It was just over a decade from the events of Easter 1916 when our newly-formed party first came to this place in an act of commemoration. The men buried here were already prominent in the pages of Irish history but they were much more than that to those who gathered at this plot.
For them these 14 leaders were still fresh in their memories. For many they were their lost fathers, sons, brothers, teachers, colleagues and friends. They could remember the sound of their voices and the traits that made each an individual. They understood their motivations, their humour and their disappointments.
For them this was a place to show pride in what was achieved and to feel sorrow about the loss of not just these leaders but also the many other men and women who sacrificed so much for our country in 1916 and in the revolution which they inspired.
Even though more than a century has passed since each of these leaders was executed it is more important than ever that we come here to honour them and to reflect on the tradition that they left to us.
We do not share the deep personal memories which our founders held, but we remain absolutely committed to honouring them and reflecting on their legacy.
The nationalism and republicanism of 1916 was deeply modern and linked to rising generations found throughout Europe and in many parts of the world.
They didn’t define themselves in narrow and exclusive terms – they did not try to claim superiority over others. As they wrote in the Proclamation which we have just heard, they wanted to build a nation which included diverse traditions and honoured the principle of equality.
“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberties, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens” – these are still radical and challenging words.
They remind us that the founding spirit of independent Ireland is one which calls on us to respect and enable all members of our society. They are words which reject the idea of promoting division or talking about some people being more deserving of our support than others.
However the Proclamation did not stop with this general call for equality. It went further in demanding something never before included in the founding charter of a new state.
As Pearse stood outside the GPO the words he read said explicitly that the national government must be “representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women”.
For far too long we have overlooked the absolute centrality of women’s rights to the Irish revolution.
100 years ago, in the 1918 general election, newly enfranchised women were a driving force in the stunning victory of republicanism.
The first woman ever elected to a parliament on these islands was one of the most important winners in that contest – and she soon afterwards became one of the first woman in world history to be appointed as a government minister.
Constance Markievicz is a true hero of Irish history not just for the status which she secured but more importantly for the causes which she so passionately and effectively struggled for. The cause of marginalised groups. The cause of people living in poverty. The cause of women’s rights. The cause of Ireland’s independence. These are what motivated her inspiring life.
She chaired the founding meeting of Fianna Fáil and helped set the course for the radical new departure which our party represented – so we are especially proud of her. But we also remain absolutely committed to the idea that she and her colleagues who fought for our national independence belong to no party – they belong to the Irish people.
When we look back at the Proclamation, at the role of women in the War of Independence and in the early years of Dáil Éireann, it is impossible not to see how stark the record was in the decades which followed. It is not just that it took another 60 years for a women to be appointed to cabinet, it is that women’s voices were pushed away from the centre of Irish public life.
This made us a poorer people in nearly every way.
There has been much progress in recent decades but we are not yet near a moment where we can say that we as a society hear the voices of women and allow each woman to fulfil her potential.
We have a strong economy and high levels of employment, but this covers up a highly damaging development where women are increasingly found in insecure, lower-paid employment which denies them essential opportunities. Equally, figures on pay and promotions continue to show an undervaluing of the contribution of women.
As we mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and the part it played in our fight for independence, we should remember once again that equal rights and equal opportunity are not marginal to real Irish republicanism – they are at the core of our founding document.
And so too is the principle of working to build peace between traditions on this island and internationally.
When Seán Lemass went to Belfast to meet the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland he began a process of trying to reduce suspicions and create confidence so that governments and people North and South could focus on development and cooperation rather than conflict.
This process reached a dramatic high-point twenty years ago this month with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement built on the tireless work for peace of many people over the years, but there is no doubt that it would have been impossible without Bertie Ahern’s leadership as Taoiseach.
The scale of the problems which he and others overcame in that negotiation and in those which followed dwarf any that exist today – yet what we are seeing is a very real threat to the first agreed settlement in the history of this island.
The situation is that two parties which have achieved a relative dominance of their communities have failed to establish a government and to allow the democratic voice of the people to be heard.
They bear the primary responsibility for a record of dysfunction and inaction which put party interests ahead of the public interest. However the simple fact is that the governments also bear serious responsibility.
They allowed formal, photo-driven relations to replace the serious, detailed and ongoing enagement which had existed under previous governments.
They may talk to each other a lot, but they seem unwilling to show urgency or serious leadership. A vacuum has been created which is grave and is causing real damage.
There is no local voice involved as critical services are planned. No voice to address endemic poverty in marginalised communities. No voice to stand against cuts to school funding or mounting problems in hospitals.
Most of all there is no place for Northern Ireland at the table when its future is being decided in Brexit negotiations.
This week saw another major problem emerge in these negotiations. Instead of being dealt with as a separate and priority strand, Ireland was attached to negotiations on the overall EU/UK relationship.
Reports show a complete lack of progress and a rising belief that there is no breakthrough likely in the coming months.
In fact, the situation today is that less than a year before the UK leaves the European Union there is no proposal on the table from anyone which can deliver both Brexit and a soft border in Ireland.
A rising concern is that Ireland is now being pushed later and later in the negotiations – leaving a real risk that we will face enormous pressure to accept whatever is proposed so that the financial settlement with the UK will not be lost.
Fianna Fáil’s core position today remains as it has been from the very begining:
- Firstly, the economic, social and cultural case for our membership of the EU is overwhelming – we will not follow the UK and we must support a stronger and reformed EU.
- Secondly, the only way to address the disruption to North/South relations post-Brexit is for Northern Ireland to have a form of special economic zone status which does not affect its constitutional setlement but actually provides a means of addressing the underdevelopment of Northern Ireland.
We have been consistent in raising our concerns from well before the referendum was held and we have been active and constructive at every point.
Unfortunately there is a growing intolerance within elements of government to the idea that anyone has the right to challenge them or to question their strategy.
Given how often they have over-spun and under-delivered in nearly every policy area – and their obviously poor working relationships with key players – we will continue to speak up.
The issue of Brexit is simply too important for our future and we need more debate not less. Most of all we need to start seeing concrete and credible proposals about future arrangements.
Chaith ceannairí Éirí Amach na Cásca formhór a saol fásta mar rannpháirtithe gníomhacha sa ghluaiseacht chun ár dteanga, ár spóirt dúchais agus ár dtraidisiúin chultúrtha a athbheochan. Roimhe seo, ba mhinic a measadh gur dearcadh seanaimseartha é sin, ach a mhalairt ar fad atá fíor
Le linn an trátha céanna, bhí borradh faoi ghluaiseachtaí athbheochana timpeall na hEorpa ar fad, go háirithe i measc daoine a d’fhulaing le fada faoin mbrú a bhí orthu cloí le riail na himpireachta. Ní iarrachtaí eisceachtúla iad na hiarrachtaí chun an bonn a bhaint den teanga sa tír seo, agus fuair gluaiseacht na hAthbheochana, a bhí faoi stiúir Chonradh na Gaeilge agus daoine eile, spreagadh agus inspioráid ó ghluaiseachtaí cosúla i dtíortha eile.
Cur chuige ar leith ab ea é seo toisc gur leagadh béim shíoraí ar úsáid na teanga agus an chultúir mar bhealach chun difríochtaí idir traidisiún éagsúla a shárú. Dhírigh an ghlúin úd ar áilleacht na teanga agus ar shaibhreas an chultúir chun an pobal a thabhairt le chéile in áit daoine a dheighilt óna chéile.
Is léir ón méid a chonaiceamar ar shráideanna Bhaile Átha Cliath an tseachtain seo caite go bhfuil dúil mhór ag muintir na hÉireann sa teanga go fóill. Is mór an náire é nach bhfuil ach fíorbheagán déanta chun an fhís a leagadh síos sa Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge a thabhairt chun críche.
Cuireadh an Straitéis seo i bhfeidhm sular tháinig an Rialtas seo i gcumhacht agus is ábhar náire é go bhfuil an teanga in úsáid mar phointe aighnis anois idir an dá pháirtí polaitíochta in Stormont, páirtithe nach bhfuil in ann leas an phobail a chur roimh a leasanna féin.
In éagmais Feidhmeannais agus Tionóil, tá dualgas fós ann reachtaíocht a rith le haghaidh cearta teanga i dTuaisceart Éireann agus ba cheart don dá rialtas a fhógairt go luath conas a thabharfaidh siad faoin tasc tábhachtach seo.
The republicanism of 1916 is a constant reminder to us to remember the duty of the state to serve the people. Where there are clear failures in essential public services it is the duty of everyone in government to work tirelessly to address these failures.
The unfortunate reality is that the current government remains obsessed with spin over substance and is failing to use its mandate to address issues which they have allowed reach emergency level.
In housing, every week it is becoming clearer that the minister and his government are failing to deliver. With homelessness figures at record levels and six months after the Taoiseach announced to his party “we have a plan and it’s working” they have been forced to admit that they don’t understand what’s going on.
In health, we are reaching the end of a winter where ever substantive promise of progress was broken. In fact, this is the first government in recent Irish history not to even have a plan for developing health service – so the drift and damage continues.
Ministers are touring the country announcing building projects which will not start for over a decade but are unwilling to speak about record waiting lists and the mounting pressures in essential areas like general practice, nurse and consultant shortages.
A core problem is that government policy has been constantly changing and focused on gimmicks rather than the much harder work of investment and reform in our public health services.
In the next few weeks there is likely to be an announcement on how the all-party Sláintecare report is to be implemented.
Unless we see a concrete list of actions and resources this will be just another empty gesture from a government which continues to neglect this vital health service.
Ours is a country which has achieved an immense amount in the last century. We have grown and developed unimagined strength which has completely changed how Ireland is perceived in the world.
Our strength today did not happen overnight, it happened because of long-term policies and a commitment to using public service and public services to the benefit of all of the people.
This is the republican creed of 1916.
It is a creed which is as relevant today as it has ever been.