Speech by Bertie Ahern, at the Wreath Laying Ceremony in Kilmainham Gaol, (10.15am, Sunday, 16 April 2006)
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Speech by Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), at the Wreath Laying Ceremony in Kilmainham Gaol, (10.15am, Sunday, 16 April 2006)
"A dhaoine Uaisle.
Is cuí agus is oiriúnach dúinne a bheith bailithe ar an ócáid stairiúil seo, deich mbliana is ceithre scór i ndiaidh Éirí Amach na Cásca Naoi déag is a sé déag.
Táimid anseo chun na daoine go léir a fuair bás a chomóradh agus na daoine a chuireadh chun báis ar an láthair seo ach go háirithe.
Tá áthas mór orm go bhfuil an tAthair Séosamh Ó Mealláin - mac le Michéal Ó Mealláin, a bhí ina cheannasaí ar Arm Cathartha na hÉireann, in ár measc inniu.
Today is a day of remembrance, reconciliation and renewal.
Today is about discharging one generation’s debt of honour to another. Today, we will fittingly commemorate the patriotism and vision of those who set in train an unstoppable process which led to this country’s political independence.
By gathering here today, ninety years on from the Easter Rising, our presence is testimony to the fact :
· that our generation still cherishes the ideals of the courageous men and women who
· that we honour and respect their selfless idealism and patriotism; and
· that we remember with gratitude the great sacrifices they made for us. We, in our time, are privileged to be living through one of the most exciting times in Ireland’s history. The country we inhabit today is an island of unprecedented prosperity, peace and opportunity.
The potential for progress has never been greater. Independent Ireland is now in full stride and beginning to fulfill the hopes and expectations that all the patriots of the past knew we possessed.
I have always maintained that when we consider our successful struggle for independence, we should honour the achievement of all those who took part. Today, we remember all those who participated in Easter Week and we especially recall the leaders of the Rising, many of whom spent their last hours here before being executed in the Stonebreaker’s Yard at Kilmainham Gaol.
We are all privileged and pleased to be in the company of
Fr. Mallin, son of Michael Mallin, Commandant of the Irish Citizen Army. Fr Mallin is the only surviving child of any of the 1916 leaders. He has travelled a long distance from Hong Kong and we are honoured that he has taken the trouble to be here with us today.
In Commandant Mallin’s final letter to his wife - dated 7th May, 1916 - he poignantly informs her of the verdict of the Court Martial. The letter opens and I quote:
“My darling Wife, pulse of my heart, this is the end of all things earthly; sentence of death has been passed, and at a quarter to four tomorrow the sentence will be carried out by shooting and so must Irishmen pay for making Ireland a free nation…”
Michael Mallin’s generation fought heroically to vindicate the Irish people’s right to self-determination and it is fitting that we rightly honour them.
His final letter is also important for its marked absence of bitterness and for the emphasis he places on reconciliation.
“I find no fault with the soldiers or police. I forgive them from the bottom of my heart. Pray for all the souls that fell in this fight, Irish and English.”
The vision and bravery of Mallin, of Pearse, of Connolly, of Clarke and all the other men and women of 1916, in their lives and in their deaths, was recognised by the Irish people, who only two years later decided to back the cause of an Independent Republic by a massive and sweeping majority. The justice of the cause, not simply the willingness to fight for it, contributed much to its success.
The men and women of Easter 1916 gave their lives so that Ireland could gain her freedom.
The generations that came after them used that freedom to support peace across the world through the efforts of our Defence Forces, Óglaigh na hEireann.
This generation used that freedom to support peace and reconciliation in our own country when, in an overwhelming and historic act of self-determination, we voted for the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
We now aspire to a future where the next generation of Irish men and women can confidently build on these foundations of prosperity and peace and also make their own contribution both at home and in the wider world.
Today’s ceremonies relate to the circumstances that led to the foundation of this State and the great courage of those involved.
We have much to be proud of as a country.
As we look to the future, we must be generous and inclusive so that all of the people of Ireland can live together with each other and with our neighbours in Great Britain on a basis of friendship, respect, equality and partnership.
And every day, in every place, we will continue to work for peace, for justice, for prosperity and for reconciliation between all who share and who love this special island."
The text above is subject to Irish Government copyright According to the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000. The text originally appeared on the web site of the Department of the Taoiseach (www.taoiseach.gov.ie).
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