated the central role played by culture in the revolutionary organisations.
Tá áthas orm a bheith anseo sa Tulach tráthnóna agus sibh ag cur tús le deireadh seachtaine ceoil, amhránaíochta agus damhsa. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl do Bhórd Ionad Chultúrtha Chomhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Cnoc na Gaoithe, as a gcuireadh caoin dom a bheith in bhur dteannta, agus libhse ar fad as an fíorchaoin fáilte sin.
Is é Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann an grúpa is mó a bhfuil baint acu i gcaomhnú agus cur chun cinn cheol traidisiúnta na hÉireann. Ag labhairt dó ag seoladh Fhéile Chnoc na Gaoithe ag Ionad Cultúir an Chomhaltais in Oirthear an Chláir, léirigh an tUachtarán ómós do chomhaltaí áitiúla Chumann na mBan agus Óglaigh na hÉireann a ghlac páirt san Éirí Amach, ina measc Mick O’Dea, a maraíodh i rith Sheachtain na Cásca, agus Dan agus Joe Canny, a cuireadh chun príosúin i ngeall ar an bpáirt a ghlac siad sa chomhrac, agus rinne sé ceiliúradh ar an ról lárnach a ghlac an cultúr sna heagraíochtaí réabhlóideacha.
Clare is also, of course, renowned around the world for its rich musical heritage, a heritage claimed proudly by today’s citizens and greatly evident in the many annual festivals which are held here to pay homage to, and to keep alive, our great traditional music in all its forms and in all its expressions. They are events that attract visitors from across the globe, who come here to share and experience all that is best about our culture and heritage.
[I am delighted to be here this evening in Tulla as you commence this special weekend of music, song and dance. I would like to thank the Board of Cnoc na Gaoithe, Comhaltas Ceóteóirí Éireann Centre for inviting me to join you, and all of you for that generous welcome.] Clare is a county to which I have a strong connection and it is always a special feeling to be home.
This year, Ennis has been selected to host the 2016 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, one of the greatest cultural festivals in the world. That is a fitting tribute to a county which can claim so many renowned composers and performers of traditional music including, for instance, Martin Hayes, the Russell Brothers and of course Willie Clancy.
This year’s Fleadh Cheoil has, of course, a special significance as we engage in a year of important commemoration. It is a year when we have been reflecting on the founding moment of our State. Such reflections have made us increasingly conscious of our rich and complex history. It has reminded us of the responsibility we hold to care for the things that were handed down to us by the generations who preceded us, including our artistic heritage and our beautiful Irish language – so as to be better able to imagine alternative futures. I know that an important part of this weekend will be the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the men and women from this area who played their own important role in the Easter Rising of 1916, including members of Cumann na mBan and three local volunteers: Mick O’Dea who was shot while on sentry duty during Easter Week in Dublin, and Dan and Joe Canny who were arrested and interned for their active service in the Easter Rising.
the Proclamation which offers us a generous social and political vision that can still inspire us today. Indeed, I was delighted to learn that this evening a copy of the Proclamation and a specially commissioned medallion in honour of its seven signatories has been presented to seven organisations and individuals who have made their own important contribution to the Tulla and East Clare area during the one hundred years that have passed since the Easter Rising. The range of areas for which the recipients are being honoured, including education, music, scholarship and, of course, participation in the Rising reminds us of the many ways in which we can actively engage in our society and our communities, leaving our own unique imprint on the landscape for generations to come. Tulla and East Clare can certainly be proud of the great legacy of: •
• In recent weeks I have witnessed much evidence of the great pride and interest the centenary commemorations of the Easter Rising have sparked in local communities all across Ireland. Everywhere, there has been evidence of a renewed and very positive readiness to engage with that seismic chapter of our shared history, and to discover and celebrate brave and courageous local citizens who participated in Ireland’s struggle for independence from British rule. Here in Tulla you are justly proud of your strong link to the Rising through Mick O’Dea and the Canny brothers. You can also be very proud of the many other citizens of Co. Clare who played their role in that seismic moment of our shared past. It is right that in 2016 we remember also the many groups of Irish Volunteers mobilised in villages across the county on Easter Monday 1916 and indeed those who went on to participate in Ireland’s War of Independence, which in Co. Clare included my uncles and aunts and in Co. Cork my father and my mother and her family. It is apt, this weekend, that you celebrate both the local dimension of 1916, and also the musical heritage which is so deeply embedded into the cultural life of Co. Clare. Culture was, after all, a central element in the Rising and a great inspiration for many of those who took part. Integral to that period of great political ferment and upheaval was an exciting and innovative revival of interest in the literature, music and language of Ireland as a generation of Irish men and women sought to simultaneously retrieve their heritage and fashion an alternative Ireland. Their dream of creating something new and radical in Ireland, continuous with a distinct Irish culture and history, culminated in the idealism of
The Sisters of Mercy who have made such a profound contribution to education and social development in East Clare ; The Tulla Pipe Band who, for 80 years, have played a central role in cultural, sporting and historic events held in this area; The Tulla Céili Band who, for 70 years, have shared our traditional Irish music and dance with audiences around the world; Edward McLysaght whose impact on the cultural, social and educational dimensions of East Clare is both invaluable and incalculable; Dr Tomás MacConmara who has gifted us with an exceptional collection of the oral history and folklore of Co. Clare; and, of course, Mick O’Dea and Dan and Joe Canny of whom I have already spoken.
Le linn na bliana móra comóraidh seo, tá sé tabhachtach nach ndéanfaimid dearmad ar chrógacht ná ar idéalachas na ndaoine a throid ar son na cúise i 1916. Tig linn spreagadh a fháil uathu agus muid ag úsáid ar dtallanna agus ár mbuanna ar son ár bpobal. Let us, during this important centenary year, resolve to never lose sight of the bravery and, above all else, the idealism of those who fought so intrepidly for a free and independent Republic. Let us draw inspiration from their lives when we consider how we can give of our talents and our abilities for the benefit of our community. In conclusion may I say, once again, how pleased I am to share with you this special weekend of celebration and remembrance. I wish you every success as a community with a rich and shared history and heritage.
St Patrick’s Pipe Band, celebrating their 80th anniversary, welcome President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina to Tulla, Co. Clare.
Cuireann Banna Píob Naomh Pádraig, ag céiliúradh 80 bliain ó bunaíodh iad, fáilte roimh an Uachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn agus a bhean Sabina chuig An Tulach, Co. an Chláir.
Photo: Natasha Barton Photography facebook.com/NatashaBartonPhotography
President Michael D. Higgins is pictured with Cloverhill Prison Teachers, Vonne Tobin and Mark Kelly.
Sa phictiúr tá an tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn le Vonne Tobin agus Mark Kelly, Múinteoirí i bPríosún Chnoc na Seimre.
Photo: Irish Prison Service www.irishprisons.ie
Imagining the Revolution Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at the opening of the Project 16: Studying the Rising exhibition Mountjoy Prison, Dublin Thursday 2nd June, 2016
Prisons have long been important and evocative sites in Ireland. Many of the leaders of the struggle against British rule were imprisoned at one time or another. After the Rising, a number of women who participated were interned in the Female Convict Prison, which is now known as Mountjoy West. It was there that the President spoke to open an exhibition of art and literature prepared by inmates of the State’s fourteen prisons, an initiative of the Irish Prison Service. Ba shuíomhanna tábhachtacha agus allabhracha príosúin le fada an lá in Éirinn. Cuireadh go leor de cheannairí na streachailte in aghaidh riail na Breataine chun príosúin ó thráth go chéile. I ndiaidh an Éirí Amach, cuireadh roinnt ban a ghlac páirt chun príosúin i bPríosún na nDaoránach Mná, ar a dtugtar anois Muinseo Thiar. Ba ansin a labhair an tUachtarán ar thaispeántas ealaíne agus litríochta a d’ullmhaigh príosúnaigh ceithre phríosún déag an Stáit, ar thionscnamh é de chuid Sheirbhís Phríosúin na hÉireann.
Is mór an pléisiúir dom a bheith anseo libh i bPríosún Mhuinseo. Tá áthas orm an deis seo a bheith agam na cruthúcháin áille seo atá déanta ag cimí ónar ceithre phriosún déag (14) le Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916 a chomóradh. It is my great pleasure to be here with you all. May I thank Michael Donnellan, Director General of the Irish Prison Service, for inviting me to open this exhibition. May I also thank Brian Murphy, Governor of Mountjoy Campus, for hosting us today, as well as Veronica Hoen, for so diligently curating the exhibition. I am delighted to have this opportunity to view the beautiful creations produced by the inmates from all of our 14 prisons as a means to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916. Most of all, I am delighted that many of the creators of the works on display are here today. You can justifiably be proud of those fine pieces you have created, both individually and as part of collaborative projects. I am told that the men and women from all the prisons in Ireland have responded so enthusiastically to this opportunity to create work inspired by the Rising that the exhibition we are opening today displays but a small selection of the work produced over the last few months. This enthusiastic response is a great statement in itself of the interest of those in our prisons in Irish history and culture – and also it is a striking and generous testimony to the extraordinary commitment of the prison teaching staff. In this year of commemoration, it is important that all of our citizens are afforded the opportunity to take part in our national celebrations of Ireland’s revolutionary period.
Throughout the various commemorative events in which I have participated over recent months, I have highlighted the inspiration we can draw from the lives and values of the men and women of 1916, and the way in which their idealism can and should spur us all, in our own time, to create an inclusive and emancipatory republic. Everyone has a role to play in this task, and this is why it was so important to me to be here today as you bring forward your own contributions to our national discussion on 1916. Our venue this afternoon is connected to the Easter Rising of 1916 in a very special way. It was here, in what was then the Female Convict Prison, now Mountjoy West, that many of the women involved in the Rebellion were held. This chapel is home to the beautiful Harry Clarke stained glass window which was commissioned shortly before her death by Mary Ellen ‘Nell’ Humphreys, sister of The O’Rahilly. We are indebted to Margaret Ryan, of the Education Centre at the Training Unit here in Mountjoy, for the research that she has carried out into the life of Nell Humphreys, a woman who is so frequently neglected if not omitted in accounts of the struggle for Irish independence. Originally from Kerry, Nell was living a quiet life in a wealthy residential area of Dublin when she was taken to Kilmainham Gaol on 9th May 1916, and then transferred to this prison alongside eleven other women. Their offence, as listed in the prison committal register, was “rebellion”. Nell of course had played no combatant role in the Rising – although her providing Pearse with medals of the Mother of Perpetual Succour to give out to his men, together with prayer leaflets called ‘the Volunteers’ Shield’, was, perhaps, not entirely innocuous, but hardly deserved to be regarded as seditious! Nell, who was radicalised by the death of her brother, the imprisonment of her son, and her own experience in prison, subsequently engaged in the struggle for Irish independence, and thus she found herself once again in Mountjoy and Kilmainham prisons during the Civil War, during which time she called her fellow inmates to nightly prayer vigils by banging on an enamel plate with a spoon. The Mother of Perpetual Succour became an icon for the women of Cumann na mBan inside Mountjoy prison, many of whom, including Nell, went on hunger strike during their imprisonment. In March 1939, Nell placed an order with the Harry Clarke Stained Glass Studios for a triptych window featuring the Mother of Perpetual Succour, a magnificent work of art which continues to inspire, as the project by Jason, Serge and
Martin shows. Imprisonment is, of course, an experience that so many, if not all, of the leading figures in the struggle for Ireland’s freedom endured. Most of the men and women we remember throughout this centenary year did serve some time in prison, whether here in Ireland or in Britain. Like Nell, many of those who were imprisoned following the Easter Rising, were imprisoned again during the War of Independence, and then again during the Civil War.
“So many men and women, while imprisoned, turned to art to express the impact of prison on them and their families.” Recovering the circumstances of the incarcerations during the Civil War, their harshness and bitter vengefulness at times, will test our ethical remembering in a far more challenging way than 1916. It is interesting to note that there are, too, so many examples of situations when men and women, while imprisoned, turned to art to express the impact of prison on them and their families. Grace Gifford, for example, who married Joseph Plunkett in the chapel at Kilmainham Gaol hours before his execution on the 3rd May 1916, was a famous illustrator and cartoonist in her own right. Imprisoned for three months during the Civil War, Grace painted pictures on the walls of her cell at Kilmainham Gaol, including one of the Madonna and Child which has recently been restored and can be seen by all who visit Kilmainham today. During a recent visit to Westport, I had the occasion of recalling the experience of those Irish prisoners who were interned in Frongoch, a detention camp in North Wales, after the Easter Rising. This camp was, in fact, largely run by the prisoners, who organised many classes there, so that Frongoch became known as Ollscoil na Réabhlóide – the University of the Revolution. The internees perfected their writing and reading skills; they learned crafts and languages – including Welsh; and for many, this experience sharpened their awareness of Irish history and their determination to achieve Irish independence. These experiences from 100 years ago do have some
echoes with that which brings us together today. This afternoon we are admiring the work of men and women who, from their various prisons, have reflected upon the Easter Rising of 1916 and created art works that express their own interpretation of those founding moments of our State. While so doing, you have explored and mastered an impressive variety of techniques and styles: painting, sculpture, photography, video and audio, poetry, short story, song-writing, woodwork, pyrography, printing, collage, tapestry, mosaic, ceramics and stained glass. Please let me know if I forgot anything! But you have not just learned new skills; you have also acquired an abundance of new knowledge. Beyond what we see here today, I know that you have been engaged in a great volume of research into the Easter Rising, as attested, for example, by the book produced by the inmates of Portlaoise Prison, They Fell at Dawn.
registered in history books but who played their part in the struggle for Irish freedom; and others, who did not participate in the Rising, but whose lives were profoundly affected by it. This exhibition thus features a number of creations that remind us, for example, of some of the non-combatant victims of the Rebellion, or of the looters who were incarcerated alongside the rebels. The most important thing about all this impressive work, is that you, as students in prison education facilities, have made the positive decision to undertake challenging study, and to bring forward original and creative projects. You have produced work of substance and value – not just value to yourselves and the wider prison community, but to our society at large. As President of Ireland, I want to express my appreciation to you for producing such work and my admiration for the quality of what you have achieved.
I am also aware that workshops and lectures have been hosted within your various prisons, throwing light on different facets of the Rising – whether the poetry of 1916, the role of women in our national Revolution, the wider European context, or the transformations of Dublin over the last century.
To conclude, may I congratulate, once again, the Irish Prison Service and all its staff at all levels, the Prison Education Centres and Libraries, and all of you who have taken part so creatively in commemorating the events and people of 1916. I have no doubt that the work of the hand and mind that you achieved this year will forge in each and every one of you an enduring connection with the men and women of 1916.
Other lectures invited students to explore the meaning of the Rising, its significance for us nowadays and for the Ireland of the future. A modern day version of the Proclamation was read out by the inmates of the Midlands Prison; while many of you have reflected on the ideals and aspirations from a century ago that can still guide us today as we strive to build a better Ireland.
Tá súil agam go mbainfidh sibh inspioráid agus spreagadh as brionglóidí agus as misneach morálta lucht an Éirí Amach agus sibh ag obair libh chun athruithe dearfacha a dhéanamh in bhur saolta féin, i saolta bhur gclanna agus bhur bpobail.
The students of the Dóchas Centre, for example, identified the Rising as a milestone in the ongoing journey to gender equality. They crafted a beautiful calendar on the contribution of the 1916 women, which was launched by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, on International Women’s Day. The leaders of the Rising, of course, continue to fascinate, and Project 16 provided you with ample opportunity to explore various aspects of their lives, personalities and ideas. For instance, I know that the students of Loughan House Open Centre visited the birthplace of Seán Mac Diarmada, near Kiltyclogher, Co. Leitrim, while Brian Crowley, curator of the Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham gave a fascinating talk in the Training Unit here about ten objects that illuminate Patrick Pearse’s complex character and historical imagination.
I do not underestimate how difficult the time you spend in prison can sometimes be, or the pain that isolation and separation from your loved ones can bring, the inevitable loss of discretion in terms of time and space that it involves. Yet I very much hope that this reflection on 1916, the conversations and debates you have had, including those with guest artists and speakers, will remain with you as an important and positive experience. I hope that all of you will continue to take a deep interest in our Irish history. And I hope that you will draw inspiration from the generous dreams and the moral courage of the rebels of 1916 as you work, in your own time, to foster positive transformation in your lives, in your families, and in your communities. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Many of you also chose to commemorate all those men, women and children whose names are not sufficiently
Fergal Black, Veronica Hoen, President Michael D. Higgins and Michael Donnellan view one of the exhibits of Project 16: Studying the Rising at Mountjoy Prison, Dublin.
Féachann Fergal Black, Veronica Hoen, an tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn agus Michael Donnellan ar cheann de thaispeántáin Project 16: Studying the Rising ag Príosún Mhuinseo, Baile Átha Cliath.
Photo: Irish Prison Service www.irishprisons.ie
President Michael D. Higgins and Sabina Higgins are warmly greeted by Corrymeela Community Member Rachel Gibbs and her children Aoife and Finn and also Colin Craig, Executive Director of Corrymeela.
Cuireann Ball de Chomhphobal Corrymeela, Rachel Gibbs, agus a páistí Aoife agus Finn, agus Colin Craig, Stiúrthóir Feidhmiúcháin Corrymeela, fáilte ó chroí roimh an Uachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn agus Sabina Uí hUiginn.
Photo: Rosie De Filippo www.corrymeela.org
Living Well Together Beyond 2016 Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at a Conference entitled Living Well Together Beyond 2016 Corrymeela Community, Co. Antrim Saturday 4th June, 2016
A Dhaoine Uaisle,
The Centenary Commemorations constituted the largest act of ‘public remembering’ carried out by the State and its citizens since 1966. During a speech to the Corrymeela Community, a group dedicated to peace and reconciliation between the communities of Northern Ireland, the President expanded on the theme of ‘ethical remembering’, a project of rejecting amnesia, embracing the experience of the ‘other’, of those previously left out in competing historical narratives, and of subjecting those same narratives to critical evaluation in a spirit of dialogue and openness. B’ionann an Comóradh Céad Bliain agus an ‘cuimhneamh poiblí’ ba mhó ar thug an Stát agus a chuid saoránach faoi ón mbliain 1966 ar aghaidh. I rith óráid a rinneadh le Pobal Corrymeela, grúpa atá tiomnaithe don tsíocháin agus athmhuintearas idir pobail Thuaisceart Éireann, rinne an tUachtarán plé ní b’fhairsinge ar an téama ‘cuimhneamh eiticiúil’, tionscadal ina ndearnadh díchuimhne a dhiúltú, a d’fháiltigh an t-eispéireas ‘eile’, an t-eispéireas a bhí acu siúd a fágadh ar lár roimhe seo i measc scéalta iomaíocha stairiúla, agus ar mheastóireacht chriticiúil a dhéanamh ar na scéalta céanna siúd le meanma idirphlé agus oscailteachta.
A Cháirde Gael, Is mór an pléisiúir dom a bheith in bhur dteannta san áit álainn seo, Ionad Corrymeela i mBaile an Chaistil, suíomh tábhachtach athmhuintearais agus cneasaithe do mhuintir an oileáin seo. When invited to perform an act of public remembering, and to do so in relation to what are assumed to be foundational, if contested, narratives, a protective humility surely suggests that one should try to anticipate how such act of commemoration will be remembered in the future, what motivations will be construed as informing our words. One must care but not allow care to become inhibition. It is important to appreciate, not just what the commemoration of a particular event indicates, but also how it will fit with competing narratives – how it will fall on the ears of the other. Commemoration, then, requires a critical engagement with its consequences; it demands from us, elected representatives and community activists alike, a thorough reflection as to what is appropriate for even a temporary excursion into collective memory. This year in Ireland we are commemorating the centenary of two deeply interrelated episodes in Irish history: two events which unfolded in the same wider context of a European and global war; but also two events that are connected in profound and complex ways to a whole sequence of other developments in the previous and subsequent decades. We are challenged to forge a public discourse that can accommodate both the
Easter Rising of 1916, a founding moment in the Irish Republic’s journey to Independence, and the Battle of the Somme, a terrible loss of lives which has acquired such symbolic centrality for the Unionist tradition on our island. How, then, should we set about publicly remembering those seminal events that stirred Ireland a hundred years ago? A difficulty lies surely in the setting of boundaries, not just to interpretation, but to the range of the regress in memory itself. How far back does one go? Does one decide on periods of change in terms of their impact on population? Is one free to submit the rationalisations of conquest, occupation, defeat and dispossession to critique? If all of this involves, in contemporary times, a revision of foundational myths and beliefs of the past in the name of peace and hope in the present, can it not – while including the positive values of freedom, equality and participation – also introduce an analysis of those impulses that are created by conflict? Can our revisions move easily and equally between the aspirations of communities seeking to get past the memory of old wounds so as to live in the present, not lose the future, and, on the other hand, the demands of those who read or cherish the legacy of Empire differently, and who may not agree, for example, that the First World War, with its catastrophic destruction of young lives, was anything other than heroic? My view is that commemoration must involve more than a balancing act. It is unavoidably a transaction requiring admission of new facts, new analyses, the creation of different suggestions, and, even more importantly, the identification of unexplored possibilities and a readiness to build a future of solidarity and cohesion. What we must seek to achieve, I suggest, is a transparency of purpose, an honesty of endeavour in keeping open the possibility of plural interpretations of the past and of future revision of accepted truths, based, not just on new historical findings, but on an innovative ethical openness to differences of perspectives, a generosity and hospitality towards others. Indeed such generosity, a willingness to be surprised, confronted, even destabilised, in the assumptions of those foundational myths we all need as source – that is, I believe, what is required if the act of remembering is to enable us to make a fist of living together in the present. I know that all of you here, by the sheer fact of your presence in this emblematic site of reconciliation and trust between communities, are open to such a generous approach to remembering. I am mindful that we come together, here in Corrymeela, 50 years after that foundational conference of 1966, when the then
Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Terence O’Neill, made his passionate plea for dialogue across political and denominational barriers in Ireland. As he spoke, a protest was held outside by those who rejected any idea of political cooperation between groups within Northern Ireland, let alone between our Southern and Northern Irish institutions. We were then entering very painful times for the people of this island. Our gathering today takes place in very different circumstances. We have come through the dark period of what has been called by some ‘The Troubles’, and as we engage in dialogue this evening, I am confident that all of us feel equally optimistic, and even, I would suggest, emboldened, in the knowledge that there is a great deal to be gained in sharing a process of commemoration, including of some of the most divisive episodes in Ireland’s history. May I, then, thank John Hunter, Chair of Corrymeela Council, and John Neill, of the Irish Association, for inviting me to address this conference. I am delighted to be afforded this opportunity to reflect with you all, in Northern Ireland, on what our commemoration of those defining events from a hundred years ago has done, can do, may stir, may heal, and may envision as hope or grief for this generation and those to come. In a number of my past speeches on the subject of remembering, I have, as some of you will know, made a case for it being an activity that must be lodged within an ethical space. There exists a rich literature to support such an approach, and one on which I have often drawn. I am indebted, in particular, to Paul Ricoeur and Hannah Arendt, two great thinkers who are more than helpful as to moral intention, as to method, and as to the need to anticipate the inevitable moral consequences of the act of remembering. A central dimension of what I call “ethical remembering” – and one which, I know, I share with so many of you here – has been a refusal of any kind of conscious or unconscious amnesia. Thus in the speeches I delivered on this theme at Queens University, and, last year, at Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, I insisted that to reject important, if painful, events of the past, to deny those affected by them recognition of their losses and memories would be counterproductive, and may even be amoral. Rather than any false denial of the past, then, what can be achieved through ethical remembering is, I would suggest, a certain disposition, a way of relating to the past that does not serve to form exclusive judgements or reinforce grievances, but, rather, to embrace the stories, the memories and the pains of the other. Drawing from the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, I have
described this particular disposition as “narrative hospitality”, that is, an openness to the perspectives of the other carved out at the very heart of public commemorative discourse.
“It is important to appreciate, not just what the commemoration of a particular event indicates, but also how it will fit with competing narratives.” This approach has the merit, I believe, of guarding us from glossing over differences or from jumping too quickly – if for the most generous of reasons – from the conflictual to the consensual, in our eagerness to reconcile diverging opinions and aspirations. Indeed were we to dissolve differences too hastily, the long and troubled history of Northern Ireland would swiftly remind us that there is a hard core to collective feelings of belonging, one that does not easily lend itself to suspension or disbandment, and that requires transaction. The concept of narrative hospitality therefore opens up, I believe, a most productive avenue for dealing with the past in that it encourages all of us to lay down our own stories of past events while at the same time listening with respect to other versions of those same events. Of course, it is likely that neither side will come out unaffected from such process, and that the prism of the other will soon begin to imprint a new shape on our old stories, adding to their complexity and texture, luring us to novel, yet unexplored, places, and inviting in intriguing characters, people we had never encountered before. Perhaps, most tantalisingly, can we learn through commemoration to understand ourselves better – to engage critically with our own assumptions and prejudices. We are blessed, I believe, to be able to go back to the events of a hundred years ago with the help of many very fine historians, who have done so much to enrich our comprehension of both the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme. There is now a far more extensive scholarship on those two events than was available 50 years ago. This recent scholarship has both widened
the lens of our understanding to include the broader political and intellectual context in which those two events unfolded, and it has also refined our grasp of the complexity and texture of the period, by drawing attention to the detail of individual experiences, including those of the marginalised. As to the first dimension, the importance of context – All of us who engage in commemorative activity should endeavour to locate the shared ideals of the men and women of a hundred years ago, as well as their diverging aspirations for Ireland’s future, within their wider historical circumstances. Without such a length and breadth of perspective, we cannot, I contend, even begin to understand the full impact and legacy of those events on our recent past and indeed on our present circumstances. An appreciation of the complex and entangled strands of our past can help us cope more effectively with the intricacies of our current situation. It is, therefore, as equally vital to hold together the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, the formation of the Ulster Volunteers and that of the Irish Volunteers, the Larne gunrunning and the Howth gunrunning, as it is to place all those events within the wider European and international context of a formidable rift between the world’s mightiest Empires. Indeed Empire was a central theme of the time – the War in Europe was a clash between Empires and their ambitions in Europe and in the colonies; and the Rising, inspired by older French and American ideas of Republic, was for many of the participants a strike, not just against the British Empire, but against Empire itself. Those were days of heavily militaristic atmosphere, when reference to the virility of the nations at war and to ideas of blood sacrifice and martyrdom were prevalent, not just across the British Empire, but across Europe, and contributed in no small measure to the disastrous descent into war which would claim so many lives. In Ireland, it was a time when various groups were invoking what they saw as previous, military, incarnations of their present struggle – the insurrection of 1798 for the Irish Republican Brotherhood; the Battle of the Boyne for Unionists. An awareness of this wider context is important also in that it enables us to read the past through the prism of the beliefs, the dreams, the hopes and the fears of the men and women of the past, and thereby to better do justice to their motivations. We must appreciate the fact that those people acted in their own time, as we do in ours, uncertain of how events might unfold or be judged in the future, but motivated by a particular sense of what for them was right.
From the prism of separatist nationalists in the Ireland of the early 20th century, there was an urgency to strike before the end of the War, lest, it was imagined, the prospect of realising independence would vanish again for a generation. For loyalists, the extreme demands of the war effort and the great losses suffered in Europe and the Middle East became increasingly linked with the political cause of Unionism, and only heightened their sense of betrayal when the Rising erupted in Dublin. Nor should we ever forget that Dublin City was both the site of the Rising and the place of origin of so many Irish who died at the Somme. Dublin was a unique city, located near the very heart of the seat of empire, but with tenements whose living conditions were described by contemporary medical and administrative opinion as being comparable to, or worse than, those of Calcutta. Social historians write of a city where 26,000 families lived in 5,000 tenements and where 1,500 of those 5,000 tenements were classified by authorities as “unfit for human habitation”; a city where 5,000 families lived in but two rooms and 20,000 families in only one room. Those were the living conditions from which soldiers were recruited for the First World War, and they were the conditions, too, that produced so many who took part in the Lockout of 1913 and then joined the Irish Citizen Army. Attention to context also enables us, finally and importantly, to better grasp and render the complicated feelings of identity of so many of the men and women of our past. We now know that unionism, nationalism, republicanism and loyalism were all complex and variegated ideologies containing many different strains and with overlapping histories and origins. Political and cultural preferences have never been interchangeable with religion, as some would have it today. It is important to remember, for example, how, historically, the Republican tradition on this island included and cut across various strands of Protestant identity, and that many of the United Irishmen of 1798 were in fact Presbyterian Dissenters. Such mixed composition also underpinned the cultural movement and the related efforts to preserve and revive the Irish language and our island’s rich musical tradition. What happened to us all in the intervening decades for such important aspects of the intertwined history of the island to have been excised from the consciousness of so many of our citizens? How are we to remember those from the same classroom who fought on different sides in the Boer War? Then too, why were the tens of
thousands of men from the South of this island who took part in the First World War marginalised for so long in the official narratives of our Republic? They numbered approximately 250,000, of which maybe as many as 35,000 never came home. In this regard at least, we can say that much has been done to right that historical omission, and we must all pay tribute to the powerful symbolism of particular acts of public commemoration that have taken place in recent years. Our artists, poets and writers have also played a great part in that process. Thanks to the creative work of such as Frank McGuiness or Sebastian Barry, we are invited to depart from simplistic explanations of identity and belonging and to seek the core humanity of those who shared the terrible experience of war. We must all welcome, too, the great awakening of popular interest across the island in the terrible experiences of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers during the First World War. Throughout this centenary year, so many of our citizens have also expressed great enthusiasm in recovering, indeed discovering, the multiple loyalties of so many men and women from the period, such as Bulmer Hobson, Roger Casement or Francis Ledwidge, the Irish nationalist and poet. The case of the latter, Francis Ledwidge, is particularly relevant to our theme today, capturing as it does the profound entanglement between the Somme and the Rising. The son of a poor labourer, Francis Ledwidge enlisted with the British Army at the beginning of the War, hoping, like many others, that Ireland’s loyal support to the British war effort would advance the cause of Irish independence. He learned of the execution of the leaders of the Easter Rising while he was recovering from his wounds in Manchester, a year before he was killed alongside five comrades, in a shell hole in Flanders. Ledwidge wrote one of his bestknown poems in honour of his close friend Thomas MacDonagh, alluding in it to MacDonagh’s famous translation of the 18th century Irish poem by Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna, An Bonnán Buí – The Yellow Bittern: He shall not hear the bittern cry In the wild sky, where he is lain, Nor voices of the sweeter birds, Above the wailing of the rain. A further, very important gain of recent scholarly work on both the First World War and the Easter Rising has been to encourage us to take advantage, not only of the changes accorded by the passage of time, but, in a most welcome sense, to take account of the view ‘from below’.
In relation to the Rising, much has been learned, for example, from the oral accounts of the time as recorded in our public archives. One cannot but be struck, too, by the emergence of a fine set of critical studies which have explored the specificity of female militancy as sourced and exemplified, for example, by the legacy of such as Charles Stewart Parnell’s sisters through The Ladies Land League, and which manifested itself in the following century through the women’s involvement in military action, and not simply in a nursing or supportive role. The story of the women and the Rising, much of it told in the women’s own words – through interviews, diaries and memoirs – do not just inform us on the women who played a leadership role in the insurrection, but on their friends, partners, dependents, relatives and survivors. In relation to the First World War, the recovering of the voices from below has shifted the focus from the heroic to the intimacies, the injuries endured, the generosity, of those who experienced life in the trenches. Today we have a fuller sense of the unspeakable terror faced by the young men who found themselves catapulted into an industrial war of an unprecedented scale and nature. Those who were at Gallipoli and the Somme – unionists and nationalists – were there for different and often contrasting reasons, but their embodied experiences were shared. Shared too was the grief of the families who lost their sons. In my preparations for the First World War commemorative ceremonies I have attended in Belgium, in Turkey and in Dublin, I have drawn on the voices and experience of individual soldiers such as reflected in their letters, diaries, memoirs and, of course, in the literature and poetry they have bequeathed to us. It is worth noting that the First World War has given rise to both biographical and literary work that powerfully challenges the dangerous link between patriotic duty and heroic death. Poets such as Robert Graves or Blaise Cendrars, for example, have so memorably refuted the supposed ability of the human spirit to overlook gruesome everyday reality and bodily suffering. Such voices are, I would suggest, the best possible antidote against any heroic, totalising narrative. Their deep humanity continues to speak to us and to our present circumstances, echoing through time and space, and resonating, for example, in Michael Longley’s magnificent lines on forgiveness in Ceasefire, a poem I have often quoted. For those who read them, the personal narratives of the soldiers are not only extremely moving, but they have
a unifying effect too. What we learn from those diaries, letters or memoirs is that, in the intimacy of trenches, under terrible bombardment, incredible expressions of human courage, manifestations of care and compassion far beyond the ordinary, were delivered on a daily basis. Ethical remembering calls on us, therefore, to reach out beyond the political framing of events, to the humanity that was at once brutalised and magnified in the actions that took place on the battlefields of the Somme 100 years ago. I very much look forward, as President of Ireland, to honouring the memory of those who fell at the Somme when I travel to France this July 1st. Doing so, it is not some abstract idea of sacrifice that I will be invoking, but these men’s lives in their families and communities, the special circumstances of their lives together in the conditions of war, and also of the immense human potential that was lost in that war – those futures that were taken from them. Indeed a concern with the future – the future that could have happened; and the future that is yet to take place – is at the heart of the commemorative process. With the distance of a century, surely we can find a new generosity towards the different strands of people’s historical and go forward in a new way, acknowledging that the past has happened but that the future remains alive with possibilities yet unimagined. As Marie Luise Knott wrote, in her study of forgiveness in the work of Hannah Arendt: “The ability to forgive and the ability to promise are the human characteristics that guarantee our freedom from being ruled by the past or the future. If forgiveness and forgetting did not exist, every past action would be irrevocable and the present would be dominated by the past. If promising did not exist, the entire future would be unforeseeable and the present would be dominated by all the fears and uncertainties of the future.” Forgiveness, in other words, is a sort of political covenant that robs a wrong of its future effectiveness without forgetting it. We cannot, however, define the potentialities of our living together in cohesion and harmony on this island only in terms of a mere emergence from the past. We need, as I have often argued, to go further and salvage the emancipatory promise encapsulated in so many of the defining events from our past. I think of Wolfe Tone, for example, of his rich thought and its sources. We need to recover those unfulfilled promises of the past that can still illuminate our present circumstances and guide our endeavours in the name of future
generations. As Paul Ricoeur put it: “The past is not only what is bygone – that which has taken place and can no longer be changed – it also lives in the memory thanks to arrows of futurity which have not been fired or whose trajectory has been interrupted. The unfulfilled future of the past forms perhaps the richest part of a tradition.” Marie Luise Knott summarises this by describing how “Ricoeur sees it as the historian’s task to salvage forgotten possibilities for action and to liberate the unkept promises of the past from the ruins of history.” In many of my speeches about the Easter Rising, I have highlighted how the context of the time was one of great imagination, as is evidenced, for example, in the cultural revival. It was a moment of conflict, yes, but also one of great creativity, idealism, cultural flourishing and intellectual vibrancy, and had been so for several decades before the Rising. The men and women of 1916 were dedicated to independence, but many among them were also passionately involved with the social experiments of their time and with movements, such as the cooperative or the labour movements, which were committed to the construction of new models of living together. They may have had mixed success, but their utopian ethic and their emancipatory ideals found many inspiring expressions, as did their strong sense of the public world and of service to one’s people and one’s community. Their efforts – which were inclusive and all-island in their foundation and project – can be a wellspring of inspiration for us today. Those men and women should be adduced and judged in terms of the ethical disposition they represented in their time. It would be little less than a travesty to judge them by comparison to any models of an authoritarian kind, as some, unfairly, have done.
Ladies and Gentlemen, A chairde go léir, we are here at Corrymeela, a site of healing, where the sensitive and quiet work of reconciliation, the building of trusting and respectful relationships between communities is carried out on a daily basis. The great work performed by our two hosts this evening – the Irish Association, whose members have done so much to transform cultural, social and economic relations on this island since its foundation in 1938; and Corrymeela, a spiritual community founded in the hopeful spirit of the mid-1960s – their work shows us that we cannot afford to view reconciliation and peace building solely in terms of narrow historical categories of Green and Orange, petrified in a process of endless reaction to one another’s latest move. Our island of Ireland is now home to people from many corners of the world – just as for so many centuries we Irish have moved to other parts of the world, renewing our senses of identity and belonging in contact with new peoples and new opportunities. The greatest collective task ahead of us is, therefore, I would suggest, that of crafting such a renewed and shared vision of citizenship as might guarantee the equal access of all to basic social goods and to their fair share of Ireland’s prosperity. Indeed when seeking to build a better future for the people of this island – when reflecting on how we can “live well together beyond 2016” – we must acknowledge, as the report we are launching this evening invites us to do, that the greatest suffering – in all parts of the island – is caused by the denial of opportunity to some, based, not on religious of political distinction, but on the social exclusion, vulnerability and inequality which characterise the lives of too many citizens in our cities and in our towns.
of yesterday, but neither can we hope to build new communities of prosperity and happiness for all of our people unless we seize resolutely on the realities and possibilities of today and tomorrow, and unite efforts in tackling the great challenges of our times, challenges without borders, including climate change, sustainable development, global poverty, fair trade, the consequences of conflict and extremism, and the obligation – or rather the opportunity – to act as conscious, global citizens by offering hospitality to that current suffering other, to the refugees and the displaced. May our united endeavours at living well together in this new century strengthen our hope in the unrealised possibilities of being human, truly free, in celebratory, joyous co-existence, with and for others. And may we experience together the love, too, that peace makes possible. Go ndéanfaimid dianiarracht maireachtáil le chéile san aois nua seo, go dtiocfaimid le chéile chun ár bhféidearthachtaí nach bhfuil comhlíonta againn go fóil a bhaint amach, agus go mbeimís saor, sona agus sásta agus muid ag gabháíl ar bhóthar an saoil i dteannta a chéile. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
The challenge for this generation is to achieve prosperity and social cohesion within the frame of our global responsibilities towards sustainability and climate change. If I may conclude with a phrase in Irish: Tarraingíonn scéal scéal eile – One story leads to another. A simple phrase but one which captures the dense and intertwined nature of our history on this small island – the fact that no single story can ever be separated from the story of the neighbour, the putative ‘other’. Importantly, this phrase also suggests a further liberating possibility – the hope that our stories can lead us somewhere new. My hope is that we will, together, manage to find new life in an ethic of solidarity and social cohesion that goes beyond the necessity of healing one set of historical differences. We cannot build an Ireland of peace and justice without addressing the grievances
Portrait of Douglas Hyde, First President of Ireland (1860-1949), Poet and Scholar by John Butler Yeats (1839-1922).
Portráid de Dhubhghlas de hÍde, Céad Uachtarán na hÉireann (1860-1949), File agus Scoláire le John Butler Yeats (1839-1922)
Photo: National Gallery of Ireland www.nationalgallery.ie
Gaeilge sa Ghairdín Óráid an Uachtaráin Micheál D. Ó hUigínn ag Cóisir Ghaeilge sa Ghairdín Áras an Uachtaráin Dé hAoine 24 Meitheamh, 2016
A Theachtaí Dála,
Bhí baint chomh maith ag go leor díobh siúd bhí bainteach san Éirí Amach i ngluaiseachtaí chun an Ghaeilge a athbheochan, ar nós Chonradh na Gaeilge, cúigear den seachtar sínitheoirí ina measc. Sa litir dheiridh a scríobh sé sula bhfuair sé bás, spreag Seán Mac Diarmada dá ndeirfiúracha chun an Ghaeilge a mhúineadh dá leanaí. Thacaigh iad siúd fiú nach raibh bainteach go díreach i ngluaiseacht na teanga, ar nós James Connolly, le hathbheochan na teanga. Ag Cóisir Ghairdín a cuireadh ar siúl chun ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar an nGaeilge agus na saoránaigh agus grúpaí siúd a chuireann í chun cinn, labhair an tUachtarán ar ról a réamhtheachtaí, Dubhghlas de hÍde mar bhunaitheoir agus eagraí Chonradh na Gaeilge, faoi thábhacht na teanga ina measc siúd a throid san Éirí Amach, agus ar shuíomh na Gaeilge inár saol náisiúnta. Many of those involved in the Rising were also involved in movements to revive the Irish language, such as Conradh na Gaeilge, including five of the seven signatories. In the final letter he wrote before his death, Seán Mac Diarmada, urged his sisters to teach the Irish language to their children. Even those not directly involved in the language movement, such as James Connolly, were supportive of the revival of the language. At a Garden Party held to celebrate the Irish language and those citizens and groups who promote it, the President spoke of the role of his predecessor, Douglas Hyde as a founder and organiser of Conradh na Gaeilge, of the importance of the language to those who fought in the Rising, and of the place of the Irish language in our national life.
A Chomhairleoirí, Agus a Chairde Gael, Ar an gcéad dul síos, ar mo shon féin agus ar son Shaidhbhín, is mian liom fíorchaoin fáilte a fhearadh romhaibh ar fad chuig Áras an Uachtaráin tráthnóna. Tá áthas orm go raibh an oiread seo de phobal na Gaeilge in ann a bheith linn inniu don chóisir seo. Tá súil agam go bhfuil sibh ag baint taitnimh as an teach, as na gairdíní, as an mbeatha, as an siamsaíocht agus as an gcomhluadar. Is mór an pléisiúr dom an oiread seo daoine a fheiscint, bailithe le chéile ag céiliúradh ról ár dteanga i mbunú ár Stáit agus sa lá atá inniu ann. Agus tá sibh tagtha, ní hamháin ó cheann ceann na tíre ach ón iasacht chomh maith, le baill de chraobh Chonradh na Gaeilge Ghlas Chú, agus Chraobh na n-Aingeal i Los Angeles anseo linn. Tá fáilte romhaibh abhaile. Agus tá sibh tagtha le polaiteoirí, aisteoirí, riarathóirí, imreoirí spóirt, iriseoirí, múinteoirí, stát seirbhísigh, scoláirí agus ceoltóirí in bhur measc. Tá sibh bailithe ón earnáíl phríobháideach, an earnáil dheonach agus an státchoras. Tá roinnt agaibh tagtha ón nGaeltacht agus cuid eile agaibh ón nGalltacht. Tá cuid agaibh ar bheagán Gaeilge agus cuid eile líofa ar fad. Ach tá sibh ar fad mar an gcéanna sa mhéid is go bhfuil sibh báúil d’ár dteanga dhúchais agus go bhfuil sibh ar fad, in bhur slite difriúla, ag déanamh iarrachta ar son na teangan, chun í a chaomhnú agus a chothú agus chun an grá atá agaibh di a roinnt leis an bpobal mór.
Agus caithfimid cuimhniú nach bhfuil anseo inniú ach cuid bheag de phobal i bhfad níos leithne atá ag úsáid a gcuid Gaeilge lá i ndiaidh lae, agus trína ndea-shampla agus a gceannasaíocht, ag cinntiú go mbeidh an teanga slán agus tréan don ghlúin atá le teacht. Mar is eol daoibh, tá ceangal faoi leith idir an áit seo agus Dubhghlas de hÍde, ár gcéad Uachtarán agus laoch don teanga. Bhí sé mar dhuine de bhunaitheoirí Chonradh na Gaeilge agus mar Uachtarán ar an eagraíocht ó am a bunaithe go dtí an bhliain 1915. Níos luaithe inniú bhí roinnt searmanas againn chun An Craoibhín Aoibhinn a chomóradh. Labhróidh mé i mBéarla ar feadh tamaillín ar fáthanna a thuigfidh sibh ar ball. Before you arrived here today we had two short ceremonies to honour the memory of Douglas Hyde, President of Conradh na Gaeilge from its foundation until 1915, and, of course, the first President of Ireland. The first of these ceremonies was very special and was the result of a letter that I received from a Ms. Margery Godinho late last year. Ms. Godinho’s father Fred Dixon, was a well known Englishman who started working for the newly formed Meteorological Office in Dublin before the Second World War. He was a keen collector of coins and medals and he and his wife Beatrice would frequent house auctions, antique shops and jumble sales, both in Ireland and when on holiday in England. At some stage he came across and bought a collection of medals won by Douglas Hyde between 1880 and 1887 while he was studying at Trinity College. After Fred Dixon died in 1988, he left his medal and coin collection to his daughter, Margery, with the hope that she or his grandchildren might have an interest in them. As the children were very young at the time, the collection was put away for years. Recently, when all the family were at home, the many boxes were taken out and reexamined and the Douglas Hyde medals were noted to be of particular significance. Earlier today I was delighted to accept, on behalf of the State, the following five medals which have been donated by Margery Godinho and her family. • • • •
The George Plunkett Medal for Irish Writing, awarded to Douglas Hyde in 1880 The Gold Medal for Modern Literature, awarded in 1884 The Gold Medal for History awarded in 1886 The Silver Medal for Oratory awarded by the Dublin University Historical Society in the 1886/1887 academic year
The Gold Medal for Composition, also awarded by the Dublin University Historical Society in 1886 / 1887.
Margery and her family are with us today. As President of Ireland I would like to thank you most sincerely for your generosity and for your civic mindedness in making these much prized medals available for others to enjoy, in perpetuity, here at Áras an Uachtaráin. The medals are currently on display in the State Reception room in the house and I hope you all have an opportunity to see them before you leave. We also had a ceremony this morning unveiling a plaque on a building that we have named Seomra de hÍde or the Hyde Room and I dedicated a tree to Douglas Hyde in honour of his contribution to Ireland as An Craoibhín Aoibhinn and as the first Uachtarán na hÉireann.
“I rith na bliana comórtha seo, mar shampla, níl dabht ar bith agam ach go raibh na cláracha is fearr ar an Éirí Amach craolta trí mheán na Gaeilge.” I would also like to welcome most warmly members of the Sealy family, who are descendents of Douglas Hyde, and who are with us today. They also attended these ceremonies earlier. Go raibh maith agaibh as teacht. Douglas Hyde’s enthusiasm for the Irish language, and his sense of outrage at the attitude towards the language, and by extension to Irish culture and the Irish people, exhibited by Trinity College of that time, led ultimately to a very public parting of the ways between him and the College. While this undoubtedly soured his relationship with his Alma Mater, some amends were made when the College, having developed a new attitude to the Irish Language following independence, in 1933 conferred Douglas Hyde with an Honorary Doctor of Letters in recognition of his work in Conradh na Gaeilge and his contribution to Celtic Studies. In that spirit of reconciliation, I was delighted that Professor Damien McManus, Ceann Roinn na Gaeilge sa Choláiste, Professor Liam Dowling, Cathaoirleach, Coiste na Gaeilge, and Aenghus Dwane, the Irish Language Officer from Trinity College were able to be with us for the presentation earlier.
An smaoineamh a bhí agam maidir leis an gcóisir seo a reachtáil ná seans a thabhairt dúinn bhur n-iarrachtaí a aithint agus a chéiliúradh. Agus, dar ndóidh, taitneamh a bhaint as an siamasíocht íontach atá curtha ar fáil i dtimpeallacht ghalánta an Árais.
agam go bhfuil feachtais ar bun le hiar-bhunscoileanna Gaeilge a bhunú i bPort Laoise, i mBaile an Chollaigh, Corcaigh; i mBaile Átha Cliath 15, i gCill Dara Thuaidh; i gConamara; i Sligeach agus i dTuaisceart Chathair Chorcaí.
Bhí an rún agam féin i mbliana, agus muid ag déanamh comóraidh ar Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916, béim ar leith a leagadh ar an nGaeilge agus ar úsáid na Gaeilge, chun aitheantas a thabhairt don ról lárnach a bhí ag an teanga agus ag athbheochan na teangan i bhfís na réabhlóidithe céad bliain ó shin. Chomh maith leis sin, bhíos ag iarradh deis a thabhairt dúinn uile beagáinín machnaimh a dhéanamh ar an áit ina bhfuilimid leis an teanga, céad bliain i ndiaidh an Éirí Amach.
Tuigim go bhfuil fadhbanna fós acu siúd atá ag déanamh gach iarracht scoileanna a bhunú chun an éileamh seo a shásamh. Tá an cheist chéanna pléite agam leis an Taoiseach le déanaí, agus d’fhiosraigh mé an bhfuil slite chun na bacanna seo a bhaint ó iarrachtaí phobail éagsúla meánscolaíocht a chur ar fáil trí mheán na Gaeilge. Cé nach bhfuil ról agam féin i gcúrsaí polasaithe oideachais, déarfainn gur easnamh faoi leith é munar féidir leis an Stát oideachas a chur ar fáil trí theanga oifigiúil na tíre.
Mar chuid den chur chuige seo, bhí deis agam freastal ar roinnt mhaith ócáidí ina raibh an Ghaeilge mar chuid lárnach díobh. Labhraíos faoi ról na teangan agus athnuachain na teanga sa ghlún réabhlóideach agus fillfidh mé ar an ábhar sin ar ball. Bhí deis agam chomh maith machnamh a dhéanamh ar staid na teangan sa lá atá inniú ann agus na rudaí dearfacha agus diúltacha atá ag dul ina luí uirthi. I mí Bealtaine bhíomar ag céiliúradh le chéile saibhreas na cumarsáide trí mheán na Gaeilge ag Oíche Ghradaim Chumarsáide an Oireachtais i mBóthar na Trá. Tugann sé an-sásamh dom an ard-chaighdeán atá á bhaint amach ag TG4, Raidio na Gaeltachta, RTÉ, BBC agus na stáisiúin raidió eile ina gcraoltóireacht i nGaeilge. I rith na bliana comórtha seo, mar shampla, níl dabht ar bith agam ach go raibh na cláracha is fearr ar an Éirí Amach craolta trí mheán na Gaeilge. Bhí an-lá againn i mBaile Bhuirne agus i gCúl Aodha ag Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta cúpla seachtain ó shin, i dteannta le Aogán Uí Fearghaíl, Uachtarán an Chumainn Luthchleas Ghaeil agus Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh. Táidbeirt linn inniu agus cuirim fáilte rompu. Comórtas iontach a bhí ann agus do chuir sé gliondar i mo chroí an méid daoine óga a bhí ann ag baint taitnimh as an saol agus as a gcluichí dhúchais trí mheán na Gaeilge. Tugaim cuairt go minic ar ghaelscoileanna fud fad na tíre. Ní chuireann sé iontas ar bith orm go bhfuil borradh chomh mór sin tagtha ar líon na nGaelscoileanna nuair a fheiceann tú cé chomh h-éasca is a théann páistí óga i ngleic leis an teanga. Tuigimid uile na buntáistí a théann leis an il-teangachas agus tá méadú ollmhór tagtha ar líon na dtuismitheoir atá ag lorg bhua an dátheangachais, ar a laghad, dá bpáistí. Is léir go bhfuil éileamh anois ar bhreis meánscoileanna chun go mbeidh deis ag na daltaí bunscoile seo leanacht leo lena gcuid oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge, agus is ceart agus is cóir go mbeadh an deis sin acu. Tá a fhios
Níos luaithe sa bhliain labhraíos le coimisinéirí teanga ó thíortha éagsúla ag seiminéar a reachtáladh in Ollscoil Náisiúnta na hÉireann i nGaillimhe. Tá go leor le foghlaim againn ón gcur chuige atá i bhfeidhm i dtíortha eile chun a dteangacha a chaomhnú nó chun feabhas a chur ar sholáthar seirbhísí stáit. Tá sé ag cur as dom le blianta fada go bhuil easpa éigin inár Státchóras maidir le so-fheictheacht na Gaeilge ag na leibhéil is airde. Ó na ranna Rialtais éagsúla agus i measc ard-fheidhmeannaigh na n-údarás áitiúil agus eagrais Stáit is annamh a chloistear an Ghaeilge agus dar liom féin tá fadhb chultúrtha éigin ag cur srian ar an gcóras, agus ar oifigigh shinsearacha sa chóras, an cheannaireacht a mbeadh muid ag súil leis a thaispeáint, agus ar chóir dóibh a thaispeáint. Ní hé nach bhfuil buanna áirithe againn maidir leis an nGaeilge nach bhfuil ag roinnt teangacha eile. Úsáideann saineolaithe teanga slata tomhais éagsúla chun rath teanga a mheas, ina measc an tacaíocht stáit agus an tacaíocht phobail a thugtar di. Tá an t-ádh orainn anseo in Éirinn go bhfuil an dá chritéar seo le sonrú i gcás na Gaeilge. Sa Stát seo, ag eascairt óna stádas bunreachtúil mar theanga náisiúnta agus oifigiúil, tá cosaint tugtha don Ghaeilge san iliomad reachtaíochta a achtaíodh thar na mblianta, agus tá Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003, ach go háirithe, mar chrann taca láidir aici. Ach mar is eol dúinn, ní h-ionann an dlí agus an dea-thoil agus ceapaim go bhfuil ceisteanna dáiríre le chur maidir leis an easpa dea-thola i réimsí áraithe den státchóras. Don chuid eile den bhliain táim chun m’aird a choimead ar chursaí Gaeilge agus tuilleadh plé a dhéanamh ar na féidreachtaí agus na dúshláin atá romhainn maidir leis an teanga. Ag breathnú siar ar an gcéad bliain ón am a raibh
an ghlún réabhlóideach ag plé cúrsaí teanga, is léir go bhfuil roinnt mhaith bainte amach againn i rith na tréimhse sin. Níl a fhios agam an raibh “Garden Parties” ag an Lord Lieutenant Lord Wimborne le linn Samhradh 1916 ach gach seans go gcuireadh sé scanradh air dá gceapfadh sé, céad bliain níos déanaí, go mbeadh Uachtarán na hÉireann ag reachtáil coisire, i nGaeilge, ina gháirdín féin. I mbliana, thar bhliain ar bith eile, agus muid ag comóradh agus ag ceiliúradh céad bliain ó Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916, tá cúis mhórtais agaibh ar fad. Bhí athbheochan na Gaeilge ina príomhaidhm ag ceannairí an Éirí Amach. Bhí cúigear den seachtar a shínigh an Fhorógra gníomhach i gConradh na Gaeilge agus bhí cuid mhór den idéal a bhí acu d’Éirinn bunaithe ar fhís d’Éirinn neamhspleách a mbeadh a teanga labhartha agus scríofa féin aici, nithe a bheadh mar bhunchlocha dá cultúr. Smaoiním go háirithe ar Sheáin Mhic Dhiarmaide, agus a litir dheirigh a scríobh sé chug a dheirfiúracha agus a dheirthearacha ag impú orthu an Ghaeilge a mhúineadh dá bpáistí. “Tell them how I struck out for myself and counsel them to always practice truth, honesty, straightforwardness in all things and sobriety. If they do this and remember their country, they will be alright. Insist on their learning the language and history...” Is fiú an cheist a chur, má táimid le bheith macánta, an butún a bhí ann iarracht a dhéanamh an Béarla a dhíbirt ar fad agus an Ghaeilge a chur ina áit? An ndéarna an cur chuige sin níos mó dochair d’ár n-iarrachtaí Gaeilge a spreagadh go forleathan i sochaí a bhí go mór tugtha don Bhéarla? Agus is fiú go mór go gcuirfimis na ceisteanna seo orainn féin. Tá dúshlán romhainn anois daoine a mhealladh chuig an Gaeilge. Caithfimid ár sean-slite a cheistiú agus teacht ar shlite agus ar mhodhanna nua chun ár ngrá don teanga a scaipeadh agus an tuiscint atá againn faoina luach d’ár dtír agus d’ár sochaí a spreagadh go forleathan. Is fúinne an fhreagracht seo a ghlacadh, mar a ghlac an Craobhín agus a chomhleacaithe freagracht orthu féin ag deireadh an naoú aois déag. Fúinn atá sé fís an dátheangachais, nó an iltheangachais a fhíorú inar shaolta laethúla, mar atá sibhse ag déanamh i bhur slite éagsúla. Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, is mian liom treaslú libh agus buíochas ó chroí a ghabháil libh dá bharr. Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl dóibh siúd a chuidigh linn chun an chóisir
seo a reachtáil. Ó thaobh cúrsaí siamsaíochta de, mo bhuíochais mór leis an Tulla Pipe Band, le Cór Chúil Aodha agus Peadar Ó Riada, le Kíla, Seo Linn, David O’Connor a bhí ag seinm an phianó, Colm agus Ruairí Ó hArgáin agus Pádraig Óg Mac Aodhagáin a bhí ag seinm sna ngairdín. Bhí Tara Viscardi & Meadhbh O’Rourke ag seinm i ngáirdín na mbláth. Tá Dee Rogers mar an bhunchloch don seó ar fad agus gan é bheadh muid cailte. Mo bhuíochas leis. A special thank you to our John of God’s volunteers Emmalene Kennedy, Pat McLoughlin and Louise Crowley for all their help with the programmes. Also thank you to our Civil Defence colleagues for providing first aid services. Tá buíochas faoi leith ag dul chuig na Gardaí, an Airm agus Oifig na nOibreachta Poiblí as ucht na hoibre ar fad atá déanta acu chun an ócáid seo a eagrú. Ár mbuíochas chomh maith leis na daoine óga ó Ghaisce a bhí ag cuidiú linn inniú. Tá ár bhfoireann féin san Áras tar éis tabhairt faoi ranganna Gaeilge le cúpla mí anuas chun a bheith réidh don lá inniu. Molaim iad agus táim buíoch as an obair ar fad atá déanta acu, idir an bia ar fad a réiteach agus a bheith anseo chun fáilte a chur rómhaibh. Agus, ar deireadh, ba mhaith liom ár mbuíochais chroíúil a ghabháil libhse, as teacht inniu agus as an méid atá déanta, agus atá á dhéanamh agaibh ar son na teanga. Tá neart againn le bheith mortasach faoi, ó spreagadh na Gaeilge sa Cheathrú Gaeltachta i mBéal Feirste, go hoscailt an dara meánscoile ó thuaidh anuraidh; ó dhul chun cinn TG4 go fás ullmhór san éileamh i scolaíoch trí mheán na Gaeilge ar fud na tíre. Ó na mílte déagóir atá ag freastal ar choláistí samhraidh faoi láthair chuig an meon dearfach atá de shíor á léiriú ag an bpobal ginearálta i leith na teanga. Is cinnte go bhfuil dúshláin mhóra romhainn maidir leis an nGaeilge ach tá neart ábhar misnigh dúinn ina dteannta. Tá sé fíor-thabhachtach go leanfaidh sibh oraibh ag taispeánt ceannasaíochta i bhur saolta chun spreagadh a thabhairt dá chéile agus do dhaoine eile an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim agus í a úsáid. Bígí ar bhur suaimhneas agus bainigí taithneamh as an gcuid eile den tráthnóna linn, agus as an gceol iontach atá le teacht. Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.
Owen Dudley-Edwards, Honorary Fellow and President Michael D. Higgins.
Owen Dudley-Edwards, Comhalta Onรณrach agus an tUachtarรกn Micheรกl D. ร hUiginn.
Photo: Chris Bellew Fennell Photography www.fennell-photography.ie
James Connolly: Life and Legacies Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at a Symposium entitled ‘James Connolly: Life and Legacies’ University of Edinburgh, Scotland Wednesday 29th June, 2016
James Connolly – solider, historian, economist, worker, trade union leader, internationalist, feminist, socialist, revolutionary – was one of the most outstanding intellectuals and organisers of his generation, in Ireland and internationally. Unlike the other signatories of the Proclamation, Connolly, as the leader of the Irish Citizen Army, was wholeheartedly committed to a socialist vision of independent Ireland. Addressing a symposium on James Connolly in his place of birth, the President reflected on the life and legacy of a revolutionary who still provides a vision of the ‘unfulfilled future of the past’. Bhí James Connolly – saighdiúir, staraí, eacnamaí, oibrí, ceannaire ceardchumainn, idirnáisiúnaí, feimineach, sóisialaí, réabhlóidí – ar dhuine d’intleachtóirí agus eagraithe ab fhearr a linne, in Éirinn agus go hidirnáisiúnta. Murab ionann agus sínitheoirí eile an Fhorógra, bhí Connolly, mar cheannaire Arm Cathartha na hÉireann, go hiomlán tiomanta d’fhís shóisialach d’Éirinn neamhspleách. Ag labhairt dó ag siompóisiam faoi James Connolly ina áit bhreithe, rinne an tUachtarán machnamh ar shaol agus leagáid réabhlóidí a chothaíonn go fóill fís ‘todhchaí neamhchomhlíonta an ama atá imithe thart’.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Is mór an pléisiúir a bheith libh tráthnóna agus bhur bplé ar saol agus ar oidhreacht an sóisialach, an ghníomhach, an tírghráthóir agus dár ndoigh mac chathair Dhún Éideann, Séamas Ó Conghaile. [It is my great pleasure to join you this afternoon as you are drawing to a close your discussions on the life and legacies of the great socialist, labour activist, Irish patriot, and, last but not least, son of this city of Edinburgh – James Connolly.] It is for me, as President of Ireland, greatly uplifting to see so many scholars from Ireland, Scotland and beyond throw new light on the important figure that James Connolly was in the international socialist movement at the turn of the last century. May I thank you all for your contribution to our understanding of James Connolly’s eventful and generous life, and so rich, complex and powerful thought. Most of all, I want to thank you for contributing to keeping alive, through your research and debates, the flame of James Connolly’s life-long struggle for justice and equality. When reflecting on how we might remember James Connolly – a question which we, in Ireland, have had many occasions to raise during this ongoing centenary year of the Easter Rising of 1916 – it is essential, I believe, that we avoid relegating the potent ideas and ideals that drove James Connolly throughout his life to the safe closet of a bygone past. Those generous, subversive, indeed revolutionary, ideas and ideals
should never be petrified; nor should they ever be reduced to the benign status of a tamed and sanitised ‘heritage’, amenable to bland political statements on ‘the heroes from our past’, or, even, touristic consumption. The writings, the injunctions, the energy, the activism of James Connolly are flames and arrows, which, a hundred years later, can continue to orient our present and illuminate our future. They are best described, perhaps, through the words of Paul Ricoeur, as “arrows of futurity”, “whose trajectory has been interrupted”. They are part of that “unfulfilled future of the past” that can still offer a wellspring of inspiration for our present.
“It is essential, I believe, that we avoid relegating the potent ideas and ideals that drove James Connolly throughout his life to the safe closet of a bygone past.”
Then, too, there is Connolly’s gift of a conception of labour that was never limited to issues of wages but that encompassed, instead, a transformative vision for the whole of society. Such a vision can, I believe, productively inform our contemporary efforts to bring about ‘decent work’ – an understanding of work as a source of personal dignity and freedom, family stability, prosperity in the community and democratic flourishing. There is, finally and importantly, the gift of internationalism – of a solidarity that reaches beyond national boundaries – a form of solidarity into which we so urgently need to breathe new life and soul as we seek, together with our brothers and sisters with whom we share this fragile planet, to respond to the great global challenges of our times. Dear friends, is mian liom a rá arís cé chomh sásta is atá mé a bheith anseo ag an siompóisiam seo atá tiomnaithe d’oidhreacht Shéamais Uí Chonghaile. [May I, once again, say how delighted I am to be here at a symposium dedicated to the legacies of James Connolly.] May his vision of a people free from want, free from impoverishment and free from exploitation be one that continues to inspire, not just good scholarship, but our lives together – in Ireland, in Scotland and in Europe. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Today you have been reflecting on the ‘legacies’, in the plural, of James Connolly – and indeed the gifts of hope and vision bequeathed to us by James Connolly are manifold. There is, of course, the gift of equality, the challenge to create such a society as would enable all of its children, women and men to flourish. So many of Connolly’s ideas, as expounded in his books, essays and articles, offer a glimpse of the possibility of dealing with injustice – that is, of eliminating poverty, the exploitation of vulnerable workers; of dealing with inadequate access to education and healthcare, and of advancing the rights of children and women, amongst other things. Indeed as regards this latter point, I believe that one of the important legacies of James Connolly for us today is the place he carved out for women, both among the ranks of the Irish Citizen Army and in his vision for the Ireland of the future. Connolly’s injunction to women to “break their chains” and march towards freedom are ones that still resonate powerfully with us, not just in Ireland, or here in Scotland, but in all those places across the world where the journey towards full equality and dignity for women is still ongoing.
Portrait of Michael Collins by Keogh Brothers Ltd., photographers. [ca. 19201930].
Portráid de Mhícheál Ó Coileán le Keogh Brothers Ltd., grianghrafadóirí. [ca. 19201930].
Photo: National Library of Ireland www.nli.ie Ref: NPA POLF45
Remembering Michael Collins in 2016 Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at Béal na mBláth Annual Commemoration Béal na mBláth, Co. Cork Sunday 21st August, 2016
During the Rising Michael Collins, then only 25 years old, was stationed in the GPO as aide-de-camp to Joseph Plunkett. Commander-in-Chief of the National Army during the Civil war, Collins was killed at Béal na mBláth on the 22nd August 1922 during an ambush of his convey by anti-treaty forces. As the first President of Ireland to deliver an oration at the annual Béal na mBláth commemoration, Michael D. Higgins took the opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary contribution of one of the leading opponents of the British Empire in his time, and a leader who sought to keep the diverse strands of the independence movement united. I rith an Éirí Amach, bhí Mícheál Ó Coileáin, nach raibh ach 25 bliain d’aois ag an tráth, suite in Ard-Oifig an Phoist mar chuiditheoir le Joseph Plunkett. B’Ardcheannasaí é ar an Arm Náisiúnta i rith an Chogaidh Chathartha agus maraíodh é ag Béal na mBláth an 22 Lúnasa 1922 nuair a rinne fórsaí frithchonartha ionsaí ar a thionlachan. Mar chéad Uachtarán na hÉireann a sholáthair óráid ag comóradh bliantúil Bhéal na mBláth, ghlac Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn an deis chun machnamh a dhéanamh ar dhícheall ollmhór a rinne duine de na daoine ba mhó a chuir in aghaidh Impireacht na Breataine le linn an trátha sin, agus ar cheannaire a lorg chun snáitheanna éagsúla ghluaiseacht an neamhspleáchais a choimeád ceangailte.
Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le mhuintir Uí Choileáin agus le Choiste Cuimhneacháin Bhéal na mBláth as a gcuireadh caoin dom óráid ómóis Mhichíl Uí Choileáin a thabhairt ar an bhliain stairiúil seo. Is mór an pléisiúir dom é, mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, seasamh in bhur dteannta san áit saintréitheach seo i stair na tíre chun aitheantas a thabhairt don méid a rinne an Coileánach ar son neamhspleáchais na hÉireann. Tá áthas ar leith orm an deis seo a fháil le linn na bliana seo, agus muid ag comóradh céad bliain ó Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916, an t-eachtra mór bunúsach sin i stair na tíre, agus muid ag smaoineamh ar an méid atá bainte amach againn mar náisiún. [May I thank the Collins family and the Béal na mBláth Commemoration Committee for their generous invitation, in this special year, to deliver the annual tribute to Michael Collins. It is my great pleasure, as President of Ireland, to stand with you all at this emblematic site of our national memory in recognition of Michael Collins’ great contribution to Irish independence. I am particularly delighted to be able to do so in a year when we are commemorating the centenary of the Easter Rising of 1916, that foundational event in Ireland’s journey to Freedom – and at a time when we are recollecting, too, a sense of where we come from as a nation.] In preparing what I have to say today, it has been an advantage to read the collection of past orations published by the Committee in 2012, on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of Michael Collins’ death. This publication indicates so well the generosity of the Collins family and the Commemoration Committee in inviting, over the years, so wide a range of Irish opinion
to give the oration at this special event. Professor John A. Murphy was quite right, when he suggested in 1982 that what takes place every year at Béal na mBláth is of national significance and that the person being commemorated belongs to all of the Irish people. Michael Collins, as highlighted by all those who have spoken at this event, was a person of extraordinary talent. He was energetic, committed, pragmatic, with a zest for life and companionship, and the robust rural version of that companionship. His background was endowed with what I would call ‘the native richness of rural Ireland’. His mother and father were equipped with robust practical skills, yet the two of them combined that with an interest in literature, in languages, in both the oral history of their own people, and the written accounts of the history of our nation, and all its people. It is important to recognise the significance of Michael Collins’ early life, his experience as a young man seeking a future through education, his sense of place, of roots, the connection to which after all brought him here on that fateful day, all of that is important for our understanding of the outstanding, richly talented, deeply committed republican that Michael Collins was. We must also take into account in the formative influences of his early life, the experiences of being a migrant, and of leaving home to prepare for examination to join the imperial service, and of his working as a junior civil servant in London. A London where the atmosphere of the privileged was one that regarded his people as inferior, his Irish culture as worthless, and his language a symbol of backwardness as an object for replacement by erosion or coercion. It was not as an equal citizen he stood and worked in London. Preceding such influences, as a young man was all that he learned as a child from his father and neighbours, people who had a direct memory of The Great Famine, and from his mother, who, as a young widow, managed both her farm and family with extraordinary energy, skill and good humour. As a child, Michael Collins was thus as familiar with the tasks and intimacies of farm life as he was with the stories of previous unsuccessful Irish rebellions. And the lore of neighbours was important to him — Michael Collins would later acknowledge the role of both Denis Lyons, the schoolmaster, and James Santry, the blacksmith, as he put it his “first stalwarts” “along the searching path to a political goal”. Indeed James Santry’s old forge at Lisavaird was one of the places where, “in a very literal sense, the sparks of revolution were fanned into life for Michael Collins”.
An ardent republican, the local blacksmith James Santry captured the imagination of the boy with his vivid accounts of Ireland’s struggle for Freedom and the part that the people of West Cork had played in it. Santry’s grandfather had fought with Tadg-an-Asna at the Battle of Ballinascarthy in 1798, and his father had forged pikes for subsequent rebellions those inspired by the teachings of Wolfe Tone, in 1848 and 1867. Upon his return from London, just before the Rising, Michael Collins’ natural abilities, combined with the practical experience of office organisation and accountancy that he had gained in London drew him to the attention of the Plunkett family and into the Plunkett household, initially as an assistant to Count Plunkett. Countess Plunkett might have somewhat unkindly spoken of his swagger, his strut, his braggadocio, but her husband, and particularly her son Joseph, quickly saw the value of his organisational genius. He had in addition, a deepened political and strategic vision from his experience in England. He had become a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and had got involved in Irish national cultural projects. He was by now quite convinced of the necessity of seizing the weak moment of the British Empire as an opportunity for a physical force movement to strike for freedom. Michael Collins would go on to spend Easter Week fighting in the GPO as Aide-de-Camp to Joseph Mary Plunkett. Of those in the GPO he singled out James Connolly, whose realism he admired, and of whom he said that he would “follow him through hell”. He spoke with admiration for Connolly’s practical sense. He would later, while acknowledging the bravery and sacrifice of that Easter Rising, come to question the looseness of its planning and the cost of its delivery, and in particular the absence of sufficient calculation for a follow-through that would have led to a national insurrection. Collins was held in Frongoch, an internment camp in North Wales, alongside 1,800 other Irishmen arrested in the wake of the Rising of 1916. It was in this ‘University of the Revolution’ that he started to envisage the framework for a guerrilla campaign against British rule, a campaign in which he would play such a significant role. He recognised early the importance of intelligence as a tool of oppression but also one that would be of strategic importance in a liberation struggle. Indeed, many historians regard his destruction of the imperial intelligence system in Ireland as his greatest contribution, but his contributions, however, were manifold.
In considering these contributions, one might speculate on what his role would have been, had he been given the opportunities of a space of peace, had the results of the 1918 election been recognised by the British Government. Then too, there is in his chairing of the Committee on the 1922 Constitution – an attempt to resolve the issues that the Treaty had created. The amendments for which he secured agreement from some of his fellow republicans were, however, rejected by London – all the necessary pieces of State building. As to why these rejections were so, there is perhaps an answer in Erskine Childers’ memorandum, Notes on the British Memo: the British side were absolutely clear that they were not ready to compromise on Ireland’s link to the Empire and Ireland’s formal allegiance to the Crown. That link, as one of its leading minds in jurisprudence put it, was the “keystone of the arch in law as well as in sentiment”. The British leaders knew that the Empire was, in the words of Lloyd George, at a “critical phase” in its history. Alarming reports had been received from India of the growing strength of Gandhi’s passive-resistance movement, and they were wary of making any concession that might eventually ripple throughout the Commonwealth. In this year of 2016 it is important to recognise that while a great deal had been achieved in Ireland before 1916, particularly in relation to land tenure, through the parliamentary process driven by the Irish Parliamentary Party, the independence we have today was achieved through a War of Independence that was conducted across Ireland. It is also important to acknowledge that the fact that recognition that had been given to the views of those Unionists seeking a separate status in the northeast corner of the island meant that some form of accommodation, of partition had been regarded as inevitable. This was a conclusion that was accepted by both Éamon de Valera and Michael Collins. The proximate, urgent issue remained, of course, as to the security of the minority population in the province of Ulster, many of whom had been driven from their houses and their employment, and their future in the event of a boundary being established. With the benefit of hindsight, it has become easier, perhaps, to appreciate the merits of the path of compromise which Michael Collins, however reluctantly and heavy-heartedly, (one has only to read his Path to Freedom) chose to follow. Few today would challenge the wisdom of his conscious decision “not to coerce the North-East”.
Yet, a century later historians differ as to the motivation of Michael Collins in relation to the assistance he sought to provide to forces in Northern Ireland in this period. Historians will also continue to debate the accuracy of his assessment of the British ultimatum for resuming war, and his judgement on the potentialities of the Treaty as a stepping stone to full sovereignty, one that would give Ireland, as he famously said: “not the ultimate freedom that all nations desire and develop to, but the freedom to achieve it.” Beyond any scholarly debates, it is important that we today, do not underestimate the challenge that was presented of exiting empire, or managing the transition from military struggle to building a functioning administration as a nation, we must recognise the challenge that it was for the men and women of the revolutionary generation to assume the full weight of Ireland’s status as a country within the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland, attempting to assert its independence from the British Empire. It was an immense task. As to the second challenge, as Kevin O’Higgins vividly put it: “In Ireland in 1922, there was no State and no organised force. The Provisional Government were simply eight young men in the City Hall standing amidst the ruins of one administration, with the foundations of another not yet laid, and with wild men screaming through the keyhole.” This quotation of course reveals the greatest challenge, which was perhaps in the flux of building order, left aside, how Gaelic, how Irish, how diverse would the administrative system in the new independent State be? Could it ever be appropriate for an alternative form of society? Could it be the administration of a people aspiring to be a Republic? It appeared best to build from the inherited pieces. This was not without consequence for later decades, even to our contemporary lives together. Michael Collins and others in the leadership of the War of Independence were very conscious of international opinion and its importance. Retrospectively, we realise, too, that both pro and anti-Treatyites agreed in their distinctive, but essentially common, conviction that the Irish revolution had significance far beyond the shores of Ireland. Mary MacSwiney, for example, who virulently rejected the Treaty (as did so many of the other women elected to the Second Dáil) did so on the grounds that Ireland’s War of Independence had attracted global sympathy because it had been, as they put it –
“essentially a spiritual fight... of right against wrong... a small people against a mighty rapacious and material Empire.” Indeed in India, in Africa, in the Middle East, Ireland won admiration as a ‘beacon’ for other struggling peoples. In the guerrilla campaign he led in the early 1940s against the administration of the British Mandate of Palestine, for example, Yitzhak Shamir took the nom de guerre ‘Michael’ in homage to Michael Collins. On visits to Africa and Latin America as President of Ireland, I have received countless expressions of admiration for the Irish people, conveying the memory, not just of Ireland’s independence struggle, but also of its later role, as a source of independent thought in foreign policy, supporting independence and disarmament as a member of the League of Nations and then the United Nations, in defending decolonisation and the freedom of oppressed nations. This is, perhaps one of the finest parts of our foreign policy tradition – one that should be cherished and carefully nurtured today. A Chairde Gael, Dear Friends, the memory of Michael Collins will forever be enmeshed with that of the tragic and bloody Civil War which raged on this island throughout the years 1922-1923. This was a dreadful human tragedy for so many Irish families. And while we should never underestimate the challenge that it was to build the foundations of a stable democratic state in the midst of turmoil and in the shadow of a great power, we must never forget what a terrible price was paid in divided families and divided communities, leaving a legacy that was felt for generations. When the time comes, very soon, to commemorate those events of the early 1920s, we will need to display courage and honesty as we seek to speak the truth of the period, and in recognising that, during the War of Independence, and particularly during the Civil War, no single side had the monopoly of either atrocity or virtue. We will remember from the earlier War of Independence and the response to it, the devastation spread throughout the land by the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans. The arbitrary killings, the ruthless raids on civilians’ homes, the torturing of prisoners, the looting of shops, the burning down of creameries and farmhouses to destroy the local economy: all this has marked consciences even beyond Ireland, so much so that George Orwell, in his account of the Spanish Civil War – the outbreak of which we are also commemorating this year – thought fit to compare the barbarity of the Guarda Civil with that of the Black and Tans.
We will remember, too, how the Catholic minority in the north-east of the country fell into the grip of embittered sectarian violence. But we will also be required to recall the initial bewilderment of members of the RIC when they were taken as targets at the outset of the War of Independence, and the dismay of those men as they experienced the swift corrosion of the shared understanding they had enjoyed with the people among whom they lived, worked, and to whom they were often related. We will be required to face, too, the ruthlessness of many executions performed by the IRA, the mistakes that inevitably happened in killings of purported informers, the executions of Republican prisoners during the Civil War, and the outrages perpetrated during both wars against Protestant people, some of whom were attacked regardless of their actual attitude towards the struggles underway. It is also important to recognise that the cover of the civil war was used by some for the settling of vendettas, some local, some ancient, some based on land hunger and greed. Our concern for the truth should not, however, collapse into shallow point-scoring. It will need to be made meaningful by both a real sense of history and a generous willingness to go past old wrongs so as to build a new shared understanding of who we are as a nation and as a republic. While avoiding the re-opening of old wounds, we have to recognise the visibility and reality of the scars that make the rough skin of our history. Indeed our process of remembering would be truncated, quite senseless even, should we fail to recognise how, at the root of many an outrage committed in that period, was a reignited sense of historic grievance. This was notably the case around the issue of land, which, once again in those years, set rural Ireland ablaze. For small farmers, particularly in the West, the coming of the Republic heralded new opportunities for what they saw as the fulfilment of their entitlement to ownership of plots of land from which they felt they had been unjustly evicted in previous centuries. A consensus or communal agreement on how land should be divided was also lacking. Such raw memory of past injustices existed in the Collins family. Michael Collins’ father, who was 75-years-old at the time of Michael’s birth, did, as I have already mentioned, live through the Great Famine which devastated the West Cork area, and which saw Skibbereen, for example, become iconic as the centre of some of the most harrowing suffering caused not simply by the failure of the potato crop, but of the
policies initiated to respond to it. Another important family memory was the year which two of Michael Collins’ uncles had spent in Cork Jail for whipping out of their crops members of the landlord class on a hunting party. And even with the distance of time, we cannot but be stricken by the symbolism of the brutal burning down of the Collins Woodfield family home by a detachment of soldiers from the Essex Regiment, in April 1921. To witness the house where he had spent his childhood, filled with hay, with neighbours forced to assist at bayonet point, the hay sprayed with petrol, and burned to the ground on the orders of an officer in an imperial army, must have had an incredible impact on Michael Collins. Despite all this, Helen Collins tells us that she was raised “in a home of forgiveness and understanding”, dispositions that are shared by all the other members of the Collins family who have made of the commemorations of Béal na mBláth a powerful symbol of memorial hospitality.
“What takes place every year at Béal na mBláth is of national significance and that the person being commemorated belongs to all of the Irish people.” The man who died at Béal na mBláth on the 22nd August 1922 was, too, a man of compassion in that terrible Civil War. He wept upon learning of Cathal Brugha’s death after the attack on the Four Courts. And he asked those who fought under him to treat men from the other side as irregulars, as colleagues who had misconstrued the situation, had judged wrongly, but whom it should be always remembered were fellow Irishmen, never enemies. Sadly, such a spirit did not prevail and the atrocities of the Civil War were ones that we must recognise for what they were, on both sides: cruel, vicious, uncontrolled, and at times informed by vengeance rather than any compassion. The participants were divided, but also confused, at what were the consequences of the Treaty, its acceptance or rejection. We should also recognise the fact that there were elements within the different forces who were simply out of control. Some of the civilian losses were inflicted in a way that
had little to do with republicanism or any emancipatory version of nationalism. They revealed the jagged ends of land hunger, envy, and indeed it should not any longer be denied, the opportunity was taken for a sectarian identification of targets. I believe that Michael Collins’ contribution in the flux of a set of crises – military, political, social, and cultural – was of an immense kind, yet it proved to be beyond even his capacities to bring a resolution to what were genuinely held, deeply divided views on what would constitute true Irish independence and a true republic. Yet he tried and, in his own papers there is evidence of seeking to take the possibilities afforded by a space created in opposition to an imperial foe, to build and expand the space of independence. I have often been struck by the distance between the background of Michael Collins and those who would later go on to fill the major offices of the new State, and in so many cases to do so with distinction. There is a rural earthiness in Michael Collins’ life that runs through his experience, even in Frongoch, where he seized the opportunity to read, study, and realise the importance of strategy and intelligence work. He recognised the physical energy of those who were incarcerated with him, and the value of organising leagues for Gaelic games to consume that energy, and he also used the time to improve his efforts with foreign languages, in particular the French language, which he thought would be useful in the future. I take from his own writings an unusually vivid emphasis on an authentic Irishness, one that was romantic and indeed utopian in the best sense. He fulminates against imitation, and strikingly against materialism. I have been struck, too, by a gap which remains in the historical memory of Irish people and in Irish historiography and that is — the class dimension — to both the War of Independence and indeed the Civil War. Future historians might, with value, consider, for example, how significant is the order in the family of those who joined the IRA – did the heir to the land risk his position to the same extent as his younger brothers? What was to happen to the women who would not possess a dowry and who would later be described in the Irish Census as ‘relatives assisting’, whose only entitlement was a room in the house and a seat in the car to Mass? Too often omitted also from accounts of these early decades of our independence is the role of what were called ‘the trades’ and the agricultural labourers, a group estimated at 50,000 during this period. Maurice Walsh, in his excellent Bitter Freedom, has written of the position of those agricultural labourers
and of the deeply rooted social hierarchy which saw servants housed and fed separately, and referred to generically by farmers who employed them as ‘the boy’ or ‘the girl’. As, reworking James Joyce, one might put it, “the cracked mirror was always put in the maid’s room”. It is important to recognise that such attitudes of perceived class distinction, such gradations in the ‘respectability’ that property conferred, prevailed among many of those who were anxious to describe themselves as both Nationalist and Catholic in the south, or Unionist and Protestant, in the north. We need to find a space in our new approach to historiography for the lives of those in the cottages, and the treatment of class in Irish history cannot be dismissed as just another spurious form of revisionism. It is simply a good and necessary inclusive approach to history. It is surely important that we also remember those who sought to end the Civil War. In the very week in which Michael Collins was killed, the Labour Party had issued an ultimatum that it would withdraw its 17 deputies from the Dáil unless the Dáil was called into being by 26 August 1922 to discuss the ending of the Civil War. That would have collapsed the Dáil where Labour provided an opposition. Among some of the colleagues with whom Michael Collins was conducting affairs there existed a view that such a request would deflect from what was insisted was a necessary military victory. If I may quote from a letter Michael Collins received from Eoin O’Duffy, on 12th August 1922: “I believe the Labour element and the Red Flaggers are at the back of all the moves towards ‘Peace’, not for the sake of the country, but in their own interests. They realise that, if the Government can break the back of this revolt, any attempts at revolt, by labour, in future will be futile. When the National [treatyite] Army have entered this conflict with such vigour, Labour realises that they would be much more vigorous to crush any Red Flag or Bolshevik troubles. Naturally Labour does not desire a Military decision in the present conflict, but it is absolutely necessary that the Government should have such a decision.” There is no evidence that Michael Collins shared such a view. Rather it reveals the forces he sought to balance. Michael Collins was dead before he could reply to this letter. My personal view is that, based on his admiration for James Connolly, his respect for Pearse’s changed views after the Lockout, and his familiarity with the world of work, he would have seen a vital place for workers and their families in the new State. I also believe that he would have had a flexible approach towards the decommissioning of arms, that was
markedly different from some of his colleagues. This is evidenced, I think, in his instruction to his own troops to treat their opponents with respect. Many have speculated, too, on what Michael Collins would have thought of present circumstances. Previous orators here have often dwelt upon this theme. If I may instance just one of Michael Collins’ frequent references – his emphasis on the development of resources to satisfy a native frugality rather than any insatiable hunger for accumulation or ostentatious waste. Michael Collins would, I am sure, have wanted our people to have reached sufficiency in all of the essentials: health, housing, education, childcare, culture, and above all in the ability to live together. He saw the importance of using our resources well and he was very interested in not being dependent on a single market. He was also concerned at the consequences of emerging tendencies to monopoly in international trade. Our future commemorations will also need to address frankly, how, and with what values the administration of independence was handled. I believe, for example, the exclusive and partisan way in which the pension applications for participants in the War of Independence were handled, in particular the exclusion of women, and the failure to recognise the poverty of those unemployed due to the struggle for independence or the Civil War, or to examine the reasons for the emigration of so many who had participated in the armed struggle for Irish Freedom. Indeed, it is the case that from some parts of Kerry, for example, over 90% of the members of some companies of volunteers emigrated to the United States before the end of the ’20s. It is important to acknowledge, today, all those who played a part in the establishment of the Irish State but who were denied acknowledgement in its early years. Isn’t it appropriate, also, to trace the difference between the republican values invoked through many generations in the struggle for independence, and the authoritarian ethos which influenced much of the legislation that emerged in the decades following the establishment of the new State? To recognise such circumstances is not to seek a new currency for old and tragic divisions, to open any old wounds. It is, rather, to lay the ground for such an act of memory as will rob the grievances of the past of any capacity for disabling the achievement of new possibilities and opportunities in the future both at home and in our new global responsibilities. The hand we share with the future is a warm hand, carrying the scars and not lesser for that. The ability to hold together a ‘forgiving consciousness’ of the past and an openness to the potentialities of the future – forging the alliance of pardon and promise:
this is the essential imperative for our living together in harmony and cohesion on this island. As Hannah Arendt has suggested to us, the faculty to forgive guarantees our freedom from the harsh rule of the past, but without an ability to promise, the present would be dominated by uncertainties and fears, the future unforeseeable. Forgiveness is a cornerstone in our construction of hope, but it must be a forgiveness informed by understanding of the importance of accepting difference. In imeacht na mblianta tá sé tábhachtach go nglacaimid le léamhanna éagsúla ar stair na tíre seo agus go n-aithnímid a thit amach san am atá caite. Má dhéanaimid é seo, beidh todhchaí lán le féidearthachtaí romhainn. [With the passing of years, surely we can find a new generosity towards the different strands of historical memory held by the people of this island and go forward in a new way, acknowledging that the past has happened, that we must face, not evade, its darkest corners, but that the future remains alive with great possibilities.] Go raibh míle maith agaibh is beir beannacht don todhchaí.
A Dignity that Echoes through the Years Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at the launch of the digitised versions of the 1916 leaders’ courts martial Richmond Barracks, Dublin Thursday 22nd September, 2016
The wartime Defence of the Realm Act 1914, enacted on the 8th August 1914, and its subsequent amendments and regulations, gave the British authorities extraordinary powers. The majority of trials held following the Rising took place in secret courts without legal representation, and were presided over by 3 oﬃcers. 15 men, including the seven signatories of the Proclamation, were executed. The trials took place in Richmond Barracks, where, on the 22nd September 2016, the President spoke at the launch of the digitised versions of the 1916 leaders’ courts martial records, an initiative of the National Archives. Bronnadh ollchumhachtaí in The Defence of the Realm Act, 1914, a achtaíodh an 8 Lúnasa 1914 le linn cogaidh, agus sna leasuithe agus sna rialacháin a rinneadh ina dhiaidh sin, ar údaráis na Breataine. Thit tromlach na dtrialacha a cuireadh ar bun i ndiaidh an Éirí Amach i gcúirteanna rúnda gan ionadaíocht dhlíthiúil, agus bhí 3 oifigeach i gceannas orthu. Cuireadh 15 fhear, seachtar sínitheoirí an Fhorógra ina measc, chun báis. Thit na trialacha amach i nDún Richmond, áit ar labhair an tUachtarán ag seoladh leaganacha digitithe thaifid armchúirte cheannairí 1916, ar thionscnamh é de chuid na Cartlainne Náisiúnta.
Notification of the execution of prisoners P H Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Thomas Clarke at Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin 3 May 1916. Fógra maidir le cur chun báis na bpríosúnach Pádraig Mac Piarais, Tomás Mac Dhonnchadha agus Tomás Ó Cléirigh ag Príosún Chill Mhaighneann, Baile Átha Cliath 3 Bealtaine 1916. Photo: The National Archives www.nationalarchives.gov.uk Ref. WO71/345
I am pleased to be here in Richmond Barracks with you today at the launch of the digitised versions of the 1916 leaders’ courts martial records. May I thank Catríona Crowe for her kind invitation and all of you for that generous welcome. Is áit é Dún Richmond a bhfuil dlúbhaint aige le scéal na hÉireann agus ár niarrachtaí le neamhspleáchas a bhaint amach. Is anseo, taobh thiar de na mballaí móra seo, a chaith go leor dóibh siúd a throid san Éirí Amach a laethanta deiridh sular cuireadh chun báis iad, agus cuireadh go leor eile chuig campaí géibhinn sa Bhreatain Bhig agus Sasana ón áit seo chomh maith. [Richmond Barracks is a place deeply embedded into the story of Ireland’s struggle for independence. It was here, behind these great walls, that so many of those centrally involved in the Rising spent the final days of their lives and where so many more awaited a sentence that would transport them to prison camps in England or Wales.] It was here that they were lined up to be tried in a bleak little room without legal representation and without adequate rights to speak on their own behalf. There can be no doubt that the courts martial were not merely deficient in process but were, indeed, a great affront to that principle of justice, disregarding correct procedure in a determination to secure the execution of the rebels involved in the rising. The courts martial were held in secret, the prisoners were not made aware of their legal rights and, as described in the words of Seán Heuston, had “no intimation of the nature of the charge” that was to be brought against them. The accused were denied a defence, and granted just minutes to offer their version of events.
Although the law of the day required that a Judge Advocate General provide an independent review of any court martial related to a capital offence, in their cases this did not happen. Instead, the courts martial were reviewed by Second Lieutenant Alfred Bucknell who, far from being an impartial reviewer, identified himself with the prosecution.
explored and commemorated.
While a death sentence could only be passed by court martial if it could be proved that the accused was ‘assisting the enemy’ and while there was no evidence of the defendants ‘assisting Germany’, the fact that aid was sought and, even if apprehended, received from Germany was invoked to impose death sentences on the 1916 leaders.
The response of citizens to these initiatives has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. It has, indeed, been uplifting to see so many people coming together in a spirit of civic pride to mark and honour both the seismic moment that was 1916, and the great courage of those who in many different ways played their important role in that rich chapter of our history.
Ninety death sentences were passed at that time by Officers who, we must remember, had no legal qualification and indeed had simply been chosen for the task on the basis of availability. As we know, fifteen of these sentences were carried out. It was here at Richmond Barracks that the proceedings of these Field General Courts Martial were recorded, leaving valuable documents which for so long, were kept secret and were inaccessible to the general public. It is appropriate, therefore, that we gather here to mark and celebrate this granting of universal access to this material, often poignant and deeply affecting, that will allow all Irish citizens and their visitors a new understanding of the courts martial of the 1916 leaders. The documents provide moving and valuable insights into the proceedings; imparting a human dimension that can so often be missed from conventional factual historical accounts. Thomas MacDonagh’s statement that he fully cooperated with British soldiers after the surrender, or the image of Seán Mac Diarmada unable to walk after surrender because of polio contracted five years before, indicate a dignified sadness that echoes across the years. They, and the many other images captured in these records, remind us that the leaders of 1916 were human and wounded agents of our freedom, not abstract or mythical characters; and they enable us to have a profound appreciation of the real and human sacrifices that they and their families made in order that future generations might inhabit a free and independent State. As a nation, we have been engaging in a programme of commemorations relating to the seminal events in Irish and European history that took place between 1912 and 1922. The rich and diverse programme of activities allows for the full complexity of that decade, and its implications for the century that followed, to be
The Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme has invited all citizens at home and abroad to actively engage in a diverse range of historical, cultural and artistic activities, all designed to facilitate reflection, debate and indeed celebration of a shared heritage.
“The leaders of 1916 were human and wounded agents of our freedom, not abstract or mythical characters.” One hundred years on, we can view that time through the prism of informed historiographies which allow a broader and deeper view of the complex events leading up to the Rising. This year has been an important reminder of how the preservation of archival material is crucial, not only for historians but for all of us who wish to engage with our shared past; to fully understand our history in its complexity; and to gain an appreciation of the consequences of the past, for our present and our future. Without the careful preservation and cataloguing of such documents, critical elements of our shared history would be lost forever. The digitisation of such material brings immense added value, ensuring that important records and information will be conserved and can be widely shared and made easily accessible to all. Earlier this year I attended the presentation of an Oral History Collection to our National Museum on Kildare Street. That collection comprises many personal stories about the characters and events of 1916. These oral versions of our past greatly enrich our ability to engage with our history and can often add detail, connections and a human dimension to the men and women of 1916, where contemporary records can often fall short. It is a collection that draws us deeply into the story of 1916, reminding us of how individual stories are such critical elements of the whole.
I spoke, on that occasion, of how the late Tony Judt, the great historian and political commentator has spoken of the importance, in any given society, of supplying “the dimension of knowledge and narrative without which we cannot be a civic whole”; and of how availablility of collections such as the Oral History, and, of course, these important records which we celebrate today play a critical role in enabling and preserving a clear, reliable, and inspiring narrative of our nation. In April, I attended the official opening of the new building of the Military Archives in Cathal Brugha Barracks. At the time I spoke of how the digitisation of the Witness Statements collected by the Bureau of Military History is a greatly significant Government initiative during this Decade of Commemorations.
[In conclusion, I would like to extend my appreciation and congratulations to all those involved with the digitisation of these 1916 leaders’ courts martial records. I particularly commend Universities Ireland who so generously provided the National Archives with the funding to purchase the digital images, and the National Archives who play such a vital role in safeguarding and protecting the narrative of our nation. ] May I thank you for the provision of this valuable new resource of knowledge, enabling us to deepen our understanding of an important moment in Irish history, which would impact so profoundly on public opinion, changing the course of our future and indelibly stamping the Ireland we inhabit today.
All of these events mark very important steps towards a democratisation in an inclusive way, of historical research, giving universal access to the first-hand accounts from previous generations, and enabling us to appreciate more fully the experiences, the motivations, the hopes, and sometimes the suffering and disappointment too, of our forebears. Today, and thanks to the generosity, expertise and commitment of Universities Ireland and the National Archives, we mark yet another step forward in allowing all citizens to actively participate in the search for, and creation of, enhanced historical knowledge. The availability of on-line records of the 1916 leaders’ courts martial is a key event in our ongoing endeavour to make available to all citizens opportunities to engage in historical research. These historic and personal documents and images of the executed leaders will be of invaluable benefit in enabling us to garner a sense of some more aspects of the lives of the men and women behind the Rising of Easter 1916. This new website, which contains digital images of the files of the fifteen leaders who were court-martialled and executed, includes statements of prisoners to the court martial, official confirmation of their deaths and those important last letters to loved ones which speak so powerfully of the stark reality of the prisoners’ last moments, and their willingness to fight for a cause they believed worth dying for. Mar fhocal scoir, is mian liom gach rath agus beannacht a ghuí orthu siúd a riabh baint acu le togra na leaganacha dhigitithe d’armchúirt Chinnirí 1916 a chur i gcríoch. Is mian liom buíochas ar leith a ghabháil le Universities Ireland a chuir maoiniú ar fáil leis na íomhánna dhigiteach a cheannacht, agus leis an Chartlann Náisiúnta a dhéanann sárobair ag cosaint agus ag cumhdach scéal ár náisiún.
President Michael D. Higgins speaking at Congress Hall, London.
An tUachtarรกn Micheรกl D. ร hUiginn ag caint ag Congress Hall, Londain.
Photo: Maxwell Photography www.maxwellphotography.ie
The Importance of Eva Gore-Booth’s Radical Vision Speech by President Michael D. Higgins Congress Hall, London Friday 14th October, 2016
In Irish history textbooks, Eva Gore-Booth has long been in the shadow of her sister, Constance de Markievicz, one of the leaders of the Rising, or has not appeared at all. A feminist, socialist, trade unionist, writer, poet and an Irish patriot, Eva Gore-Booth made an extraordinary contribution to the cause of women’s suﬀrage, the cause of labour, and the cause of peace on the islands of Ireland and Britain. In recent years, there has been a welcome recovery of her writing and recollection of her actions. The President spoke of the importance of Eva Gore-Booth’s radical vision, both in her time and in our time, at Congress House, the home of the British trade union movement. I dtéacsleabhair staire na hÉireann, bhí Eva Gore-Booth faoi scáth a deirféar, Constance de Markievicz, duine de cheannairí an Éirí Amach, nó níl trácht ar bith uirthi. B’fheimineach, sóisialaí, ceardchumannaí, scríbhneoir, file agus tírghráthóir Éireannach í agus chuir Eva Gore-Booth go hollmhór le cúrsaí um cheart vótála do mhná, cúrsaí an tsaothair, agus cúrsaí síochána ar oileáin na hÉireann agus sa Bhreatain. Le blianta beaga anuas, fáiltíodh roimh athbheochan a dhéanamh ar a cuid scríbhneoireachta agus tugadh chun athchuimhne a cuid gníomhartha. Labhair an tUachtarán ar thábhacht fhís radacach Eva Gore-Booth, tráth a linne agus ár linne araon, ag Teach na Comhdhála, láthair ghluaiseacht ceardchumainn na Breataine.
It is my great pleasure to have this occasion to honour the memory of Eva Gore-Booth. I am particularly pleased to be able to do so here, in Congress Hall, one of the emblematic seats of the cause of labour in Britain. The rights of workers, particularly those of women workers, was a cause to which Eva Gore-Booth dedicated herself with energy, skill and humanity. It was a cause to which she offered her writing and poetry as weapons of peace, but also her talent for organisation, and that generous disposition for empathy and friendship which all those who knew her have described. The uncompromising ethical drive which distinguished Eva Gore-Booth’s work for social reform was unique, making her a major figure in the history of these islands. As many of you will know we, in Ireland, are commemorating this year the centenary of a milestone on our country’s path to independence – the Easter Rising of 1916. These centenary celebrations have enabled us to salvage the memory of some of those forgotten people, many of them women, who carried forward Ireland’s Revolution, but whose unyielding toil for emancipatory change has not always earned them the same recognition as that granted to the rebel leaders. In my speeches at commemorative State ceremonies and community events alike, I have been seeking to do justice to the role of women in the struggle for Irish freedom. It remained of particular importance to me that adequate tribute be paid to Eva GoreBooth as a remarkable, indeed quite extra-ordinary,
figure, not just in Ireland’s Revolution, but also in the international trade-union, suffrage and peace movements of the last century, and yet one whose memory has been somewhat obscured in orthodox Irish historiography. As Mary Condren, Professor of Women’s Studies at Trinity College Dublin put it, “When the history of those times was written, [Eva Gore-Booth] herself was relegated to being a mere afterthought to her more famous sibling. For Irish schoolchildren, her sister was the role model: Constance de Markievicz – the sole woman to appear, complete with military weapons, in the iconography of Irish revolution.” May I say once again, then, how much I welcome today’s opportunity to recall and pay tribute to the life and achievements of Eva Gore-Booth, here in Britain, and with this particular audience for whom her life will have such significance. It is not just the occasion to redress the oblivion of history that I welcome. More importantly perhaps, it seems to me that all of us can draw great inspiration from Eva Gore-Booth’s integrated emancipatory instinct, from her unreserved commitment to the rights of the powerless and the disenfranchised. We can, too, recoup much needed courage and confidence in the knowledge that Eva Gore-Booth fought many battles against the dominant and distorting discourse of the established powers of her day – battles which, we know now, were pioneering, although she did not live to see most of them triumph. Her ability to respect and accommodate the views of other radicals was, in its eschewing of any suggestion of sectarianism, exemplary. Indeed Eva Gore-Booth was a true revolutionary, who transgressed the boundaries of her time, sex and class. Born into the Anglo-Irish landed class, but perhaps also into one of its rare progressive parts in the West of Ireland, she became a trade-union founder and went to live with her life-long partner, Esther Roper, in a working class neighbourhood of Manchester. She was an ardent campaigner for women’s suffrage and for gender equality in an age still ruled by patriarchal values. She was a prominent advocate of pacifism and a supporter of Conscientious Objectors throughout the heightened militarism of the First World War, and, as we all know, she was also an Irish Nationalist – the daughter of a long line of landlords who yet embraced the cause of Irish independence. It is those various strands of Eva Gore-Booth’s life, a life lived in the public world, in the service of the public good, which I want to explore this evening. In doing so, I am indebted to the work of Sonja Tiernan,
who produced, in 2012, the first biography dedicated entirely to Eva Gore-Booth: Eva Gore-Booth. An image of such politics, as well as an excellent edition of GoreBooth’s Political Writings, published last year by the Manchester University Press. Many of those writings were out of print and scattered across a variety of archival collections. They comprise poems, drama, journal articles, essays in philosophical prose, letters published by the newspapers of the day, most often the Manchester Guardian, as well as penny pamphlets published by radical organisations. Gathered as they have been by Sonja Tiernan, those writings provide invaluable insight into the work of Eva Gore-Booth as a trade unionist, radical suffragist, pacifist, nationalist and prison reformer. A defining event in Eva Gore-Booth’s path to activism was her encounter with Esther Roper, whom she met in 1896, while recovering from illness in Italy. The two women would go on to share a house and work together over the subsequent three decades. Indeed they hardly ever spent any time apart from one another until Eva’s death, in 1926. According to Sonja Tiernan, this life-long companionship between the two women, described by some of their contemporaries as “a pair of oddities”, may be one reason why Eva’s name has been overlooked in Irish popular memory. Esther Roper was herself a remarkable woman and a distinguished activist. Both her parents were from a working class background, and Esther was named after an aunt who had worked as a cotton weaver from the age of twelve. Her father, who had been a missionary in West Africa, died when Esther was nine-years-old. Her mother was the daughter of Irish immigrants and an advocate of female education who encouraged Esther to enter Manchester’s Owens College, where the young woman became one of the first female students, to receive a BA degree in 1891. Aged only 20 when her mother died, Esther took responsibility for her young brother, Reginald. She rapidly found employment as secretary of the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage (MNSWS) and began campaigning for the enfranchisement of all women, regardless of whether or not they owned property. Esther Roper also became involved with the Manchester University Settlement, which encouraged university staff and past students to provide classes and cultural activities for those with little or no access to education. The Settlement’s Round House, in the area of Ancoats, thus became a thriving place – a common ground on which men and women of various classes would meet in goodwill and friendship, and learn from each other. A year after their encounter in Italy, Eva Gore-Booth
went to live with Esther Roper in a terraced, red brick house in Manchester. The Gore-Booth family had connections and property in Manchester, which Eva chose to ignore, preferring to share a house with Esther’s brother and a couple whom they took in as lodgers. Manchester was then a city which concentrated the very quintessence of British industrial life. How was the Industrial Revolution to be interpreted? This is a theme with which I engaged some years ago. Manchester was, to some, a shining citadel for the future, for others a devouring Minotaur of human life and experience. In 1977, my late friend and Professor of Sociology, Valdo Pons, presented a paper at Stanford University in which he analysed the responses of British writers from the 1830s and 1840s – people such as Friedrich Engels, J.P. Kay, W. Cooke Taylor and others – to the “newness, enormity and dynamism” of Manchester at the turn of the 19th century. Professor Pons showed how Manchester’s status as a “new, unique element in British society – a factory town” was the object of differing interpretations, informed by different assumptions about the city and the wider society. These ranged from those who viewed the forces of radical change unleashed by industrial capitalism as an opportunity to “release ‘potential man’ in a classless society”, to those who, alarmed by the evils of urban life, emphasised the value of charity and philanthropy – a philanthropy which influenced, for example, the Manchester University Settlement. Valdo Pons’ framework is a useful one to understand the divisions which traversed both the suffrage and labour movements in Eva Gore-Booth’s time – divisions which set apart those, like Eva and Esther, who advocated for radical social and political reform, from those who were driven by middle-class moralism. May I also recall how the Manchester of the late 19th century was home, as many of you will know, to tens of thousands of Irish people, some of whom hailed from Eva Gore-Booth’s home county in Ireland. Many had reached Liverpool on board the steamship which, in the decades following the Great Irish Famine, departed Sligo Bay weekly, and they had then travelled the 30 miles to Manchester, where employment was found in abundance. By the early 1860s, more than 800,000 Irish people were living in England, of which almost half were concentrated in Lancashire and Cheshire. Friedrich Engels has, in his writings, given us detailed, and somewhat unsympathetic, accounts of life in the ghettos of Manchester’s New Town, known as the Irish Town, where people survived in squalid conditions. To make matters worse, the Irish, who, it was feared, would spread disease and work for lesser wages than
their fellow English workers, were often viewed with hostility and fear. Understanding the world of these migrants, and their origin, was not an achievement of Engels. But Eva Gore-Booth had witnessed the Famine which revisited Ireland and Sligo in the years 1879-80. Then ten years old, she had, alongside her siblings, been involved in the distribution of her family’s food stocks to tenants in need. Deeply aware as she was of the conditions from which those Irish migrants had fled, she was appalled by the environment that they now encountered in Manchester. Eva Gore-Booth thus threw herself into social reform work in the very poor and densely populated workingclass district of Ancoats, where 40% of the population were Irish. She was also drawn to the work of the University Settlement, setting up a dramatic society with women textile factory workers and organising dramatic evenings every Monday. In 1900, she was appointed as co-secretary of the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trade Union Council (WTUC), which had been established a few years earlier, in an attempt “to bring trade-unionism within the reach of scattered individuals working in unorganised trades”. Under the leadership of its two secretaries, Eva GoreBooth and Sarah Dickenson, the WTUC helped to form trade unions for women, primarily for cotton operatives and weavers. But the formation of the WTUC was also a response to the reluctance shown by male-dominated unions to openly welcome female membership and take care of the specific issues faced by women workers. Some unions such as, for example, the bookbinders’ union, would not allow women to become apprentices. As for the Manchester and Salford Trades’ Council, many of its members feared the undercutting effect of women’s low wages, and indeed its President of the day had publicly expressed the view that the proper place for women was not in the workshop but at home. Eva Gore-Booth vehemently combatted such views, advocating for women’s financial independence in numerous speeches, letters and pamphlets. If I may quote her words which poignantly evoke, not just the life of women of the previous century, but also the daily reality of so many women in our contemporary world: “There is no poverty so crushing as the poverty of a family, where, through force of circumstances – as indeed often happens – a woman is the principal bread-winner. The theory that working men keep their families, and that the earning of women are merely an extra help to the family finances... has often been quoted as a justification for the low wages of women, but it has grown to be wholly untrue to the facts of life. Directly a girl is grown up, or, indeed, long before the
age that is considered full grown amongst people who have leisure to grow up comfortably, she is expected to earn her keep. So many young children and old people are, of course, dependent on married women... and there is not a working woman in the country, married or single, who does not know that, probably, for one reason or another, she will before the end be thrown on her own resources, and that there comes a time in most people’s lives when only their capacity for wage-earning stands between them and the workhouse.” In those years she spent living in Manchester, Eva GoreBooth also dedicated herself to combating attempts at restricting women’s employment. Working women, especially married ones, were viewed with suspicion at the turn of the 20th century. In 1905, a year when infant mortality rates had reached alarming heights in Britain and Ireland, married women working in factories became the object of a stringently critical public campaign, including from some in liberal circles. Socialist and trade-union activist John Burns, for example, thus described how: “If mothers were working for nine, ten, or twelve hours in a factory, it not only contributed to producing a high mortality among their infants, but the effect on the children who survived was seen in gangs of anaemic, saucy, vulgar, ignorant, cigarette-smoking hooligans.” Eva Gore-Booth was incensed by John Burns’ suggestion that married women who were working were the source of both infantile deaths and of Britain’s social problems or anti-social attitudes. She publicly questioned Burns’ notion that, I quote: “The ideal woman of the working class is clean, sober, dependent and has a talent for cookery,” She argued for radical social reform as the only viable path, including the creation of “crèches with trained attendants, real projects for street and house sanitation, and a better food supply”. In these years, Eva GoreBooth also led a series of campaigns against legislative proposals aimed at limiting the access of women to certain categories of employment portrayed as harmful to their health and morals.
that prevailed on both sides of the Atlantic. As Josiah Strong put it: “God created man in a garden. The City is the result of the Fall.” Unexpectedly, Eva’s vibrant barmaids’ campaign claimed Winston Churchill as its main political casualty. During a whole day (and part of the night) before the 1908 by-elections, Constance de Markievicz, who had rushed to the assistance of her sister, memorably drove a striking coach pulled by four white horses around the streets of Manchester, while Eva took to the roof of the coach and made a rousing speech about barmaids as Churchill was holding his own meeting at the Coal Exchange. Not only did the campaign cost Churchill his seat as MP for Manchester North-West, it also convinced PM Asquith to remove the entire section relating to women from the Licensing Bill. It is important to state that Eva Gore-Booth was not hostile to legislative proposals aimed at protecting women workers; she was opposed, rather, to those sections in the Factory Acts which threatened the livelihoods of women by setting regulations that applied to them alone. She argued that similar restrictions should apply to men – thus ensuring that competition for jobs would be equal. These views were clearly outlined in a speech in which Eva GoreBooth expressed her support to two other groups of vulnerable working-women, namely pit brow workers and women engaged in dangerous performances: “The Miners’ Federation, horrified at the increase of female labour at the Pit Brow, does not appeal to parliament to protect the men’s work, but they appeal on sentimental grounds that the women should be protected against the moral deterioration of the miners’ conversation and the strain of hard work. The selfcondemnation in the miners’ first protest surely needs no comment. And there is something absurd in making the law to protect the women from the society of their own relations and friends.
In 1908, for example, Eva Gore-Booth organised the Barmaids’ Political Defence League to oppose the inclusion in the Licensing Bill of a section prohibiting women from working in licensed premises. The proponents of the ban – in particular temperance suffragists who viewed the Bill as protecting women from a path of moral ruin – were portrayed by GoreBooth as “short-sighted philanthropists”.
Mr. Gladstone also proposed to legislate against the employment of women in dangerous performances. Are then all the women circus performers, high divers, gymnasts, bicycle performers, and acrobats to be turned out of their work because one woman is killed by an accident with a parachute, an accident caused by a fault in the machine, not the performer? This is no sex question. If Mr. Gladstone’s purpose is to protect the woman’s life against her will, surely the man’s life is of some account too. The laws of gravity apply to men and women alike.”
Such views were of course part of the anti-urbanism
Eva Gore-Booth’s campaigns in support of pit brow
workers and women performers also manifest her radical conception of gender equality. Indeed both Gore-Booth and Roper were pioneering, not just in their opposition to any kind of discrimination based on gender in the workplace, but in their view of gender performance as simply learned behaviour and convention. Eva Gore-Booth, whose health was notoriously delicate, went as far as to work as a pit brow lass to prove that there was no physical limitation to women’s work. 1911, the year of the pit brow campaign, was also the year when Eva and Esther joined Thomas Baty’s Aëthnic Union, which claimed that: “Upon the fact of sex there has been built up a gigantic superstructure of artificial convention which urgently needs to be swept away.” Together with other members of the Aëthnic Union, they established the journal Urania, in which one can find articulated their view that: “Sex was an accident and formed no essential part of an individual’s nature.” These indeed are words that are uncannily similar to those that would be formulated by Simone de Beauvoir half a century later. Another remarkable feature of Eva Gore-Booth’s social and political activism is her connecting of industrial struggles and women trade-unionism with the political battle for women’s suffrage. She was convinced that the position of women, both in the home and in the workplace, would not improve until they received the franchise. In other words, there was, in Gore-Booth’s view, an intrinsic link between women’s “political disability”, their “exclusion from the responsibilities of national life”, and the low wages which were the plight of working women. As she put it: “Six or seven shillings a week is not a sufficient sum of money to live on. This is not the rate of wages that could possibly be enforced upon the enfranchised citizens of a free country. We feel... that our industrial status is being brought down. It results from the fact that we have no political power.” While such connection between industrial and political issues might seem obvious to us today, this was far from evident in Eva Gore-Booth’s time. The suffrage movement was traversed by similar divisions and conflicts as the trade-union movement. Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper were among the first to take the issue of women’s suffrage out of the preserve of middle-class concerns and to seek the enfranchisement of all women,
regardless of their property qualifications. Eva Gore-Booth had, in 1899, joined the executive committee of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), an umbrella organisation established to coordinate the work of Britain’s 500 or so suffragist organisations. However, Eva Gore-Booth’s position was more radical than that of the Union, which campaigned to secure votes for women on the same terms as successive Reform Acts had granted them to men who satisfied certain property qualifications. Extending the vote to women on such terms would do little to improve the lives of working-class women, few of whom owned or rented property in their own right. As Eva Gore-Booth’s friend, Selina Cooper, put it in a speech summing up the position of their group of “radical suffragists”: “Women do not want their political power to boast they are on equal terms with the men. They want to use it for the same purpose as men – to get better conditions.” Convinced that there was no resolution but political to the plight of millions of women employed in miserably paid trades such as folding and sewing, cigar making, cap making, fancy-box making, if not in outright sweated labour, Eva, Esther and their friends launched, in 1900, a large petition for suffrage. Presented to the Lancashire MPs by Sarah Reddish, who had worked in the cotton mill factories from the age of eleven, this was the first petition of working women ever presented to the British parliament. Eva Gore-Booth described how “deputations of enthusiastic workers” arrived at the House of Commons and “could not believe in the indifference of the well-to-do world to the claims of the unenfranchised wage-earners”. The deputations “came back to Lancashire sadder and wiser women”. The women then looked to the recently formed Labour Representation Committee (LRC), which had demanded representation for working men in the House of Commons, as perhaps their best chance of gaining the franchise for women. The issue of women’s political representation was not, however, a consensual one amongst members of the LRC. This seemed all the more outrageous to the women as the textile trade unions to which the LRC was affiliated had a majority of female members, who were paying the same parliamentary levy as men. Disappointed by the LRC, Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper formed a group to sponsor a candidate pledged to universal women’s suffrage in the 1904 election – The Lancashire and Cheshire Women Textile and Other Workers’ Representation Committee (LCWTOWRC).
The writings of Eva Gore-Booth on behalf of this Women Workers’ Representation Committee are ones that powerfully speak to us today. In them we see how deep her rejection was of any form of aristocracy, not just of the old hereditary aristocracy, from which she had departed, but also of what she called “the new aristocracy of labour” living in the illusion that it could protect itself from “the multitude of helpless, outlawed, unorganised, and half-starved workers”. These, of course, are issues that continue to challenge us in our own times, not just within our respective countries, but also as we respond to the urgent challenge of reorganising the labour movement at a global level. For Eva Gore-Booth, there was no doubt that the cause of labour was – had to be – the cause of the most vulnerable, that the chain of working people was “never stronger than its very weakest link”. If I may quote from the Manifesto of the Lancashire and Cheshire Women Workers’ Representation Committee: “The Government says, ‘We have nothing to do with you, you can bring no pressure to bear on us’; but the nation says, ‘We feel the pressure of your poverty.’ In spite of the deafness of the political parties to human needs, working men everywhere are beginning to realise that the exclusion from all political rights of a body of 5,000,000 [women] workers is not only a source of industrial weakness and poverty to themselves. But a danger to the whole of the world of labouring people.” Eva Gore-Booth was also acutely aware that working women’s political disability made them an easy target for politicians during times of increased economic struggle. Had she lived amongst us today, I have no doubt that she would have been a voice for those new disenfranchised – strangers, migrants, and migrant women – who are, in our times, so easily blamed for providing ‘cheap labour’ and for a whole range of other problems. As Eva Gore-Booth said: “What the working class needs is not protection from one another, but protection from the evils of poverty.” These are words that resonate profoundly with our contemporary situation – words that can illuminate our continuing struggle for decent work for all. We can also find inspiration, I believe, in another strand of Eva Gore-Booth’s public work, namely her passionate commitment to the cause of peace throughout the years of The First World War. In 1913, Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper moved to 33, Fitzroy Square, just a few streets from here. The lower floors of their house harboured Roger Fry’s Omega Workshop, and the two women soon began
to mix with the so-called Bloomsbury group, people such as John Maynard Keynes, Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Vanessa Bell, who were challenging accepted views on economy, sexuality and patriotism, who were celebrating life in all its diversity and possibilities. The outbreak of the First World War, in September 1914, caused most suffragist organisations to suspend their campaigns for women’s enfranchisement, and join forces with the government in support of the British war effort. In contrast, while continuing her campaign for women’s suffrage, Eva Gore-Booth spent most of those years working for the cause of peace. Impervious to the patriotic fever which held sway in the country, she supported those German citizens who had found themselves trapped in England by the outbreak of the War. She also participated in writing a collective letter, signed by 101 British and Irish pacifist women, which was sent to German and Austrian women at Christmas 1914 (and to which those women responded in the same spirit of peace and friendship). Eva Gore-Booth was relentless in her denunciation of war as a destruction of everything that is of value to human life. Let us think of Syria and its people as I read her speech delivered to the National Industrial and Professional Women’s Suffrage Society in December 1914. She said: “We read in the papers every day of thousands of brave people of all countries shot dead or mutilated for life; we hear terrible tales of hardship, of the cold and wet, of the unbearable filth of the trenches... Then we hear of a devastated country, town bombarded, villages burnt, crops destroyed and thousands of people face to face with all the miseries of famine and homelessness. In our country we are surrounded by mourners, by people who have lost all that made life worth living, whose nearest and dearest are lying dead among the unspeakable horrors of what is called the fields of honour. Instances of heroism and self-sacrifice shown by soldiers on all sides have been quoted as a justification for war. But it only adds a little to the general tragedy to think that such fine qualities should be lost to the world, and lives that might have been so useful swept away in the universal and intolerable carnage.” Eva Gore-Booth was relentless, too, in her denunciation of the failures of international diplomacy, describing – with words which must cause all of us to pause and reflect – how: “We have surely reached the logical result of some wrong doctrine when we find the Governments of ten civilised nations forsaking their proper functions of
caring for the welfare and happiness of the governed and straining every resource of science and knowledge to cause as much pain, on as big a scale as possible.” As the war went on, although deeply disturbed by the sinking of the Lusitania, Eva Gore-Booth turned her efforts to the anti-conscription movement. In July 1915, she attended the Pacifist Philosophy of Life Conference, in Caxton Hall, London, where she befriended Fenner Brockway, editor of the Labour Leader, who published an appeal for Conscientious Objectors and established the No Conscription Fellowship (NCF). The Fellowship offered protection for young men who refused to take up arms on moral, religious or political grounds. Eva Gore-Booth immediately got involved with the Fellowship’s campaign, passionately defending “man’s right to his own soul and conscience”.
“The uncompromising ethical drive which distinguished Eva Gore-Booth’s work for social reform was unique.” By the end of the year 1915, the huge losses suffered by armies on all sides meant that the men killed or wounded on the front were not being replaced. On 2nd March, 1916, for the first time in history, military conscription was introduced in Britain. The Military Service Act 1916 did contain a section allowing for individual exemptions due to conscientious objection, however the process for gaining such exemptions proved particularly difficult, even stigmatising, for those who applied. Like hundreds of other volunteers of the NCF, Eva Gore-Booth travelled across England to attend the work of the tribunals that were established to hear cases of conscientious objection. She dramatised a day in the life of a ‘watcher’ in an emotional account, entitled The Tribunal, which provides a rare glimpse into the experience of those seeking an exemption from war service. One cannot but admire the courage of Eva Gore-Booth in writing against militarism at the height of intense pro-war propaganda and in bravely identifying herself as the author of texts such as this pamphlet. (During the same time, Bertrand Russell, with whom she had become acquainted at the Caxton Hall conference, was arrested for writing a similar pamphlet and dismissed from his lectureship post at Trinity College,
Cambridge). Indeed to dissent from Britain’s war-fever was, perhaps, the hardest and most vital act of moral courage any citizen could undertake at that time, and it was particularly difficult for women to appear ‘ungrateful’, as it would be put, towards the men then exposing themselves to mutilation and death. While Eva Gore-Booth was immersed in the peace campaign in Britain, the wheels were in motion, in Ireland, for an armed uprising against British imperial rule. Eva was unaware that her own sister, Constance de Markievicz, was centrally involved in preparing the military strike which broke out in Dublin during Easter Week 1916. This is, as Sonja Tiernan puts it, perhaps surprising, considering the very close bonds which united the two sisters, who regularly visited and wrote to each other. During their childhood spent on the big estate of Lissadell, in Co. Sligo, the two had a deep friendship, which was sustained through both of their lives. Constance often illustrated her younger sister’s poetry with watercolour paintings or line drawings – a collaboration which they resumed during Constance’s imprisonment in 1916. Eva and Constance, who had been presented at the court of Queen Victoria in 1887, both rejected the privilege of their upbringing and social circumstances. At a time of great change and political agitation in Ireland, when campaigns for tenants’ rights were challenging the position of landlords, both sisters chose to put their lives in the service of the oppressed. They were driven by the same idealism, although they chose very different paths to achieve their ends. R.M. Fox, a friend of Eva Gore-Booth who had visited her shortly before her death, thus described the common passion for justice which animated the two sisters: “The gap dividing the sisters is much smaller than many realise, though they seem at opposite poles. Both were rebels against all that they regarded as mean and unworthy. Their passionate, selfless sincerity drove them in different directions. One came out of the smoke and flame and handed her revolver to the commanding officer when the rebels surrendered; the other was a militant pacifist.” A pacifist at heart, Eva Gore-Booth nevertheless steadfastly defended, in her writings and speeches, the reputation and motivations of her friends who were involved in the Easter Rising. And while Eva GoreBooth is too rarely acknowledged as an Irish patriot, her commitment to the cause of Irish freedom in fact predates the 1916 Rebellion. In her early poetry we can see, already, how Eva’s
inspiration was republican and revolutionary, based on the ideals of the French Revolution and Wolfe Tone’s non-sectarian principles. She was also an intrinsic part of the Irish cultural revival movement, the friend of such as George Russell (Æ) and W.B. Yeats, whom she knew from her teen years in Sligo and who had written encouragingly of her poetry. Throughout her life, Eva Gore-Booth published numerous volumes of poetry and drama, inspired by Ireland’s ancient mythological figures, most notably Maeve, Queen of Connaught, whose burial ground, Knocknarea’s flat-top cairn, overlooked the estate of Lissadell. When the Rising broke out, in 1916, Eva Gore-Booth interpreted it, not as an act of war, but as an act of rebellion against British oppression. This is manifest, for example, in Rhythms of Art, a pamphlet for the League of Peace and Freedom in which Eva wrote: “The ‘Dark Rosaleen’ is a far more beautiful poem than ‘Rule Britannia,’ because the rhythm that finds vent in rebellion, imperfect as it must be, or else it could not find vent in violence, is still a more subtle and beautiful rhythm than the vibration that expresses itself in the ponderous pomposity and violence of Empire.” Such reading of the Easter Rising as a strike against imperial oppression is evident, too, in her Holograph Account of a visit to Dublin in the Aftermath of the Rising, which she wrote after she had rushed to Dublin to visit her sister at Mountjoy Prison: “As the Leinster steamed into Dublin Bay on that May morning of 1916,” she wrote, “the world seemed transfigured with beauty and delight... The sea shifted and glittered and dreamed. It was hardly possible to believe that any man could look upon the vessel’s shining track merely as the road to Empire and domination. Yet, as the siren suddenly shrieked out its harsh warning, the sight of a great mass of khakiclad soldiers crowding round the gangway shook the glamour of the scene and brought queer memories of past generations. Soldiers of all times, of the same nationality and on the same quest. Soldiers in the queer bulky armour of the Middle Ages, soldiers in the gay colours of the Elizabethans, soldiers in Cromwell’s drabs, soldiers in the stiff reds of the last century, and now soldiers in khaki... Ten minutes after that the world turned black, as I read the words that shrieked in huge letters from every hoarding in the town: ‘James Connolly shot this morning’.”
Eva Gore-Booth was deeply shaken by the execution of James Connolly, whom she had met, together with Jim Larkin, during her visits to Dublin. She especially liked and admired Connolly, a man who, as she wrote: “Had that quality, rare indeed among politicians, that however absorbed he might be in fighting for a cause, he did not forget to answer the appeal of individual suffering.” She also shared Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army’s vision of radical social reform, which included equality between the sexes as one of its central goals. Eva thus lost several friends in the Easter Rising, not just James Connolly, but also her very dear friend Francis Sheehy Skeffington, a suffrage activist and a pacifist, who was summarily executed by British soldiers on the third day of the Rising although he did not have any part in the fighting. The murder of Francis Sheehy was seen by Eva Gore-Booth as emblematic of the brutal spirit of militarism. As she put it: “In Sheehy Skeffington militarism had struck down its worst enemy – unarmed yet insurgent Idealism.” Upon her return to London from Dublin, in the early summer of 1916, Eva Gore-Booth also passionately dedicated herself to the campaign for the reprieve of Sir Roger Casement, who had been arrested on Banna Strand, a beach off Ireland’s West Coast in a failed attempt to ship weapons to the Irish Volunteers and advise against the Rising. The subsequent years of Eva Gore-Booth’s life were punctuated by visits to her sister in various prisons, not just Mountjoy and then Aylesbury Prison, in Buckinghamshire, where Constance de Markievicz was held until June 1917, but also Holloway Jail, where she was imprisoned in 1918 and 1919 alongside Maud Gonne and Kathleen Clarke, after the British Intelligence Service had claimed to have uncovered a Sinn Féin ‘German plot’. Eva’s familiarisation with the world of prisons – which she described as: “All the same, built after the same dreary pattern. Very imposing and grand on the outside, they gradually get squalider and squalider the further you get into them” — led her to espouse yet another cause, that of Prison Reform, which she championed alongside her campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, throughout the years of the Irish War of Independence. Dear friends, it was on a visit to Peter O’Toole’s house, Traynor House in Heath Street, in Hampstead, that I turned up a flyer asking local members of the Labour Party to assemble the following Saturday to clear up
Eva Gore-Booth’s grave. This was how my interest in Constance de Markievicz’s neglected sister was aroused. It would be such a travesty, it seemed to me, to continue to neglect Eva Gore-Booth’s life’s work. That is why we are all so indebted to Sonja Tiernan and those like her. Eva Gore-Booth’s extraordinary path of engagement is one that remains deeply inspiring to us today. Eva was not limited by any sectional views. She was never sectarian, dismissive or excluding. She was driven by an uncompromising ethical consciousness of universal human rights. She was a woman who felt compelled to engage with injustices wherever she found them, possessed as she was by a deep ethical concern for the value of each human life, for everything that makes human life worth living – solidarity, freedom, construction, joy and love. And indeed it was words of love, those of the ancient Greek poetess Sappho, that Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper chose to be inscribed on the grave of St. John’s Churchyard, where the two lie together: “Life that is Love is God.” Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
(Back L – R) Éamonn Galldubh, Síle Denvir, Daire Bracken; (Front L – R) Lorcán Mac Mathúna, Diarmuid De Faoite at launch of Féasta 100 event organised by the leading Irish language organisations.
(Cúl C – D) Éamonn Galldubh, Síle Denvir, Daire Bracken; (Chun tosaigh C – D) Lorcán Mac Mathúna, Diarmuid De Faoite ag seoladh na hócáide Féasta 100 eagraithe ag na ceanneagrais Ghaeilge.
Photo: Conchubhair Mac Lochlainn www.acmhainni.ie
An Teanga Beo – The Living Language Óráid an Uachtaráin Micheál D. Ó hUigínn ag Féasta 100 – Ceiliúradh Athbheochan na Gaeilge Óstán Double Tree Hilton, Droichead na Dothra, Baile Átha Cliath Dé Satharn 3 Nollaig, 2016
On the 3rd December 2016, Foras na Gaeilge, Glór na nGael, Coláiste na bhFiann, Conradh na Gaeilge, Oireachtas na Gaeilge, Gael Linn and the Gaelscoileanna came together to organise a celebration of the central place held by the Irish language in our cultural and national life. As the invited guest of honour, the President reflected on the Irish language strand of the State Commemorative Programme, An Teanga Beo, and of successful contemporary eﬀorts to promote the language through the use of new communications technology, the Irish language state broadcaster, TG4 and, above all, the Irish language organisers represented at the celebration. An 3 Nollaig 2016, tháinig Foras na Gaeilge, Glór na nGael, Coláiste na bhFiann, Conradh na Gaeilge, Oireachtas na Gaeilge, Gael Linn agus Gaelscoileanna le chéile chun ceiliúradh a eagrú ar an áit lárnach atá ag an nGaeilge inár mbeatha chultúrtha agus náisiúnta. Mar an aoi oinigh ar tugadh cuireadh dó, rinne an tUachtarán machnamh ar shnáithe Gaeilge Chlár Comórtha an Stáit, an Teanga Bheo, agus ar iarrachtaí rathúla comhaimseartha chun an teanga a chur chun cinn trí úsáid a bhaint as teicneolaíocht nua cumarsáide, craoltóir stáit na Gaeilge, TG4 agus, thairis sin uile, tháinig na heagraithe Gaeilge i láthair ag an gceiliúradh.
A Dhaoine Uaisle, A Chairde Gael, Tá an-áthas orm bheith anseo in bhur gcuideachta anocht ag an ócáid seo ina ndéanfar ceiliúradh ar stádas na Gaeilge agus an áit lárnach atá aici i gcultúr na hÉireann. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Foras na Gaeilge, Glór na nGael, Coláiste na bhFiann, Conradh na Gaeilge, Oireachtas na Gaeilge, Gael Linn agus Gaelscoileanna as an gcuireadh a tugadh dom a bheith mar aoi oinigh na hócáide agus a bheith in bhur dteannta anocht. Agus muid i gcomhluadar a chéile ag druidim ar dheireadh na bliana, is fiú dúinn breathnú siar ar an mbliain atá caite chomh maith le súil chun cinn a chaitheamh ar an todhchaí agus ar an áit ar mhaith linn an Ghaeilge a fheiceáil ann mar chuid den todhchaí sin. Níl amhras ar bith ach gur thug an clár comórtha an deis dúinn mar phobal comóradh, machnamh agus ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar an gcéad bliain atá caite ó aimsir Éirí Amach na Cásca – uair a thosaigh an t-aistear i dtreo neamhspleáchais. Ba thionscnamh uaillmhianach, fadréimseach a bhí sa chlár comórtha inar cuimsíodh seacht snáithe ar leith – a raibh an Ghaeilge mar cheann lárnach acu. Bhí nádúr agus scála an chomórtha thar cuimse. Eagraíodh na mílte imeachtaí agus tionscnaimh – idir imeachtaí oifigiúla stáit agus neamhoifigiúla, imeachtaí sollúnta agus drámata agus gach cineál imeachta idir eatarthu. Thar tréimhse iomlán na bliana, d’fhreastail pobal na hÉireann agus an diaspóra ar imeachtaí éagsúla mar chuid den chomóradh; facthas, cláracha faisnéise, drámaí stáitse agus teilifíse,
ceolchoirmeacha, léirithe beo agus taispeántais de gach cineál; Scríobhadh agus léadh leabhair, aistí, ailt nuachtán agus ábhar scríofa eile nach iad: chualathas an iliomad plé agus díospóireachtaí ar na meáin faoi gach gné den scéal agus thar aon ní eile ghlac an pobal páirt fonnmhar, gníomhach sa chlár. Mar gheall ar seo ar fad creidim go bhfuil athshamhlú déanta againn féin ar an gcaoi a fheicimid muid féin mar Éireannaigh sa domhan mór ar lámh amháin agus ar an lámh eile faoin gcaoi a fheiceann an domhan mór muidne.
“Is meascán í ár scéal maidir leis an nGaeilge idir dearfach agus diúltach. Idir na baol agus bacanna atá romhainn agus na féidireachtaí gan teorainn atá ann chomh maith.” A bhuíochas don chomhpháirtíocht ghníomhach agus rathúil idir eagraíochtaí stáit agus eagraíochtaí Gaeilge fud fad na tíre, a bhfuil cuid díobh anseo anocht, cuireadh clár Gaeilge spleodrach le chéile mar léiriú ar áit lárnach na Gaeilge in idéil na glúine réabhlóidí agus chun an teanga a cheiliúradh. Mar chuid de shnáithe Gaeilge an chláir chomórtha, An Teanga Bheo, eagraíodh breis agus 30 imeacht agus tionscnamh – idir imeachtaí ardiomrá, chlár digitithe, acmhainní foghlama ar líne, léachtaí, díospóireachtaí, seimineáir, imeachtaí ealaíon agus comhpháirtíocht leis na meáin chumarsáide. Chomh maith le bheith aitheanta mar shnáithe faoi leith de, bhí an Ghaeilge fite fuaite tríd an gclár comórtha trí chéile. Faoin snáithe dar teideal Rannpháirtíocht Phobail, eagraíodh faoi scáth na nÚdarás Áitiúil, breis agus 150 tionscnamh agus imeacht faoi leith a bhain leis an nGaeilge. De thoradh seo ar fad scaladh solas ar áit na Gaeilge i saol comhaimseartha na tíre agus an domhain. Rinneadh iarracht chomh maith chun a chinntiú go mbeidh oidhreacht bhuan fágtha mar lorg fadtréimhseach an chláir agus i measc na meabhrúcháin bhuana tógadh Ionad Cultúrtha an Phiarsaigh i Ros Muc, ina ndíreofar go sonrach ar áit lárnach na Gaeilge i bhfís an Phiarsaigh agus ar uathúlacht na Gaeltachta mar fhearann dúchais na teanga. Meitheal measúil, cruthaitheach, samhlaíoch agus fuinniúil a bhí sa chlár comórtha, inar ghlac na mílte daoine páirt ann agus a chruthaigh bliain faoi leith a
mhairfidh go ceann i bhfad i gcuimhne na ndaoine. Bhí deis agam féin freastal ar roinnt mhaith ócáidí ina raibh an Ghaeilge mar chuid lárnach díobh ó thús na bliana agus bhíos a cur béim ar stadas agus úsáid na Gaeilge i rith na bliana. Ceapaim gur bhualas le roinnt mhaith agaibh ag na hócáidí sin, ach b’fhéidir nach raibh sibh gléasta chomh galánta is atá sibh anocht! Ó bhronnadh gradaim an Oireachtais go freastal ar chomórtas peil na Gaeltachta; ó labhairt le Coimisinéirí teanga ó faid na cruinne go bualadh le páistí i ngaelscoileanna dhifriúla thar timpeall na tíre. Ó chéiliúradh scór bhliain de TG4 go cheiliúradh an éacht a rinne céad Uachtarán na hÉireann, Dúbhghlas de hÍde ar son na teanga. Ag na hócáidí seo, agus cinne eile nach iad, labhaireamar faoi ról agus athnuachan na Gaeilge. Bhí deis againn achoimre a dhéanamh ar ár n-iarrachtaí i leith na teanga sa chéad atá caite, na h-áiteanna ar theip orainn, na baol atá romhainn i gcónaí agus, chomh maith, na hábhair dóchais atá againn: an dea-thoil i leith na teanga atá ann an t-am ar fad, na féidireachachtaí atá ann dúinn sna modhanna cumarsáide nua, idir craoltóireacht agus an domhain digiteach. Nach íontach an ocáid a bhí againn Oíche Shamhna chun 20 bliain TG4 a chéiliúradh. Agus cé a shamhlódh go mbeadh éileamh 2.3 milliún duine ar an App Duolingo, chun an Gaeilge a fhoghlaim. Mar a dúirt mé ag an cóisir ‘Gaeilge sa Gháirdín’ a thionólas ag Áras an Uachtaráin i rith an tsamhraidh, is meascán í ár scéal maidir leis an nGaeilge idir dearfach agus diúltach. Idir na baol agus bacanna atá romhainn agus na féidireachtaí gan teorainn atá ann chomh maith. Agus muid ag druidim le ceann scríbe an chláir agus le breacadh na hathbhliana, tá sé tráthúil go mbreathnóimis arís ar staid reatha na Gaeilge, ar cad atá bainte amach ó bunaíodh an Stát, ar cad iad na dúshláin is mó atá romhainn agus cá bhfuil ár dtriall mar phobal maidir leis an nGaeilge. Mar fhorléargas ginearálta ar an méid atá bainte amach ba mhaith liom cúpla rud faoi leith a lua go sonrach, mar ábhar misnigh agus spreagtha, tá súil agam. Tá an Ghaeilge mar theanga oifigiúil de chuid na hÉireann le stádas faoi leith aici sa Bhunreacht agus i ndlíthe na tíre, ar nós Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003, An tAcht Oideachais 1998, An tAcht um Phleanáil agus Forbairt 2000 agus An tAcht um Chraolacháin 2001. Tá stádas aici mar theanga oifigiúil agus oibre san Aontas Eorpach. Tá suim as cuimse sa Ghaeilge agus i léann na Gaeilge ar fud na cruinne agus í mar ábhar teagasc i mbreis agus 40 ollscoil go hidirnáisiúnta. Le cur i bhfeidhm céimiúil na Straitéise 20 Bliain don
Ghaeilge 2010-2030 a thosaigh cúig bliana ó shin — le tacaíocht pholaitiúil tras-pháirtí, tá plean leagtha amach ag an Rialtas don tréimhse idir seo agus 2030. Leagtar na bealaí amach sa straitéis faoina ndéanfar an Ghaeilge a threisiú mar theanga sna naoi réimse gnímh a gcuimsítear inti – ina measc, an Ghaeltacht. Tá raon leathan beartais, clár, scéimeanna agus tionscnamh á gcur i bhfeidhm ar bhonn leanúnach ag eagraíochtaí Gaeilge i gcomhar le forais Ghaeilge an stáit. Tá an obair seo ar siúl ar mhaithe leis an nGaeilge a threisiú mar theanga bheoga bhisiúil i gcomhréir le mianaidhm na straitéise agus tá na heagraíochtaí atá anseo anocht ar thus cadhnaíochta san obair thábhachtach sin. De thoradh na seirbhísí laethúla craolacháin a chuireann TG4 agus Raidió na Gaeltachta ar fáil, tá teacht ag pobal éisteachta agus féachana na Gaeilge in Éirinn agus thar lear ar sceideal cuimsitheach cláir Ghaeilge de gach cineál. Ní chóir dearmad a dhéanamh ar ndóigh ar an obair fhónta a dhéanann na stáisiúin raidió; Raidió na Life, Raidió Fáilte agus Raidió Rí-Rá sa réimse seo an obair fhónta a dhéanann foireann an nuachtáin leictreonaigh tuairisc.ie chun a chinntiú go bhfuil rogha d’ábhair nuachta ar fáil do phobal na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta araon. Mar gheall ar seo agus go leor eile tá an chosúlacht air go bhfuil an Ghaeilge ag dul i dtreis. Dar le torthaí daonáireamh 2011 tháinig ardú níos mó ná seacht faoin gcéad ó 2006 ar an líon daoine a mhaígh go bhfuil siad in ann Gaeilge a labhairt. Tá léirithe i dtaighde go bhfuil pobal na hÉireann báúil don Ghaeilge. Is leor breathnú ar an éileamh atá ar oideachas Gaeilge ó cheann ceann na tíre mar fhianaise go n-aithnítear luach na teanga go forleathan.
comhdhéanta de shaothar a cumadh as an nua mar chuid den chlár comórtha. Mar fhocal scoir fágfaidh mé libh le cúpla líne filíochta ó pheann an fhile agus an aisteora Seán Ó Tarpaigh, a scríobh agus a léirigh dráma mar chuid den Teanga Bheo i gcomhar le fear an tí na hoíche anocht, dar teideal Foxy Jack – Giolla Éireann faoi shaol Major John Mac Bride a cuireadh chun báis tar éis Eirí Amach na Cásca: Cé hiad na taibhsí ionann a spreagann muid chun troda? Ionann nó mór thimpeall orainn, lenár linn nó ó na glúine atá imithe i léig. Mianta mistéireacha ár ndaonnachta, fáiscthe go dlúth i snaidhm: “Tír, Pobal agus Teanga”. Tréaslaím libhse mar eagraíochtaí as an obair atá déanta agaibh thar na blianta i gcaomhnú agus i sealbhú na Gaeilge. Murach an obair sin bheadh rudaí níos faide siar go suntasach gan amhras. Impím oraibh gan na maidí a ligin le sruth. Leanaimis orainn mar phobal ag saothrú na Poblachta agus ag saothrú na Gaeilge. Tapaímis an deis chun spiorad na meithle a bhí le sonrú sa bhliain stairiúil seo – agus atá go smior ionann mar phobal, a chur chun fónaimh ar son an rud is cás linn ar fad sna blianta atá romhainn – is é sin an Ghaeilge. Guím gach beannacht oraibh san obair sin. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Dá fheabhas an dul chun cinn seo, is gá a bheith ag faire amach i gcónaí ar na bealaí chun rudaí a threisiú tuilleadh ar leas na Gaeilge agus ag an am céanna na rudaí atá ar aimhleas na teanga a bhainistiú, a mhaolú nó a sheachaint oiread agus is féidir. Is údar buartha dom go pearsanta go bhfuil ceal suntasach ann i státchóras na tíre mar a bhaineann sé le hinfheictheacht na Gaeilge ag ardleibhéal bainistíochta Ranna Stáit, údaráis áitiúla agus eagrais Stáit. Ní go sách minic a chloistear an Ghaeilge ag an leibhéal sin agus má táimid i ndáiríre faoi dlús a chur le treisiú na Gaeilge, is gá dar liom féin, dul i ngleic leis seo le go mbeidh an cheannaireacht, an cumas agus an bá cuí ann don Ghaeilge ag an leibhéal sin. Deirtear gur ag feo atá rud mura bhfuil sé ag fás agus is díol suntais é go bhfuil clár siamsaíochta na hoíche anocht – idir cheol, damhsa, amhráin agus cheol
Dearcán na nDaoine – The People’s Acorn Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at Dearcán na nDaoine – The People’s Acorn Unveiling Ceremony Áras an Uachtaráin Thursday 14th December, 2017
In 2015, the President invited renowned sculptors to make proposals for a commemorative piece of public art to be placed in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin as a permanent tribute to the men and women whose sacrifice contributed so much to the cause of Irish freedom and the creation of a Republic. The chosen piece Dearcán na nDaoine – The People’s Acorn by Rachel Joynt was oﬃcially unveiled in December 2017 with several hundred people in attendance. In 2015, thug an tUachtarán cuireadh do dhealbhóirí chun tograí a dhéanamh do phíosa comórtha d’ealaín phoiblí a shuíomh i dtailte Áras an Uachtaráin chun ómós buan a léiriú do na fir agus na mná ar chuir a n-íobairt an oiread sin le cúis shaoirse na hÉireann agus le Poblacht a chruthú. Cuireadh an píosa a roghnaíodh, Dearcán na nDaoine, le Rachel Joynt, i láthair go hoifigiúil i Nollaig 2017 i láthair cúpla céad duine.
Ar an gcéad dul síos ba mhaith liom féin agus le Saidhbhín fáilte ó chroí a fhearradh romhaibh ar fad chuig Áras an Uachtaráin. Táimid bailithe le chéile inniu ar ócáid chomórtha an Éirí Amach, mar chéiliúradh ar an méid atá bainte amach againn mar thír agus mar náisiún ó shin i leith, agus i gcuimhne, chomh maith, ar an obair atá le déanamh againn fós chun cospóirí an Fhorógra a chur i gcríoch. Dear friends, On behalf of Sabina and myself, let me thank you most sincerely for joining us on this joyous occasion, and thank you all for braving the elements for the unveiling of Rachel Joynt’s stunning work – Dearcán na nDaoine – The People’s Acorn. There were so many people involved in the creation of this work that we literally couldn’t fit you all in one room in the Áras so this event has been in two parts. Just before the unveiling I addressed over 170 children from seven schools in different parts of our Island, and now I have an opportunity to speak to all of you. I particularly want to welcome those of you from the Bealtaine Writers’ Group and from the Lourdes Day Care Centre on Seán McDermott Street. You generously gave of your time to work with Rachel Joynt and poet Enda Wyley to share your memories and your perspectives on life in Ireland. Your words and thoughts are now sealed within the Sculpture to be pondered by the children of the 22nd century and your names, like those of each of the children who were with us earlier, will be forever etched on Dearcán na nDaoine.
I would also like to recall Elizabeth O’Carroll who chaired the Bealtaine Group’s input to this project. Sadly, Elizabeth died since the workshop. I welcome her husband Tom who is with us today and thank him for coming. I know that Elizabeth is dearly missed by her family and friends in the Bealtaine Group.
Those who participated were men and women who risked everything in their different ways, fighting for freedom and inspired by the declaration of a Republic, and the dream of a better, fairer future.
Since 2012 we have collectively been engaging in a period of reflection – the decade of commemoration – on the momentous events of a century ago that were to lead to an independent state, the partition of Ireland and eventually the birth of a republic.
We should not forget that the rebels were a group that had a variety of talents but a shared belief in the independence of Ireland. Amongst their number were socialists, feminists, republicans, devout catholics, protestants, radicals and other ideologists compelled, in their different ways, to dream of an alternative existence to the subjugation of Irish people and their culture and they rejected the imposed deference to empire.
As part of this reflection, Sabina and I decided that Áras an Uachtaráin, the seat of the President of Ireland, should mark these centenary commemorations, not only through the hosting of events – which we have done, but also in more permanent artistic interpretations of our contemporary reflection on the past. Next year, we will install an artwork commemorating the 1913 Lockout and today we recall the Easter Rising, with our beautiful new addition to the grounds.
As my speeches last year emphasised, all of the participants in 1916 had come to perceive and recoil from what was a constant theme in the assumptions of the Imperialist mind: that those dominated in any colony such as Ireland were lesser in human terms, in language, culture and politics. The historical evidence for this view was all around, in the circumstances of housing, hunger, emigration, exclusion and language loss. The cultural freedom allowed was a freedom merely to imitate or ingratiate.
What we sought was an appropriate and permanent tribute to the women and men whose effort and sacrifice contributed so much to Irish freedom and a symbol that would also serve as an inspiration towards realising the promise of a true republic, which remains a challenge for us all.
While the vision for the future of those we recall and honour today was set out in the Proclamation, it can, I think, only be viewed in retrospect as a challenge to succeeding generations. An ideal that was yet to be achieved.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam.
Today, I would especially like to welcome some of the relatives of the signatories of the proclamation, and of other participants in the Rising who have joined us for this occasion. Tá fíor-chaoin fáilte rómhaibh a chairde agus tá súil agam go mbraitheann sibh go bhfuil Dearcán na nDaoine mar shiombal oiriúnach den fhís a leag bhur ngaolta ós ár gcomhair an Luan Cásca sin ós cionn céad bliain ó shin. I hope that what we have achieved with this commemorative work is a fitting tribute to the memory and vision of the signatories of the Proclamation, and all those who stood with them. It is, I think, both an accolade to our shared past and a beacon for a brighter future. All of us as citizens of Ireland are now living in a context that was shaped by the actions and vision of your ancestors, who with other men and women took to the streets on Easter Monday 1916 to make a demand for independence and to respond directly to the consequences of Imperialism in Ireland.
It was such thoughts and reflections that drove Sabina and I to set down a challenge of our own to artists. This challenge was to capture, in the one work, the foundations we have been bequeathed by that revolutionary generation and those that succeeded it, the part that each of us are called upon, and have the opportunity, to play in our national story as we seek to achieve the promise and potential of the future – ár bhféidireachtaí gan teorainn. To this end, in 2015 we invited renowned artists and sculptors to make proposals for such an artwork to be placed here in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin. Each of the sculptors was highly accomplished and all had reputations as exceptional artists who we were confident would bring reflective and imaginative ideas to this project. We were delighted at the positive and enthusiastic response we received. Some of the fourteen artists who submitted proposals are with us today and I would like to thank you all for your engagement and for the truly wonderful and inspiring ideas that you put forward. We realised from the beginning that choosing between
all the profound but very different proposals would require the application of exceptional and experienced individuals who together could discern the most appropriate sculpture for its intended setting. We were so delighted that our first choice of Jury members to oversee this project responded positively to our invitation and gave freely of their time and of their energy.
“Dearcán na nDaoine – The People’s Acorn will now stand in Áras an Uachtaráin as a permanent testament to our shared journey towards a Republic.” The formidable minds and talents of Jenny Haughton, Robert Ballagh, Seán O’Laoire and Imogen Stuart were brought together and set to the task of making a very difficult choice, which involved several stages of consideration, interrogation and distillation. The Jury was expertly chaired by Catríona Crowe, under whose guidance this project ran so smoothly. On behalf of Sabina and as President of Ireland, I would like to thank the jury most sincerely for all your efforts in this endeavour. I know that we set a very challenging brief for you and for the artists but we both think that you made an inspired choice. I hope it gives you much satisfaction to see the People’s Acorn having moved so successfully from concept to realisation. Molaim sibh. I would also like to publicly thank the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology for facilitating the participation of Jenny Haughton and apologise to her students if she missed a lecture or two while we kept her busy. Let me also take this opportunity to thank a small army of civil and public servants who have quietly and efficiently contributed to the successful execution of this project. Much like the entire 2016 commemoration programme, this project has been a demonstration of the very best of our public service and of our public servants. Officials from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht not only helped to secure the funding for the project, but also assisted greatly in
its administration. Go raibh maith agaibh uile. Our partners in the Office of Public Works were on hand to provide crucial advice and guidance to the Jury on procurement, planning, landscaping, architecture and horticulture. OPW staff oversaw the planning process and worked closely with Rachel’s team during the installation. Like much of what we do at Áras an Uachtaráin, the OPW was vital at every stage of the process. Gabhaim buíochas leo agus molaim iad. We are so pleased that the Broadcasting Unit from the Houses of the Oireachtas agreed to record the development of this project from the very start. We have been posting video clips from the workshops with the children and older participants, and of each stage of Rachel’s creative work on the piece, to the installation on the grounds here and even today’s proceedings. I understand that the final programme will be broadcast on Oireachtas TV and we have seen a teaser here earlier. Ár mbuíochas ó chroí don Ionad Chraolúcháin. I would also like to thank our own staff here in the Áras for their work on this project and, of course, to the whole team of people who work in Áras an Uachtaráin for making days like today such a success. Maidir leis an obair féin, Dearcán na nDaoine – The People’s Acorn. Ní féidir liom a rá ach go bhfuil muid thar a bheith sásta leis. Rachel Joynt is such a gifted artist and we were familiar with her work for many years. Her idea captured beautifully what we had asked for. I commend you, Rachel, for this wonderful piece and I thank you. I also salute Enda Wyley, a fellow poet, for her contribution to this work and thank her most sincerely for the part she played today. Leo Higgins and the staff at Cast Foundry brought Rachel’s dreams to reality and I thank you all for that. The staff of Saxa Landscaping and Nicholas O’Dwyer Consulting Engineers made sure that the sculpture was expertly installed and will remain accessible to visitors for centuries to come. As I mentioned earlier, the detail of all this work and the craftsmanship involved has been captured on video. Rachel has also produced a publication and a poster for the children which gives the context of this public art commission and tells the story of Rachel’s idea, the input of the hundreds of children and adults and it
also details the creative and fabrication process. It is so important to capture these things. A Dublin based company – Language – helped Rachel to design and produce these documents and I salute them on their excellent work. I can think of no better soundtrack to this day than that we have already heard and what is promised for later. The uileann pipes, na píobaí uileann which in Ireland we have taken for granted as a profound acoustic connection to our musical past and a medium of contemporary cultural and artistic expression, have now been recognised by UNESCO and added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. We have heard the pipes wonderfully played by Gay McKeon, Joseph Byrne and Jacqui Martin. Gabhaim buíochas libh a chairde táimid ag tsnúth le tuilleadh uaibh ar ball. We are also honoured to be joined by two women who are no less than icons of music in Ireland. We are delighted that Mary Coughlan, Sharon Shannon and Alan Connor are with us today and have agreed to perform for us in a little while. Thank you both most sincerely. In regard to Dearcán na nDaoine – The People’s Acorn, I will let Catríona Crowe reflect more fully on the piece itself. Suffice to say that in our opinion, it is truly beautiful. Given its symbolism, it is highly appropriate that Rachel chose to involve hundreds of citizens, young and old, in the execution of her plan and gave them the opportunity to include their stories and their ideas in the final artwork. Dearcán na nDaoine – The People’s Acorn will now stand in Áras an Uachtaráin as a permanent testament to our shared journey towards a Republic where we all have a place and of which we all can feel proud. Gabhaim buíochas libh ar fad as teacht inniu agus tá súil agam go mbainfidh sibh taithneamh as an gcuid eile den lá.
President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina unveil the People’s Acorn with the help of 87 year old Mamó Mc Donald and 4 year old Niall Conroy, they inserted a time capsule in the sculpture which will be opened in one hundred years time. Nochtann an tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUiginn agus a bhean Sabina Dearcán na nDaoine le cabhair ó Mamó Mc Donald atá 87 mbliana d’aois agus Niall Conroy atá 4 bliana d’aois, chuir siad taisceadán todhchaí isteach sa struchtúr a osclófar i gceann céad bliain. Photo: Maxwell Photography www.maxwellphotography.ie
Sir John Lavery, John E. Redmond, MP, 1916. Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 63.6 cm. Collection Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane
Sir John Lavery, John E. Redmond, MP, 1916. Olaphictiúr ar chanbhás, 76.2 x 63.6 cm. Bailiúchán Dánlann Bhaile Átha Cliath An Hugh Lane
Picture: Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane www.hughlane.ie
A Parliamentary Legacy: John Redmond Speech by President Michael D. Higgins at Redmond 100 Commemoration Wexford Town Sunday 15th April, 2018
John Redmond led the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1900 to 1918. The scion of a prominent Wexford family, he threw his support behind Charles Stewart Parnell and the cause of Irish tenant farmers. Following the death of Parnell, whom he supported to the end, John Redmond became the pre-eminent Irish politician of his time, achieving a number of legislative reforms, including, by leveraging the position of the Irish Party in the British Parliament, the passage of the Third Home Rule Bill. The legacy of John Redmond was a complex one in a State which based its legitimacy on the ideals of the men and women of 1916. In 2018, on the centenary of the death of John Redmond, President Higgins reflected on and paid tribute to this Irish patriot. Bhí John Redmond i gceannas ar Pháirtí Parlaiminteach na hÉireann ó 1900 go 1918. Oidhre teaghlaigh mór le rá as Loch Garman ab ea é a thug a thacaíocht do Charles Stewart Parnell agus do chúis fheirmeoirí tionóntacha na hÉireann. I ndiaidh bhás Parnell, lenar thacaigh sé go héag, ba é John Redmond an polaiteoir ba mhó le rá in Éirinn lena linn, agus bhain sé go leor athchóirithe reachtúla amach, lena n-áirítear, trí sheasamh Pháirtí na hÉireann i bParlaimint na Breataine a threisiú, rith an Tríú Bille Rialtas Dúchais. Ba chasta an oidhreacht a d’fhág John Redmond ina dhiaidh i Stát a bhí bunaithe ar idéil fhir agus mhná 1916. In 2018, ar chomóradh céad bliain ó bhás John Redmond, rinne an tUachtarán Ó hUiginn machnamh ar an tírghráthóir Éireannach seo agus thug sé ómós dó.
A Aire, A Mhéara, A Leas-Mhéara, A Chomhairleoirí, A Chairde, Ba mhaith liom, i dtús báire, buíochas a ghlacadh le Méara Chomhairle Buirge Loch Garman, an Comhairleoir Jim Moore, as a chuireadh fial an seimineár seo a oscailt ar maidin agus as an deis a thabhairt dom a bheith páirteach sa searmanas comórtha sibhialta tráthnóna. Ba mhaith liom, freisin, comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le Comhairle Contae Loch Garman, leis an Roinn Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta agus leo siúd go léir a raibh páirt lárnach acu i gcur chlár an lae inniu i dtoll a chéile. While it is very appropriate that the centenary programme commemorating the death of John Redmond should take place in Waterford City, a Parnellite stronghold which was represented for so many years by John, his son William Archer Redmond and his daughter-in-law Bridget Redmond, it is so important that here in Wexford, a town and a county with which the Redmond name has been so associated for centuries that such a commemoration as this is taking place. I am sure that I speak for so many who will speak on John Redmond when I say we are all indebted to Dermot Meleady for his two fine volumes on John Redmond, the first volume of which deals in its opening chapters with those strong South East and Wexford connections. Wexford has also held a special place in the history of our long road to national independence. After all it was here that a Republic, inspired by the ideas of Thomas
Paine and the example of the French and American Revolutions, was first proclaimed on this island. Such a historical background in the wide sense was important. John Redmond was very influenced by the historical context from which he had sprung and the relationship which his forebears had with the struggles for independence and the folk memory of those struggles. As he put it, he had: “been reared in the midst of hills and valleys that witnessed the struggles of ’98”, and as he further reflected: “I had been taught to regard every scene as a monument of the heroism of our forefathers, and to remember that well-nigh every sod beneath my feet marked a hero’s sepulchre. My boyish ears had listened to the tales of ’98 from the lips of old men who had themselves witnessed the struggles, and I scarcely know a family who cannot tell of a father or grandfather or some near relative who died fighting at Wexford, at Oulart, or Ross one of my proudest recollections has ever been, as it is today, that in that dark hour of trial, there were not wanting men of my race and name who attested by their lives to their devotion to Ireland.” How that devotion was expressed, if we are to understand it in a balanced way, means recognising that while consciousness of a great wrong created a current of militancy that was radical, and at times violent, there was also a parallel set of radical tendencies within constitutionalism, tendencies, that often collided. By the latter half of the 19th century, the memory of the 1798 Rebellion might have thus both steadily faded as a failed military event and yet had become at once more vivid for what inclusive possibilities in terms of both source and membership it offered. There was a diversity to such constitutionalist tendencies, and they had an all-island reach. Let us recall that Presbyterian Belfast was the bastion of the Society of United Irishmen that had furnished both the intellectual and material resources for such revolutionary activity. The memory of a glorious resistance had slowly eclipsed, in the public mind, the radical programme of the United Irishmen, so much so that all of the diverse elements of nationalist Ireland would lay claim to their legacy during the centenary celebrations in 1898. The bloodshed of the 1790s, and the punitive response of the British Government and those Edmund Burke described as the ‘junto’ dominating Dublin Castle, with such easy access to coercive measures, convinced a generation of nationalists that an armed uprising of any size would not only fail but invite an immediate
and terrible retribution. It does say something of the extraordinary political genius that was that of Daniel O’Connell that he could, in the aftermath of those early terrible decades, assemble a remarkable and wide-reaching coalition of ideas and interests one that would seek, through both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary agitation, to fundamentally revise the combination of common law, statute, legal precedent and ideology of that that had become known as the British Constitution. A true historiography of the second half of the 19th century, when it deals with the relationship between Britain and Ireland then, has to deal with all the tensions both of the context outside Parliament – land, religion and rights – and also the different strategies, including many innovations, to be applied within Parliament to advance the case for legislative independence. This movement of O’Connell’s – and let us recall that it represented one of the first great mass movements of European history – succeeded in dismantling the penal laws, and, through its parliamentary representatives, championed a series of liberal reforms, including the abolition of slavery within the British Empire. Yet that movement did not, to the great disappointment of Daniel O’Connell, achieve what would become the sine qua non of Irish politics throughout the 19th century – the repeal of the Act of Union and the re-establishment of an Irish Parliament. What was to surface as any form of disputation on what ‘independence’ meant was varied, intermittent and was never clearly defined, meaning different things to different social layers. There was a huge distance between layers of insecure tenants and the consideration of those who envisaged a future membership in what was assumed to be an incontestably expanding Empire. George Bermingham has written of how in the West of Ireland when an enquiry in the local shop, as he gathered his paper, as to how the vote on Home Rule had gone was made the reply was “to hell with Home Rule, ‘sure tis the land we are after”. Several decades after the death of O’Connell, constructing a constitutional politics on this combination of tendencies was the great task to which John Redmond dedicated his political life, and like Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell before him, he would come in his time to be seen as representing the Irish nation itself. For though he is now often remembered as a great parliamentarian, both in his mastery of procedure
and of oratory, he was, let us recall, the leader of one of the great movements of thought and action of the 19th century, one that, at its height, was capable of wresting from the British Parliament concessions that seemed unimaginable to contemporaries and that left tangible results in housing for labourers, university independence and opposition to vicarious forms of Coercion Acts.
could or can boast.
When John Redmond took the then parliamentary seat of New Ross in 1881, he was joining a newly revived national movement, one that had, through the ‘New Departure’, brought together some of the diverse strands of Irish nationalism: the struggle for the land, the battle for legislative independence, and the radical separatism of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, which drew on the support and organisation of Irish men and women steeped in the radical democratic politics of the United States.
Redmond was also a committed extra-parliamentary activist in the 1880s, supporting the renewal of the Land War through the Plan of Campaign, even against the wishes of the then more cautious Parnell. Indeed, he was convicted of using intimidating language towards landlords in 1888 here in Wexford and served a period of time in prison. Dermot Meleady’s description of John Dillion’s meeting of Redmond after his prison haircut is one of the most charming images in a book that so well serves the subject.
The Irish Parliamentary Party, founded by Isaac Butt – who, in his time, had valiantly sought to hold together what often amounted to a fractious and often aristocratic caucus – had been transformed under the leadership of Parnell into a disciplined force that understood, but also saw the limitations of the British House of Commons, a force that, in the Irish National League, united parliamentary and extra-parliamentary efforts.
John Redmond became so associated, in the succeeding structuring of the collective memory of Irish nationalism, with an image of a very particular kind of Irish Party MP – overly deferential to both parliamentary procedure and to the authority of the Parliament in Ireland – that his energy, his courage, and his commitment to defying landlordism and the legitimacy of the exercise of British power here in Ireland may not have been given appropriate weight. He was, after all, one of the most talented of a remarkable generation of Irish parliamentarians whose radicalism inspired the supporters of democracy both in Ireland and Britain, and whose activism was viewed by the establishment as nothing less than a challenge to the rule of British law in Ireland.
Under Parnell, the class composition of the Irish parliamentarians changed dramatically – only three of the 23 Nationalist MPs elected in 1880 were landlords. One contemporary chronicler of the Irish Parliamentary Party described, in predictably disparaging terms, the shock at witnessing the new entrants to the hallowed halls of Westminster: “Penny-a-liners from New York and Lambeth, from Mallow and Drumcondra; out-ofworks from half a dozen modest professions had come in their place to earn the wages of Mr. Patrick Egan and Mr. Patrick Ford”. Despite emerging from a different milieu to that of journalists such as Tim Healy, or labourers such as Michael Davitt, John Redmond was a wholehearted champion of the rights of tenants, and firmly committed to pursuing that policy through parliamentary obstructionism, where he readily joined Charles Stewart Parnell, to whom he would give an extraordinary loyalty and devotion, something that won the admiration of Carson, for example, speaking on the campaign trail in New Ross in 1881 he committed himself to “the holy crusade... being engaged against landlordism”. Famously, it was said that he took his seat, made his maiden speech, and was expelled from the House of Commons, all on the same evening, a record of which few parliamentarians, then and now,
He was a brilliant parliamentary orator, described by the colonial civil servant and Conservative MP (Sir) Richard Temple – not indeed a politician with a natural sympathy for Irish MPs – as ‘fluent without being verbose, eloquent without being bombastic, earnest without being over-strained’.
May I suggest that the decision of John Redmond to stand with Parnell during those fateful days of discord in Committee Room 15 was the most defining and revealing of his political career. It took bravery and courage to side with Parnell and the Fenians against the combined influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland and William Gladstone and the Liberal Party in Britain. It took perseverance to maintain what, in retrospect, now seems a most unusual alliance of Redmondites and Fenians. The Waterford City by-election of 1891, skilfully recounted by Dermot Meleady in the first volume of his biography of Redmond, illustrates some of these incongruencies. Redmond’s opponent was Michael Davitt, the founder of the Irish National Land League. In him Redmond faced a veteran campaigner and Fenian and a powerful champion of the rights of labour. Yet it was Redmond who was able to draw on the moral support of the city’s working-class, who though they may have been unable to vote yet still had
a voice, and were able to intimidate and prevent Davitt from speaking. In 1891, Redmond was the radical, and Davitt, much to his chagrin, was presented as the stooge of those Parnell had termed as “the English wolves howling for my destruction”. Though the two men were then at odds during the Parnell Split I would like to take this opportunity to highlight an incident in which they were united, one which is an example of great moral and political courage. In 1904, the small Jewish community in Limerick, numbering no more than perhaps 35 families, were assailed by their fellow citizens, who were incited by a local priest. Michael Davitt and John Redmond were the only two national figures to wholeheartedly condemn the attempted pogram. By his actions, Redmond was carrying on a tradition of Irish solidarity with the Jewish people which manifested itself 70 years before in the campaign for Jewish Emancipation in which Daniel O’Connell played a leading role. John Redmond was more than willing to implicitly denounce a priest – he had defied the Catholic hierarchy before: in 1888, in response to Papal condemnation of the Plan of Campaign, he declared that “political interference of any sort they would not more tolerate from the Vatican than from Dublin Castle”. The re-unification of the Irish Home Rule movement in 1900 was a consequence of, and response to, activism from below, in the form of a new organisation, the United Irish League, which sought to re-impose discipline upon all Nationalist MPs and to campaign against the new power of the graziers who were increasingly coming to dominate the post-Famine agricultural landscape, some of whom were in the ranks of the UIL. John Redmond would lead a united Irish Party for the first time in 9 years, one that was capable of leveraging the extra-parliamentary campaign of the United Irish League into a parliamentary victory in the Land Purchase Act of 1903, the first substantive provision for land purchase for tenants. It would be followed by the Labourers Acts of 1906 and 1911, both substantial pieces of housing legislation, and by another Land Purchase Act in 1909. When taken together, these pieces of legislation represent the largest transfer of Irish land since the 1690s, and one of the largest housing programmes ever attempted on these islands. The re-united nationalist parliamentary party that emerged in the 1900s was strong enough to detach itself from reliance on the Fenians – though the historian James McConnell has estimated that nearly a quarter of Nationalist MPs were or had been, at any one time,
former Fenians. A new generation, however, exemplified perhaps most of all by Seán MacDermott, the national organiser of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the protégé of Tom Clarke, eschewed engagement with the parliamentary party choosing instead the promising space of cultural activities. Long decades of a hegemony from a particular source – and the replacement of the Fenian contingent with the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the 1900s – had lent a certain lassitude to the Irish Party. Indeed, in terms of its representation in local government in Dublin it had come to be, ironically, a party of landlords. The distinctive political formation that Parnellism represented and that John Redmond led in the 1890s – a coalition of urban artisans, shopkeepers and labourers, many of whom were schooled in a Fenian culture – drifted apart in the re-united Irish Party, and, of course, a new syndicalist trade union movement led by Jim Larkin had emerged to organise workers in urban areas, epitomised by the battle for union recognition that occurred in this town in 1911. Yet there are significant differences between the Wexford Lockout of 1911 and the Dublin Lockout of 1913 in terms of business, public and clerical support. In this Decade of Centenaries we are all invited to recall what has come to be known as an Irish Revolution. We have now come to use that appellation ‘revolution’ in recognition of the rupture that occurred in the years between 1916 and 1923 – a rupture that was a mixture of heroism, disastrous military decisions but also new alliances for example in opposition to an imposed conscription in 1918. The Irish people saw the rise in Europe of new ideas, conveyed through innovative cultural expressions and the possibility – and I emphasise the term possibility – of not only a transfer of power and authority between classes, genders, and generations in Ireland but of an idealism that could be turned into practice or discarded in favour of a pragmatic adjustment to new and different propertied classes. Fin de siècle Britain had itself come to be gripped by a new imperial spirit, one that had grown in strength since the crowning of Queen Victoria as Empress of India, a decision that Isaac Butt and his colleagues had challenged in the House of Commons. Politicians such as Cecil Rhodes and Joseph Chamberlain, dreamed of an imperial federation of self-governing white settler states ruling over the rest of the British Empire. Irish parliamentarians – including some former
Fenians – were not immune to mimicking such sentiments, and by the time of the Third Home Rule Bill many of the critics of the Parliamentary Party could be forgiven for believing that Home Rule within the Empire had indeed become the ne plus ultra for the Party. This belief was given succour by the wholehearted support given to the British war effort during the First World War by John Redmond – a decision that, much like the decision of the socialist and social democratic parties in Europe to support their respective national war efforts, will continue to be a matter of great controversy.
“One of the greatest of those Irish parliamentarians, a patriot and a courageous politician who sought to do what he thought was right in the best interests of our people.”
of those wars of national liberation fought by other peoples. Yet let us recognise that there was no simple or linear path to our national self-determination, and it was the Irish Party that carried the struggle for very many years, winning respect and admiration for the cause of home rule. The constitutional advocacy and legacy informed the practices of the new State, for example on the form in which the 1922 Constitution was framed. When I addressed the Houses of Parliament in Westminster four years ago I spoke of the inspiration I took from standing in a place where, for more than one hundred years, many dedicated Irish parliamentarians represented not only the interests and aspirations of the Irish people but also contributed to the development of British democracy. Today, I am delighted, as President of Ireland, to have the opportunity to participate in the commemoration of one of the greatest of those Irish parliamentarians, a patriot and a courageous politician who sought, at all times, often carrying the burden of illness, to do what he thought was right in the best interests of our people. The South-East of Ireland was always in his heart and it is so appropriate that he be honoured, as indeed his grand uncle was, in Wexford.
John Redmond and the Irish Party could not contain the new forces that emerged during our revolutionary period, no more than the polite Home Rulers of Isaac Butt’s time – including John Redmond’s father, William – could contain the enthusiasm of John Redmond and his generation for land reform and aggressive parliamentary and extra-parliamentary confrontation with the British authorities. The demands for the rights of labour, for the rights of women, and for a separate, independent Irish republic would sweep away the Irish Party. They were contained for a short time in the political formation known as Sinn Féin, but it too dissolved in the crucible of the Civil War, unable, and in some cases, unwilling, to represent the multiple ideas and interests which gave it life. The independence of our country was not, and I believe could not, be won by parliamentary manoeuvres alone. The Irish Party, who thwarted British authority so successfully in Ireland through the Land War and the Plan of Campaign attest, demonstrated by their actions that they were never fully convinced of this either. As the long and unremitting national liberation struggles waged by the nations of the Global South throughout the 20th century has shown, great empires do not yield easily. Our own war of independence was as necessary as any
My view is that commemoration must involve more than a balancing act. It is unavoidably a transaction requiring admission of new facts, new analyses, the creation of different suggestions, and, even more importantly, the identification of unexplored possibilities and a readiness to build a future of solidarity and cohesion. What we must seek to achieve, I suggest, is a transparency of purpose, an honesty of endeavour in keeping open the possibility of plural interpretations of the past and of future revision of accepted truths, based, not just on new historical findings, but on an innovative ethical openness to differences of perspectives, a generosity and hospitality towards others. Indeed such generosity, a willingness to be surprised, confronted, even destabilised, in the assumptions of those foundational myths we all need as source â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that is, I believe, what is required if the act of remembering is to enable us to make a fist of living together in the present.