During this year throughout Ireland communities have gathered to mark the centenary of the event which sparked the successful fight for our independence. All generations and parts of our society have participated in an inspiring national commemoration.
We have every right to be proud of the spirit shown in hundreds of events throughout our island. They have been open and generous. They have respected diversity and promoted the idea of reconciliation.
The people of Ireland have shown how to look to the past in order to help understand who we are and to draw inspiration for our future. This has been a powerful testimony to the fact that patriotism can be the mark of an inclusive, modern republic.
We should never take this for granted. At this grave dark moment in world affairs we should never stop reminding ourselves of the republican spirit which has defined our modern history and should define how we face the future.
This is why it is so important that we gather in this place to mark our respect and admiration for a great Irishman who gave so much for his community and his country. Seán Moylan shows us much about our history – and his life reminds us about how much we can achieve in the face of even the toughest challenges.
On November 19th 1889 Seán Moylan was born into a modest family which lived in Kilmallock. He was part of a rising generation which was determined to improve itself and its country. They had few comforts but they had an ideal which they cherished and they never doubted that the people of Ireland must control their own destiny.
Throughout his long career he was distinguished by his commitment to improving himself, improving his community and improving his country. He was no narrow-minded nationalist harking back to the past; he was driven by an unceasing energy to create new opportunities.
As a teenager he joined the two great pillars of the national revival – the GAA and the Gaelic League. He saw them as serving a positive community and national spirit and remained committed to their ideals throughout his life.
Bhí grá doimhin agus meas mór ag Seán Uasal Ó Maoláin ar mhuintir na hÉireann, teanga na Gaeilge agus cultúr na nGael. Le linn a shaoil, bhí sé tiomanta agus í mar aidhm láidir aige eagraíochtaí a thógáil a chuirfeadh toil an phobail chun tosaigh i slí oscailte agus charthanach.
Bhí baint lárnach aige le gluaiseacht a chabhraigh le stop a chur le meath agus díothú na teanga náisiúnta.
Is léir, a dhaoine uaisle, nár bhain gluaiseacht athbheochana na teanga a gcroíaidhmeanna amach, ach ag an am céanna, gaisce a bhí sa mhéid a baineadh amach, a bhuí leis an ngluaiseacht seo.
Coimeádadh an Ghaeilge beo beathach, tugadh áit lárnach di i bhféiniúlacht ar stáit agus cuireadh na síolta don athnuachan agus beocht nua atá faoi lán seoil i láthair na huaire.
Léiríonn an spleodar agus an díograis sna scoileanna agus i bpobail mórthimpeall na tíre go bhfuil dea-thoil fírinneach inár sochaí aitheantas a thabhairt don teanga agus í a úsáid. Chomh maith leis sin, aithnítear na saintréithe a thugann an Ghaeilge dúinn.
Is é an bunphrionsabal atá ag an bplean fadtéarmach don teanga a chuireamar le chéile ná scaoileadh leis an spleodar agus an fuinneamh seo i leith na Gaeilge. Is scannalach agus is náireach an scéal é an teip leanúnach ón Rialtas seo aon tsuim a léiriú i gcur chun cinn na straitéise seo.
Táimid ar thairseach cinniúnach stairiúil don teanga nuair is féidir linn dul chun cinn mór a dhéanamh maidir le ceann de na físeanna móra lárnacha a bhí ag bunaitheoirí an Stáit.
Ní bheadh sé ceart na cóir an seans seo a chailliúint ná a chur amú.
It was as a young carpenter working briefly in Dublin after 1909 that Seán Moylan was introduced to radical republicanism. First in Kilmallock and then in Newmarket he founded companies of the Irish Volunteers.
He mobilised his company for the planned Rising in 1916, but like so many others he stood his Volunteers down upon receipt of the countermanding order.
He did not rest. In March 1918 he led a raid for arms and he was soon afterwards arrested for sedition. After escaping he proceeded to spend the next three years on the run.
For three years he travelled throughout region and to other parts of the country always looking over his shoulder, always under pressure and lacking the basic comforts of security and safety. And yet for all of this his achievements were spectacular.
As head of the Newmarket Battalion and the 2nd Cork Flying Squad he helped shake the foundations of the most powerful empire on earth. Mallow Barracks, Tureengariffe and Clonbanin are just a few of the actions which meant that the deeds of the men and women of Cork became known throughout the world.
Like so many others, he saw the Treaty settlement as failing to deliver on core republican objectives. He sought a republic which showed that it derived its power from, and was obliged to serve, all of the people of Ireland. It is a tragedy in our history that people who had achieved so much together failed to bridge their differences at that time.
Having spent much of the civil war in the USA on republican business, Seán Moylan returned to set up a new business and get on with his life.
However he soon became active again in politics, joining Fianna Fáil in support of the party’s radical platform and commitment to using new methods to promote the republican cause. He was elected to the Dáil in 1932 and served as a TD for the next 25 years.
He was a man of action who fought for his country’s freedom – and he was a man of action who worked in parliament and government to use that freedom in the interests of the people.
There is a lot to be learned from Seán Moylan’s time as a TD and as a Minister.
He was an active parliamentarian who looked at every issue on its merits and had no difficulty supporting measures proposed by others when he thought they were right.
His biggest passion was for the idea that Ireland could only prosper if it was willing to modernise rural Ireland and to expand education and training for all.
As Minister for Lands he took a modern approach of caring for the long-term viability of new holdings. He didn’t want to simply feel good about handing over land to new owners, he wanted a rural economy which could provide them with a decent living and supply the needs of the wider community.
As Minister for Education between 1951-54 he began the first steps in work to expand access to education – an effort which reached its height in the historic progress of the Lemass governments.
He also increased investment in vocational education and implemented a programme of renewing school facilities. This is a record of a man of great substance and achievement who kept looking for new ways forward.
In 1957 he lost his Dáil seat, but his skills were still needed and he was appointed first to the Seanad and then to serve as Minister for Agriculture.
It is a great shame that he only had a few months in that office before his untimely death. There is no doubt that he would have been a visionary and reforming Minister.
In the short time he had, he started work on a new approach to agricultural research and education. He didn’t want farmers and rural communities to simply be at the mercy of commodity markets, he wanted to help them innovate and to maximise their return.
This was characteristic of his life-long belief in education, in community, in trying to shape the future. This is as relevant today as it has ever been.
By any measure this is a challenging moment in our history. We have come through a deep recession and we must address a broad sense of a country which has become more divided and more unfair. On top of this we face rising threats from an international situation which could cause deep, long-term damage.
These threats cannot be tackled by sitting back and hoping everything will turn out all right. We desperately need a new urgency and ambition in our government.
In the five months since the UK’s Brexit vote the only things which are clear are that their policy is a shambles and that it is already causing real damage on this island. Brexit is not something which is happening in two years, it is happening now.
Brexit is already undermining Irish businesses and communities which have for decades worked on the basis that our countries shared a commitment to working constructively with other European countries.
Britain has taken the route of a backward-looking nationalism, suspicious of outsiders and committed to the historically false idea that you don’t need strong international bodies to secure lasting cooperation and prosperity between nations.
The republican constitution drafted by Eamon de Valera at the darkest moment in modern history committed this country to the idea of democratic values, international cooperation and respect for international law.
The founding generation of this state committed us to a European future which has delivered us progress which would have been impossible if we had remained a provincial economy of one neighbour.
We are not going to join the English in their desire to repeal the 20th century. We will not join them in their right-wing ideology of trade rules with no social dimension and no enforceable laws.
We stand for a progressive approach which demands that rights be protected, that there be investment in social needs and that we have the opportunity to have our voice heard in the international community.
What we need now is an urgent national plan for mitigating the impact of the hard Brexit which is already underway and for opening up new markets.
Given how much the UK market is worth for agri-food exports, rural communities are facing the hardest impact. The unprecedented decline in Sterling may soon be followed by new barriers to trade. We can’t stand by and let this slow-motion crash happen.
That is why we are calling for the EU to agree and part-fund a new programme to help sectors badly hit by Brexit and to give them an exemption from normal state aid rules until they have been given a chance to find more secure markets or to develop new products.
We also have to stop the talk and start acting to protect the fabric of our rural communities. The worst of the last government’s agenda on attacking rural schools has been stopped – but what they need now is a long-term agenda for how they are to develop and how their role as the heartbeat of the community is to be protected.
Rural Ireland also needs a guarantee that it will have fair access to the social and economic services which are essential for communities and businesses to thrive. Whether it’s the closure of post offices, reduction of infrastructure funding or poor broadband coverage, rural Ireland is facing official policy which is making a tough situation much, much worse.
We must also as a nation understand that the hard-line populism developing in other countries is a threat to us as well. Those who try to push politics to the extreme, who always have a conspiracy or an enemy on which to blame problems and who claim there are easy answers to even the hardest problems – these are people who do nothing constructive and cause immense damage.
It is much harder to argue from the constructive centre – limiting yourself to what is possible rather. But this is the only way to deliver a politics which focuses on tackling problems rather than exploiting them. Practical patriotism – ambitious for our country and putting people ahead of ideology – that is the spirit which helped build our country and it is the spirit which is needs now.
It is our duty as a democratic republic – one of the oldest in the world – to speak up for our values. It is our duty to be true to the progressive republican idealism of Seán Moylan and the rest of his generation which did so much for us.
That is the way for us to honour their lives and their sacrifices for the people of Ireland.