A Theachtaí Dála;
A Mhuintir Fhianna Fáil;
Is mór an phribhléid dom a bheith anseo inniu i gCnoc an Arbhair chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar laochra stair na hÉireann atá curtha sa chré anseo.
Tá an Páirtí seo fíor-bhródúil riamh as fir agus mná Sheachtain na Cásca.
Bhí a gcrógacht agus a n-íobairt riachtanach i mbaint amach saoirse náisiúnta na tíre seo.
Agus dóibh siúd a shínigh an Forógra – An Piarsach, Ó Cléirigh, Ó Conghaile, An Pluincéadach, Mac Donnchadha, Mac Diarmada agus Ceannt – ba dhaoine agus ba cheannairí iad le fís agus le honóir.
An bhrionglóid a bhí acu ná síocháin agus rathúnas a bhaint amach do mhuintir na hÉireann.
Throid siad ar son neamhspléachas na hÉireann, chun poblacht chóir a bhunú, chun poblacht chothrom a bhunú agus chun poblacht dhaonlathach a bhunú.
Is iad na cuspóirí seo ár gcuspóirí, agus is iad an chúis a bhfuil Fianna Fáil ar an bhfód.
Exactly 96 years ago today, on 29th April 1916, the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces of the Irish Republic and President of the Provisional Government, P.H. Pearse issued the following statement.
“In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens, and in hope of saving the lives of our followers now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, the members of the Provisional Government present at Headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender.”
Pearse’s order brought to an end a Rising that was one of the most noble and courageous events in Irish history.
It was also one of the most visionary.
The heroes of Easter Week set this country on course for independent statehood.
They also bequeathed us a noble political philosophy and the Proclamation we have just heard encompasses the republican ideal which this Party exists to vindicate.
The leaders of the Rising were patriots of honour and integrity who were prepared to sacrifice everything so that the Irish people could be free.
The essential nobility of the leaders of 1916 was captured by a contemporary witness, Fr. Augustine, a Capuchin Friar based in Church St, a short distance from this place.
Following Pearse’s order, Fr. Augustine, with an awakening sense of national pride, watched as the Irish Volunteers of the South Dublin Garrison, led by Eamonn Ceannt, who is buried here, surrendered their arms. Fr. Augustine wrote:
“The whole column marched splendidly with guns slung from their left shoulders and their hands swinging freely at their sides. They wore no look of defeat, but rather of victory. It seemed as if they had come out to celebrate a triumph and were marching to receive a decoration. Ceannt was in the middle of the front row with one man on either side. But my eyes were riveted on him so tall was his form, so noble his bearing, and so manly his stride. He was indeed the worthy captain of a brave band who had fought a clean fight for Ireland.”
Being seen to have fought a clean fight was important to the men and women of 1916.
They wanted to win Irish self-determination with integrity and honour.
The Easter Proclamation states that anyone who serves the cause of an Irish Republic should not “dishonor it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine.”
I ruefully thought about the betrayal of that noble phrase earlier this week when I heard the name of Columba McVeigh on the news.
Columba McVeigh’s name is not a stand-out name in Irish history, but it should be.
It is a name that deserves to be mentioned at this hallowed ground.
Columba McVeigh was only a teenager in 1975 when he was abducted, murdered and then hidden by the Provisional IRA.
His body has never been found and this week, 37 years on from his murder, the search for his mortal remains is ongoing.
Columba’s elderly mother died in 2007 never having had the opportunity to give her son a Christian burial.
As true republicans, I think it is important for us today to express our solidarity with the family of Columba McVeigh and the families of all the other disappeared.
While the case of the Disappeared is deservedly well known and well supported, it is also just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Provisional IRA barbarity. Just today for example, 29th April, there are seven families mourning the anniversary of a loved one cut down in their prime by thugs claiming a link to the patriots buried here.
The case of one of them sums up well why we reject that link. On this day in 1984, Thomas McGeary a 48 year old father of seven left his home to go and feed his cattle. On his way back from the farm, a booby trap bomb in his car exploded, killing him instantly.
It was the work of the IRA, but they wouldn’t put their name to it. Instead, they used an ‘Irish Freedom Fighters’ cover. Then, having killed him, and to add insult to injury, they spread a false and evil rumour in his community that he was a collaborator.
That’s how the Provisional movement did its business.
It is incorrect and historically dishonest to equate in any way the heroes who fought for Irish freedom in 1916 and in the subsequent War of Independence with the actions of the Provisional IRA.
The terrorist campaign that was waged in the North was not a clean fight.
It was dirty and nasty.
It cost thousands of lives and did untold damage.
It was unequivocally wrong.
And no amount of new historical revisionism, willful amnesia or media indifference can alter that fact.
I am glad that Sinn Féin seems to have, at last, recognised that the Irish people will make their decisions based solely on the ballot box and not the armalite.
But it took them too long to realize this and it caused immense human suffering.
In contrast, we in this true republican movement can be proud of the role Fianna Fáil played in espousing peace and unity.
This party helped to break new ground in terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the St. Andrews Agreement, the Hillsborough Agreement and all the positives that have flown from these landmark political negotiations.
It is the job of this generation of Fianna Fáil activists to build on that constructive work for unity island-wide.
As the centenary of the Easter Rising fast approaches, I believe we should never forget that, in the Proclamation, the leaders of 1916 envisaged the powers of Government being exercised for the benefit of the common good.
It is a lesson that the current Government would do well to reflect on.
The cuts that the Minister for Health is presiding over in regard to the care of the elderly are the antithesis of the common good.
The closure of public nursing home beds, combined with the reduction in funding to regional hospitals and for home-helps, is the cause of immense stress and worry for older people right across the country.
It amounts to a privatization of care for the elderly.
This is not good Government.
It constitutes an assault on a very necessary public service.
And it is not a proper way to treat our senior citizens.
We, in Fianna Fáil, of course, recognize that in the midst of a major economic crisis savings have to be found and that austerity is not easy.
But that is no excuse to lose sight of social justice which should always remain at the core of politics in a democratic Republic.
We all want to see Ireland emerge from this fiscal crisis as quickly and as unscarred as possible, but this won’t happen without fairness and compassion.
Protecting education for all our citizens particularly for people from disadvantaged backgrounds is a core value for Fianna Fáil.
James Connolly, in his day, used to say that Ireland meant nothing to him without its people.
Sadly the regressive approach of this Government has been budget cuts first, vulnerable people a distant second.
And that is not a political claim, it’s a simple fact.
The ESRI and others have confirmed that the Fine Gael/Labour Budget fell hardest on families who could afford it least.
At this difficult time, when so many Irish people are grappling with the painful effects of this recession, it is important that Fianna Fáil is a sane and sensible republican voice for those struggling most in our communities.
We are holding the Government to account .We do not want the brunt of cut-backs to be placed on the poorest people and the most vulnerable groups.
The whole purpose of a strong economic policy should be about having the resources to improve people’s quality of life and to create a fairer Ireland.
It should not be about restoring growth for growth’s sake or satisfying academic economists.
The focus should be on helping people first and last.
Fixing the economy should be seen as complimentary to the guarantee of “equal rights and equal opportunities” which the Proclamation envisaged for every single citizen.
And what this essentially means is using the wealth of this State to ensure that every Irish child is given the chance to succeed in life free from social and economic impediment.
The callous cuts of this Government – especially in targeting Special Needs Assistants, in hitting Family Income Supplement and in their disgraceful assault on the disability sector at the last Budget – undermine social solidarity.
These cuts and many more like them are divisive.
They favour those who have the most.
They disenfranchise those most in need of society’s help.
And they mean that this Government’s approach can never underpin a workable and lasting economic recovery.
Fianna Fáil has affordable policies which can make the recovery faster, fairer and more secure.
We’ve published a detailed proposal that would generate €5.6 billion for job-creating investments.
We have also published a series of measures to protect family homes and prevent repossessions.
Our Debt Settlement Office would secure binding agreements between homeowners and banks, reducing the debts of those under most pressure, to sustainable levels.
And as a fundamental principle of fairness, we believe those who earn most should contribute the most to government revenues.
Is bun-aidhm é dúinn i bhFianna Fáil labhairt na Gaeilge a leathnú agus a athbheochan. Tá an cuspóir seo leagtha amach go soiléir i gCorú Fhianna Fáil.
Ag teacht leis an gcuspóir sin, is cúis mhór bróid dom a fhógairt daoibh inniu go bhfuil dul chun cinn suntasach déanta againn i leith athbheochana na Gaeilge.
Sa daonáireamh a foilsíodh an mhí seo caite, bhí méadú do 7.1% le feiceáil ar líon na gcainteoirí Gaeilge sa tír seo. Chomh maith leis sin, tá méadú tagtha ar líon na ndaoine sa Ghaeltacht atá ag labhairt ár dteanga dhúchais.
Is toradh dearfach é an méadú seo ar pholasaithe Fhianna Fáil i Rialtas, agus tugann sé dóchas dúinn ar fad a bhfuil grá againn don teanga.
Anseo i gCnoc an Arbhair tá mé sásta a gheallúint go mbeidh an Ghaeilge mar chuid lárnach d’obair athnuachana an Pháirtí sna blianta amach romhainn.
Ritheadh rún ag an Ard Fheis go mba cheart Coiste Gaeilge a bhunú ar bhonn náisiúnta chun úsáid na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn i ngach gné d’obair an pháirtí.
Tá sé beartaithe agam an coiste seo a bhunú láithreach bonn chun é seo a bhaint amach. Is é an Seanadóir Labhrás Ó Murchú a bheidh mar Chathaoirleach ar an gCoiste nua seo.
It was Sean Lemass who had served as an adjutant to Padraig Pearse in the GPO in Easter week, who proposed Ireland’s European membership.
At the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, fifty years ago in 1962, Lemass told delegates that the alternative to joining would be that “Ireland would be an isolated unit on the fringe of a dynamic European confederation.”
The last thing Ireland needs to do today is to retreat to the fringes of Europe.
The European Union will be at the heart of Ireland’s recovery.
And the upcoming Stability Treaty referendum is vital to Ireland’s future prospects.
That is why Fianna Fáil will be vigorously campaigning for a Yes vote.
This fiscal crisis has been a crisis of globalization.
It has transcended borders and many other nations, not just Ireland, are facing unprecedented pressures in controlling budgets and raising the money to fund public services.
A crisis of this massive scale requires collaboration, co-operation and a joined up approach to achieving solutions amongst the countries of Europe.
Many of the problems we face are shared by other countries.
It makes sense therefore that the best way to tackle them is for countries to work together.
That essentially is what the new EU Stability Treaty is about.
This Treaty reinforces the rules to make sure that budgets are better controlled so that major debt is avoided.
In return for agreeing these controls countries will find it easier to raise money to fund public services.
This Treaty is not the solution to all our economic problems but it is an important step forward to restoring confidence, growth and creating jobs.
It provides a more secure future for our country.
That is why all the people who create enterprise and employment are urging a Yes vote and it was why Fianna Fáil will be working hard to see this Treaty accepted.
In conclusion, I want to say I know that the past year has been a very difficult one for the membership of this party. However, we should not allow our critics to use this to besmirch a long and honourable republican tradition.
We, in Fianna Fáil, can be proud of so many people who have gone before us in this party and who served the Irish people with honesty and decency and who devoted themselves to public service.
The founders of this Party were people of great integrity and many of them had fought for Ireland in Easter Week.
We should never forget that they founded this party because they cared about their communities and because they wanted to see the people of this country shape their own destiny and prosper.
And even after many years of hardship and defeat in the Civil War, they remained staunchly committed to the egalitarian and democratic objectives of the 1916 Rising.
At the very first Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, the party’s first Honorary Secretary Gerry Boland, who had fought in Jacob’s factory under the command of Thomas MacDonagh, explained to delegates that the name Fianna Fáil had been chosen “to convey…. the idea of an association of citizens, banded together for the purpose of rendering voluntary service to their communities and the Irish nation.”
That is the type of party we are working every day to renew and rebuild. That is the party I am asking people in communities across this nation to join and be part of.
A party of voluntary service, a party where citizens come together on an equal basis and a party which is solely about serving the community and Ireland.
A party passionately that believes in a united Ireland, in making education a priority and promoting the balanced development of both urban and rural communities.
And a party that understands that between left wing and right wing ideology there is a more credible middle way, which sees social and economic progress as inter-related.
That to me defines the republicanism which goes to this party’s core.
The past year has been an exceptionally difficult year for Fianna Fáil following the general election and the findings in the Mahon Report. There is no doubt that there had been a high tolerance of unacceptable behavior which aided and abetted the practices exposed by the Tribunal. I firmly believe that the tough laws introduced since 1997 by successive Fianna Fáil governments have completely changed this. As leader I have no intention of seeking to avoid accountability for my party and those who hold office as Fianna Fáil representatives. It is important that other political parties do the same so that there is no room for hypocrisy or double standards.
I want to thank members for their commitment over the past year and for their work towards the twin objectives of restoring Ireland’s prosperity and rebuilding Fianna Fáil. . I believe if we can continue in our united efforts, with a spirit of resilience and resolve we will succeed in these important political tasks.