A Chairde go léir i bhFianna Fáil, a dhaoine uaisle, i dtosach báire ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas  ó chroí a ghabháil libh uilig as a bheith bailithe anseo maidin inniu. Táimse fíorbhuíoch d` Eamon agus de bhaill eile an Choiste míle naoi gcéad is a sé déag, a chuir clár spreagúil le chéile do chomóradh Fhianna Fáil ar Éirí Amach míle naoi gcéad a sé déag.

Agus an clár imeachtaí seo á chur le chéile aige, bhí Eamon gnóthach  i mbun cainteanna le gaolta na laochra a fuair bás i míle naoi gcéad a sé déag agus ina theannta sin, labhair sé go forleathan le baill an pháirtí chun a fháil amach uathu cad iad na tuairimí a bhí acu siúd chun ár meas a léiriú ar an gcomóradh náisiúnta stairiúil seo i stair na hÉireann.

Is maith is eol dom go bhfuil sé fíorbhródúil as an mbaint agus ról ceannródaíoch lárnach a bhí ag a sheanathair chun ár saoirse a bhaint amach agus Poblacht Cheannasach neamhspleách a thógáil. Sna himeachtaí atá a reachtáil, tá sé deimhnithe aige féin agus ag a chomhghleacaithe go mbeimid ag tabhairt ómóis, ní hamháin  do cheannairí agus imeachtaí míle naoi gcéad a sé deag ach do na hidéil a bhí lárnach dóibh agus do na gnáthbhaill den ghluaiseacht náisiúnta a spreag siad.

Fianna Fáil is deeply proud of its direct roots in the rebellion of 1916.  Our first leader, and the most successful Irish political leader of the 20th century, was the most senior leader of the rebellion to survive.

But even more than that, the entire founding generation of our party was made up of people who risked everything for the cause of their country in 1916.  It is particularly fitting that we are in the College of Surgeons today, a garrison which was led by Constance Markiewicz, a leader of the Citizens’ Army and the person who ten years later chaired the founding meeting of Fianna Fáil.

Let me be clear that we believe that 1916 belongs to no party, it belongs to the Irish people.  It is ironic that the only party with no direct connection to 1916 is the one most likely to try and abuse it for political purposes. 

We are proud of our heritage and we also acknowledge the heritage of others.  We see our activities as one part of what should be an inclusive national commemoration and celebration of our state’s founding event.

There was a period not so long ago when there were concerted efforts to undermine the place of 1916 in the hearts of the Irish people.  There was a constant twisting of history by anti-nationalists as well as by those who abused the proud label of republican. 

Not all of this is gone, but the Irish public has shown time and again that 1916 is an event which can inspire a modern, democratic and international people.  I am very proud of the role which the reintroduction of a major state commemoration in 2006 has played in this.

Ireland has every right to have pride in a rebellion which led quickly and directly to the founding of an independent state, albeit one which did not include all of the national territory.  The most powerful empire the world had ever seen was forced to accept the loss of most of its oldest colony and independence struggles throughout the world were inspired by this.

The Rebellion was suppressed and many of its leaders were executed, but by any fair measure it was a great success.  A poor people with few resources and a recent history of mass famine and emigration were inspired to rise up in the face of overwhelming odds. 

The Rebellion received rapid and overwhelming democratic endorsement.  The Irish people no longer felt helpless against a refusal to acknowledge their national aspirations and took what had constantly been denied them.

What was achieved in Easter Week 1916 was the very definition of a revolutionary event.  It did change everything.  It opened new possibilities and started a distinct new tradition which drew on the past but reflected modern realities.

1916 inspired the Irish people to win their independence and it should inspire us just as much today.  At the core of the programme of activities which Fianna Fáil will undertake is our wish to reflect on and celebrate the distinct tradition of 1916 and how much it still has to offer us.

It reflected an intensely modern idealism which was rising through much of the world.  It was not some traditional throw-back – it was the exact opposite. 

National groups long subject to external control were beginning to assert themselves.  These national movements, especially in small countries, often found their leaders in a rising generation of people who rejected the idea that to be educated you had to abandon your national culture. 

They were profoundly republican in their belief that the role of the state was to represent and serve the people as a whole.

The modern and progressive vision of a republican Ireland which is so wonderfully contained in the Proclamation should be more widely reflected on.

It contains a message of friendship and unity between groups – rejecting sectarianism or the type of aggressive nationalism seen in too many other countries.

It sets a positive vision of a state which serves the people.

It demands that those who promote the Republic not dishonour it by using illegitimate means.  It also insists on the full rights of all Irish people irrespective of gender, religion or privilege.

These were no narrow-minded, backward looking revolutionaries – they were warm-spirited, open and modern people.

It was a violent rebellion, but it opened up the possibility for the democratic republican tradition which has been the dominant political belief of the Irish people for many decades. 

This country never gave in to the ideological extremes which caused so much tragedy in the 20th century.  We have one of the world’s oldest continuous democracies.  We have the first democratic republican constitution ever adopted in a free referendum.

These and many other factors are the direct and positive heritage of 1916.

Chomh maith leis sin, léirigh siad meas ollmhór agus throid siad go cróga ar son ár dteanga dhúchais agus ár gcultúr. Bhí baint ag mórchuid de na ceannairí le cur chun cinn na teanga agus an chultúir le fiche nó tríocha bliain roimhe sin.Thuigeadar go maith gur ionsaigh meascán de pholasaithe geilleagracha, riaracháin agus oideachasúla úsáid na Gaeilge agus cuireadh béim mhór ar theanga agus ar chultúr na Breataine.

Is léir gur deineadh mórchuid botún i bpolasaí teanga agus cultúrtha i ndiaidh neamhspleáchais ach ní ar Phádraig Mac Piarais, Seosamh Máire Pluincéid ná a chomhpánaigh an locht ná an milleán.

Chun an fhírinne a rá, d`áitigh saothar acadúil Thomáis Mhic Dhonncha go bhfuil guth Éireannach speisialta ar leith i litríocht an Bhéarla scríofa in Éirinn ar chóir luach a bheith uirthi chomh maith le Gaeilge a athbheochan  ag an am céanna sa saol laethúil.

That is why our programme of events will involve a substantial element of language and cultural activities.

In addition to national activities, our principal focus is to ensure that our thousands of members in all parts of the country organise activities locally – that they embrace the idea of making this a year in which we discuss the events, ideals and inheritance of 1916.  It is not about promoting the party, but about remembering its founding generation and participating in a wider national commemoration and celebration.

We have already put on record the fact that we are concerned about the way in which the official programme of events has been brought together by the government.  We will continue to argue for a broad and inclusive national programme.  Central to this must be local events. 

Unfortunately the allocation of only €1 million to cover the commemoration activities of every council directly undermines the possibility of an ambitious and inclusive calendar of events at local level.  Funding of little over €30,000 per council will not enable the sort of commemorative programme which the centenary of our state’s founding event deserves.

Our councillors on Dublin City Council have been actively promoting the preservation of 16 Moore St as a national monument and Fianna Fáil nationally fully supports this campaign. 

Unfortunately there are many buildings associated with the Rising which have not survived.  Where there are important monuments which can be preserved they must be. 

In addition, we believe that there should be a full official inventory of all sites associated with the Rising which will assess their current condition and their accessibility to the public.  50 years ago a lot of emphasis was placed in establishing memorials.  For the Centenary we need to preserve and open up what we can still save of the sites where the men and women of 1916 fought for our future.

Commemorating 1916 belongs to all the people and the government should ensure that there is a properly fund a programme of community commemorations throughout the country.

Fianna Fáil’s programme of activities will be respective and inclusive.  We will celebrate debate and reflect on the legacy of 1916.  We will participate in the wider commemorations as a party proud of its direct link with 1916 and committed to promoting it as a focus of unity between Irish people of all parties and none.

I would like again to thank Eamon and the members of Coiste 1916 for their work to date .I know that they will continue this good work for the next year so that the men and women of 1916 can be respectfully commemorated by every Irish citizen.

Thank you all sincerely for making the effort to attend today.