On this date 101 years ago many of the men buried in this place met in Liberty Hall to take a fateful decision.
Would they proceed with their plans to assert Ireland’s right to independence or would they step back?
They knew that they had no real chance to prevail militarily. The conflict they faced was with the largest empire in the modern world and their cause had few resources to call on.
However not one of them saw theirs as a lost cause.
The overwhelming majority of the Irish people had time after time shown their commitment to separation from Britain. What was missing was a belief that it could actually be achieved.
That short week at Easter changed everything.
They inspired the Irish people and in a few years achieved more than anyone could have expected.
In Easter 1916 we saw a great generation risking all because of its faith in Ireland’s future – and we still see a republicanism which we have a right and a duty to honour.
1916 began a revolution founded on ideals of diversity, inclusion and the building of a democracy.
Unlike many other national revolutions at that time, the absence of a dominant and divisive ideology was the greatest strength of the Irish revolution. At every step the objective was the creation of a parliamentary democracy to serve a nation which would include different traditions.
The second decade of the last century was a time of immense upheaval in Europe and the wider world. It was a time of national risings and state formation unequalled in history.
Yet while our revolution was part of these wider events it stands out more and more for being distinctive and lasting.
Our revolution quickly achieved full democratic legitimacy. It directly created what is one of the world’s longest continuous democracies. It led to the first constitution in the world adopted in a free referendum.
This is why, after more than a century, hundreds of thousands of people still come on to our streets to celebrate 1916.
This is why the overwhelming majority believe that 1916 belongs to no party or movement – it belongs to the Irish people.
Its strength is the idea of unity in diversity – of a radicalising event which didn’t set in stone policies or methods, but challenged us to move forward and create new possibilities.
An chéad ról i gcúrsaí náisiúnta a bhí ag mórán de na fir chróga atá curtha anseo agus dóibh siúd ar throid siad leo ná go raibh siad páirteach san athbheochan cultúrtha. Thuig siad go raibh géarghá le hathnuachan agus go raibh oscailt agus fuinneamh nua ag teastáil ó na gnéithe éagsúla de chultúr na hÉireann. D`oibrigh siad go dian leanúnach, gan stad gan staonadh, chun ár dteanga dhúchais, ar gceol, ár litríocht agus ár spórt a chur chun cinn in Éirinn.
Táid ann a dhéanann iniúchadh ar an obair chalma thuasluaite, agus cáineann siad an ghníomhaíocht seo ag rá gur chóir don idé –eolaíocht a bheith níos glaine, níos foirfe, agus go raibh sí difriúil le gluaiseachtaí radacacha eile san Eoraip ag an am. Ní chuireann an cáineadh seo san áireamh, an luach ollmhór atá faighte againn mar thír as an gcur chuige ionchuimsitheach a bhí ag ár gceannairí radacacha.
Thug siad níos mó tuisceana dúinn ar chomhphobal aontaithe le cheile. Leag siad béim ar na rudaí a d`aontaigh le cheile sinn mar phobal seachas na rudaí a scar sinn óna chéile. Rinne said deimhin de go bhfuil sochaí againn faoi láthair inar féidir linn luachanna éagsula a roinnt agus níos tábhachtaí rinne siad cinnte de go rabhamar in ann gach saghas idé –eolaíocht radacach atá feicthe againn i mórchuid tíortha eile agus a chruthaigh deighilt agus scrios uafásach a sheachaint.
Níor chóir duinn dearmad a dhéanamh gur dlúthchuid dár bhféiniúlacht Éireannach í an tacaíocht dár dteanga agus dár gcultúr i gcoitinne.
It is a sad fact that one group has committed itself to an ongoing campaign of trying to sectionalise and distort the history of 1916. One group, founded in 1970, has invested enormous resources in promoting the false claim to having a unique link to 1916.
They have failed because of the common sense of the Irish people and their refusal to allow others to whitewash their past and falsify the history of 1916.
At the core of their narrative lies the claim that the hidden leadership of the Provisional’s movement retained the right to kill and maim in our name in spite of constant rejection. For them it retained the right to bomb civilians, to kneecap children and to have a parallel and secret justice system devoted to covering up the crimes of their members.
In doing this they constantly ignored the clear demand of the Proclamation that no one who serves the Republic will “dishonour it with cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine”.
And let no one be in any doubt, they have no claim to the title of honour that is Óglaigh na hÉireann.
It is the men and women of our defence forces alone who are Óglaigh na hÉireann. Anyone who fails to respect this is merely showing that they put their movement ahead of their country.
Recent investigations in Northern Ireland, particularly into the Provisional’s internal security operation, have shown that there are still many appalling stories to emerge from the illegitimate campaign of the Provisionals. These have yet to receive proper attention in the Dublin media.
There are still many families waiting to hear the full details of how their loved ones were condemned by masked men without reference to even basic humanity. Under no circumstance should efforts to stymie the Kenova inquiry be allowed.
The end of the Provisional’s campaign marked the victory of democratic republicanism on this island – a democratic republicanism enabled by 1916. The agreed future ratified by the referendums North and South recognised, for the first time in history, the right of the people of this island to decide its future.
As we have learned so painfully in other areas, we cannot overcome the past by ignoring it.
We will also get nowhere if we allow the demand for separate narratives, or ‘multiple truths’, to succeed.
How can we possibly put the conflict behind us and build a shared future if all we have is sectarian history?
In the nearly 2 decades since the Good Friday Agreement only one of the state or paramilitary entities involved in the process has been willing to be fully open.
The Irish Government, due to decisions taken by Fianna Fáil, is the only entity which has allowed a full and independent investigation into any allegations of collusion or illegal activities by its forces.
The failure of the British government to allow a thorough and honest investigation into illegal activities by their forces is completely unacceptable. It gives others a justification for covering up their own activities.
We need an end to the politics of only demanding truth from the other side.
This is one of the issues which has been long-fingered for too long and is contributing to a deep crisis in relation to the Northern institutions.
The commitments in the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements are not optional but many remain unimplemented.
We’ve had two elections in a year and an ongoing failure of the two largest parties to allow the formation of an Executive. Meanwhile major cutbacks are being imposed on vital services.
Yet all the public sees is manoeuvring for party advantage.
The barriers to agreeing a new Executive are tiny in comparison to the barriers overcome in 1998 and the following decade. There is no excuse for the current deadlock.
The British government’s behaviour has made matters much worse than they should have been.
Six years of a ‘hands off’ strategy has caused immense damage.
What we are seeing at the moment is a complete disregard for the interests of Northern Ireland.
The decision to call an opportunistic general election at this moment directly undermines the ability to get the Northern institutions working. Stopping everything and pushing parties into another electoral contest has no positive side to it. It is obvious that this was viewed as irrelevant in comparison to Westminster party politics.
Even more important is that London is proceeding to bulldoze through its vision of a hard Brexit with no concern for the views of the majority in Northern Ireland or the impact which Brexit may have on the process of shared progress and reconciliation on this island.
In both of these cases our government has a duty to speak up for Ireland’s interests. Six years of quietly going along with Tory neglect has to end.
First of all we need the government to stop acting as if it is simply some external guarantor of agreements. We are not observers on the side-lines and nothing could have been achieved if we had adopted this approach in the past.
It is our duty to be actively invested in the success of the Northern institutions and in pushing the parties to fulfil their commitments.
And the damage which disengagement can cause is being seen in the failure to realise the full economic and social potential of working to tackle problems on an all-island basis.
Fianna Fáil in government took a very different and more positive approach. Our active engagement directly challenged unionist fears about our motives. They could see that there was no hidden agenda – that we were true to our word and were not looking to pull constitutional tricks to force them into a united Ireland which is our goal.
No progress is possible when people retreat into their own camps, when others disengage and when issues are ignored until they become a crisis.
Brexit is also a deep threat to progress on our island. The petty English nationalism and fear of outsiders which delivered the Brexit vote are already causing damage on both sides of the Border.
In the absence of political leadership in the North our government should be doing far more to demand that the unique circumstances of Ireland be recognised in the post-Brexit arrangement. This goes a lot further than how border checks will be done.
The British government’s Article 50 notification completely ignored the anti-Brexit majority in the North. The EU’s opening position is more generous and open but it too fails to give a commitment to the 1.8 million people in Northern Ireland who will retain the right to EU citizenship post-Brexit.
Fianna Fáil has made its position clear – Ireland is a special case and this must be fully reflected in any Brexit treaties.
We must be allowed to support the worst hit businesses and communities. The peace settlement must be fully respected. And the full EU citizenship rights of every resident of this island must be protected.
When the men and women of 1916 set out their principles one of them was that Ireland be committed to cooperation between nations.
In the final years of their involvement in public life, the 1916 generation decided that participation in the European community of nations was the only way of protecting the interests of Ireland and other smaller countries. They were proven right in every respect – and the fact remains that full, active and constructive membership of the European Union is a core part of real Irish republicanism.
To get through the negotiation period and to tackle inevitable disruption we need an ambition and energy which has so far been lacking. The government has been good at telling other countries that Ireland has a problem but slow about proposing solutions. Reports suggest that Ireland is one of the few countries which has made no significant proposals for amending the EU’s negotiating document.
We need to start tabling practical proposals so that we can aid businesses which are losing markets. We need hard specifics on reducing the impact of new regulations, on helping companies innovate and diversify and on protecting the long-term interests of Irish citizens.
Since it went into government six years ago a consistent pattern for Fine Gael has been to put public relations first in everything. Their ministers have not sought to shape new policies they have sought to find things which were happening anyway and put a brand on them.
In area after area they have stood by, as issues were allowed to develop into crises. In the case of Brexit, this approach will cause immense damage which could be deep and long-lasting.
Last year Fianna Fáil was the only party which proposed a way to remove Fine Gael from government. When we didn’t succeed we didn’t play politics and try to pull down everything, we acted responsibly.
The deal we reached has succeeded in taking the hard ideological edge off Fine Gael’s budgetary policy. Even their Minister for Social Protection has admitted that all five of their budgets in the last Dáil were unfair.
We have significant issues with the failure of Fine Gael to fully respect the spirit and letter of the agreement and these will have to be addressed fully and quickly.
However even more important than this is the consistent failure of ministers to even try to tackle rising problems in their areas.
In Health the Reilly/Varadkar years were five years of damage. Today the only thing that has changed is that for the first time in decades we have a government which doesn’t even have a health strategy let alone the determination to implement one. As the waiting lists get longer and services suffer, the government wrings its hands and refuses to take action.
In Childcare families continue to feel immense pressures but are waiting for the government to get its act together. Last year we proposed a specific plan which could be immediately implemented. This was rejected by the relevant Minister in favour of a plan which has already collapsed because the system can’t administer it.
And of course the housing crisis has continued to get worse. Every group, from those who need social housing to those who want to buy a home has been hit with rising prices and lower supply. This week it was exposed that the housing figures announced by government are fake. The houses they claimed to have built couldn’t be found when the statisticians went looking for them.
Members of the Capuchin order provided spiritual comfort to the men of 1916 as they faced their execution. Today they are better known for their service to the needy in this city. Their day centre which feeds people in need has seen demand double over the last number of years. In 2013 4,747 children from emergency accommodation attend the centre for meals, by 2016 this had increased to 8353 – a shocking indictment of government inaction.
Yet the government keeps telling us how they are on top of the problem – that everything is in hand.
Holding office should not just be about having power, it should be seen as a means to achieve real progress for the people you are elected to serve. That is the essence of republicanism.
Yet we have ministers more interested in polishing their ambition and posing as independent commentators on public affairs. They appear to see office as something to be held not something to be used.
And let’s be very clear, in none of these or many other areas has being a minority government stopped them from taking action.
No one in the Dáil is stopping them building the promised social housing, presenting a health strategy, implementing childcare support or proposing action to deal with the damage of Brexit.
For our part we will continue to be upfront about how we approach fulfilling the responsibility given to us by the electorate. We will continue to seek to implement as much of our programme as possible. We will continue to be constructive in how we vote and the policies we propose.
If others wish to take a different approach that is their choice and it is one which we have no doubt the people will judge harshly.
Fianna Fáil the Republican Party was founded by men and women who had risked everything in 1916 and the years which followed. We have come here every year since our foundation not to claim ownership of 1916 but to renew our commitment to the Irish republicanism which they so triumphantly espoused.
1916’s greatest legacy is to provide us with a unifying ideal which challenges us to seek a unity amongst ourselves and to find ways of achieving progress for all Irish people