A Theachtaí Dála;

A Sheanadóirí;

A Chomhairleoirí;

A Mhuintir Fhianna Fáil;

Is cúis mhór onóire dom bheith i bhur láthair inniu do mo chéad óraid anseo i gCnoc an Arbhair mar Uachtarán Fhianna Fáil – an Páirtí Poblachtánach.

Bhí an Páirtí seo riamh fíor-bhródúil as eacht fir agus mná 1916.

Bhí go leor dár mbunaitheoirí páirteach san Éiri Amach agus tá ár bhfealsúnacht phoblachtánach preamhaithe i spioraid Seachtain na Cásca.

Is fathaigh iad an Piarsach, Ó Cléirigh, Ó Conghaile, Pluingcéad, Mac Donnchadha, Mac Diarmada agus Ceannt i stair na tíre seo.

Thugadar ceannasaíocht cróga sa troid i gcoinne an Impireacht ba láidre go bhfaca an domhain riamh.

Rinneadar é seo mar gur chreideadar go bpaiseanta i neamhspleachas na tíre seo.

Beimid go mór faoi chomaoin acu go deo.

 

Photos from April 17th 2011, at the Arbour Hill Commemoration.

 

The Easter Rising is one of the bravest and most noble chapters in Irish history. 

The patriots who rest here sacrificed their lives to give freedom to future generations. 

The Proclamation which we have just heard is a truly remarkable document that stands the test of time.

As Thomas MacDonagh defiantly told his court-martial, “such documents do not die.” 

Its objectives are profoundly egalitarian, fraternal and democratic.   

Its signatories were people of foresight, valour and distinction who espoused progressive politics.

The vision of the men and women of 1916 was of

  • an Ireland united, independent and at peace;
  • an Ireland that is equal and fair;
  • an Ireland that is prosperous, and
  • an Ireland that provides for all its people, young and old.

    Those aims have always been the aims of this organisation.

    Today we gather here not just to pay tribute to those heroes from our past who set us on course to our national independence.

    We gather too to rededicate ourselves to those objectives which go to our very core as a republican party.

    And our presence here is deeply appropriate on this particular date. 

    Eight-five years ago on this very day, Eamon deValera in a significant statement gave notice of his intention to establish a new political party.

    A month before the inaugural public meeting in the La Scala Theatre, de Valera set out the aims of a new political movement on 17th April, 1926.

    And significantly, he also drew a clear and deliberate link between those who had fought for Irish national self-determination, in Easter Week and the subsequent War of Independence, and the new party by revealing its name would be Fianna Fáil.

    De Valera said:

    “The name Fianna Fáíl has been chosen to symbolise a banding together of the people for national service, with a standard of personal honour for all who join as high as that which characterised the ancient Fianna Éireann, and a spirit of devotion equal to that of the Irish Volunteers from 1913 to 1921.”

    De Valera also echoed Pearse’s words of a generation earlier, when he outlined that the conviction on which Fianna Fáil was being established was a belief that:

    “in the heart of every Irishman there is a native undying desire to see his country politically free, and not only free but truly Irish as well, and that the people recently divided are but awaiting an opportunity to come together again and give expression to that desire.”    

    One of our greatest achievements in Government was in helping deliver peace in the North. 

    Over the past fourteen years, immense work has been done in bringing divided communities on this island together again. 

    The Good Friday Agreement was a game-changer.

    And it was a victory of peace, not of war.

    It is an agreement that has been ratified by the Irish people, North and South.

    And crucially, it establishes an agreed and practical basis for resolving partition and clarifying the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.  

    Under its terms, the British Government is obliged by binding international treaty to withdraw from Northern Ireland, if and when a majority of the people in Northern Ireland should ask it to do so. 

    As a democrat who accepts the principle of consent, I accept the right of a majority of the population of Northern Ireland to maintain the Union if that is their democratic wish.

    But equally, as a proud Irish republican, my aspiration to see the day when a majority of the people in Northern Ireland freely choose the option of an Ireland united in peace is real and one of my guiding principles in politics.

    It has always been the aim of Fianna Fáil to secure in peace and agreement the unity of Ireland and its people, and here today, on this hallowed ground, I reaffirm our absolute commitment to that principle.

    Our work in the North is not done and will not be done until the great promise of unity and peace is delivered in full measure.

    I believe that now more than ever, there is a community of shared interests on this island which would find its proper expression in a unified state.

    We share a small island in a world which is becoming increasingly globalised and increasingly competitive.     

    Every day, the benefits of working together on this island become more and more obvious.

    In politics, in business and in community life, people on a daily basis, are recognising that we have a shared obligation to work together, in stimulating the all-island econonmy, in winning investment, in creating jobs, and in building up social facilities in education, healthcare and so on.

    As one of its main negotiators, I believe the political compromises reached in the Hillsborough Agreement have made space for the ‘normalisation’ of politics in Northern Ireland, allowing the agenda to move on to ‘bread-and-butter’ issues of most concern to ordinary people.

    Similarly, the succession of agreements we have reached and the experience of the Irish people flowing from those agreements, have made space for an equally important ‘normalisation’ process – the normalisation of the all-Ireland experience for a new generation.

    I’ve had the great privilege of meeting people who would never have dreamed of crossing the border, enjoying the great spectacle of an All-Ireland final in Croke Park.

    I know people too who would have viewed the North with suspicion and doubt but, who are now regular business and social visitors to that beautiful, hospitable, humorous, reborn part of this island.

    This is real and tangible progress. Solid foundations are now in place to build further progress, to deepen reconciliation and to restore propserity North and South.

    This represents a great opportunity and it is one which our Government needs to keep at the top of its agenda.

    In particular, the issue of communities that have been left behind needs to continue to be addressed.

    When we look at the experience of marginalised communities, republican and loyalist, which have enjoyed high profile political representation, but still fall far behind their neighbours in terms of education and health indices and enterprise, we are reminded that rhetoric has not delivered on the full promise of peace for these communities.

    Engaging with such communities right across this island will be one of the priorities of my leadership.

    Pearse and MacDonagh were strong educationalists.

    They believed a good education is the entitlement of everyone and that it is a bridge to opportunity ad key to a better future.

    And that it is a bridge to opportunity and a better future.

    Like the 1916 leaders, Fianna Fáil will ensure that education is central to the future of our country.

    This week, because of a Fianna Fáil motion in Dáíl Éireann, education and training will be protected as a priority area for funding in future budgets.

    This is a very positive development.

    And in this Dáil, Fianna Fáil will continue to bring forward initiatives to ensure opportunity in education and in employment and to deliver social progress for all.

    The terrorist gangs, who have no respect for the sovereign wishes of the people, fail to comprehend that the essence of real republicanism is the creation of new possibilities and opportunities, not senseless and murderous irredentism.

    James Connolly’s famous maxim was “Ireland without its people means nothing to me.”

    In contrast, are those who killed an Irish policeman in cold-blood.

    They clearly have nothing but contempt for the Irish people.

    The murder of Ronan Kerr was a direct assault on the peace process.

    The shared revulsion and outrage we have witnessed since this killing, sends a clear and united message that the people of this island stand together in rejecting violence and criminality.

    The Irish people will not be dictated to by cowardly acts of terrorism.

    It is the task of our generation of Irish republicans to be persuaders for the cause of Irish unity.

    But acts of murder will convince no-one of the merits of a united Ireland. In fact, they completely undermine that goal and demean our shared humanity.

    On behalf of Fianna Fáil I want to be crystal clear: the PSNI is a force for good on this island.

    The targeting of members of the PSNI by terrorist gangs is not just misguided, it is callous and it is morally wrong.

    History has taught us that an united Ireland cannot be built on pain and suffering.

    Our founders understood that and they founded Fianna Fáil because they refused to stand still and allow Irish republicanism to become irrelevant.

    We are a party which was founded not in a position of strength or power.

    On 17th April 1926, the men and women who would constitute Fianna Fáil were no more than a splinter group from a minority party.

    Our founders were great figures but they started our party with nothing.

    They built our party from the ground up and now we must do likewise.

    At this special place, my pledge is this – the Fianna Fáil Party stems from a great tradition and it will be renewed.

    This will be no easy task.

    It will not be done overnight.

    And it will take much work.

    To do this, we will need the active engagement of every single member of this Party.

    We also need the new enthusiasm, fresh thinking and the vitality that young people can bring to politics.

    Eamon de Valera said 85 years ago today –

    “We hope in particular that the young people of the country, the young men and women, who have not yet definitely affiliated themselves to any political organisation, will join Fianna Fáil and use it as a medium through which they will give their services to the community and to the nation.”

    Today, I repeat that call and say it is my commitment that in every local authority area in this country, Fianna Fáil, where feasible, will put forward at least one candidate under the age of 30 at the next local elections.

    I also want to appeal to past supporters and lapsed members to return to the party and help with our work of republican renewal.

    There were systemic failures in the political system over the past decade and, unlike the other parties, I think we, in Fianna Fáíl, are right to accept our responsibility.

    It must now be our objective to do our utmost to rectify past errors and to secure a better future for every single person on this island.

    That is why in this Dáil, we will be a constructive opposition.

    And we won’t play the tired, old game of politics as usual.

    When something is right for Ireland, no matter who proposes it, we will support it.

    If it is wrong, we will vigorously oppose it.

    We are going to put the people first and draw inspiration from the radical principles, enshrined in Easter Week, on which this Party was founded.

    The men and women of Easter Week had a vision of a stronger, fairer, more prosperous Ireland.

    Fianna Fáil will work for that objective.

    In conclusion, I think it appropriate to quote the words of Liam MacUistin which capture well the vision and bravery of the leaders of 1916.

    “In the darkness of despair we saw a vision, We lit the light of hope, And it was not extinguished, In the desert of discouragement we saw a vision, We planted the tree of valour, And it blossomed

    In the winter of bondage we saw a vision, We melted the snow of lethargy, And the river of resurrection flowed from it.

    We sent our vision aswim like a swan on the river, The vision became a reality, Winter became summer, Bondage became freedom, And this we left to you as your inheritance.

    O generation of freedom remember us, The generation of the vision.”

    Thank you