Sinn Féin launches National Programme of Events to mark Centenary of 1916 Rising
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has launched his party’s National Programme of Events to mark the Centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
The launch took place in Wynn’s Hotel on Abbey Street and was attended by some of the 1916 relatives, by musicians, artists and historians along with other special guests.
Also speaking at the event were Sinn Féin’s Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald and the North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Gerry Adams said;
“The 1916 Proclamation in this era of austerity policies and partition remains unfinished business.
“We need the spirit and the vision; the selflessness and generosity of those who struck for freedom almost 100 years ago.
“Our goal, like theirs, is to build a new future, a new Republic.”
Full text of Teachta Adams’ address follows:
Remember, successive Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil governments didn’t just abandon commemorating Easter 1916, they also banned others from marking it too.
On one shameful occasion the daughter of James Connolly, Nora Connolly O Brien, by then an old woman, was arrested for daring to do what Irish republicans have never failed to do – to honour our patriot dead.
But none of this deterred the thousands who took to the streets on that Easter Saturday 1991.
I was there. It was a great day of music and craic and drama.
So in spite of the harassment, of censorship and misrepresentation the Reclaim the Spirit of Easter was a huge success.
Comhghairdeas le achan nduine a chuidigh leis nó a ghlach páirt ann.
I am pleased to say that next year we will again be working closely with Bobby and his broad alliance of comrades.
We and they share the common goal of a new Republic.
So, next April 24th – the date the Rising began – there will be a national march in Dublin under the theme: ‘Reclaim the Vision of 1916 – A Citizens Initiative for 2016’.
I would appeal to all those who believe in freedom and unity, and who want to honour the heroism and vision of those who took part in the Rising, to join us on Sunday, April 24th 2016.
This morning Sinn Féin is launching our own National Programme of Events to celebrate the Centenary of the 1916 Rising.
It is a first class programme of events which seeks to be inclusive, and to embrace and reflect all aspects of 1916 and its cultural, political, social and historical relevance to the Ireland of 2016.
Of course, when looking at the momentous events of 1916 we must set them in their historical context.
The decade between 1912 and 1922 witnessed a series of historically significant events from the signing of the Ulster Covenant and the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force; through the establishment of the Irish Citizen Army, the Dublin Lock-out; the formation of the Irish Volunteers, the first World War, the Easter Rising and the creation of the Irish Republican Army, the 1918 election, the First Dáil, the Tan War and the Civil War.
It was an unparalleled period of change and revolution on the island of Ireland which shaped society and government for the next 100 years.
The response of the Irish government to appropriately marking this centenary of events has been singularly lacking in ambition and substance.
The launch of the government programme was a joke – a bad joke.
Their video had to be withdrawn.
But this shambolic approach is actually an accurate reflection of Fine Gael and Labours leadership’s attitude to 1916, and in particular the Proclamation.
Little wonder they don’t want to celebrate the Proclamation.
They don’t believe in it.
They are embarrassed by its content.
The government’s failure to protect and properly develop the National Monument in Moore Street, as well as the laneways of history – those adjacent streets and lanes where the men and women of 1916 valiantly fought the British Army – has been shameful.
Le fada, tá easpa aislinge ann ag Fine Gael agus ag Páirtí an Lucht Oibre mianta 1916 a chur chun cinn agus a chaomhnú.
Sinn Féin’s focus is on commemorating and celebrating the courage and vision of those who planned, led and participated in the Easter Rising 100 years ago.
Then it was an alliance of Irish republican organisations and others, including elements of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the GAA, the woman's movement, socialists, trade unionists, nationalists and Irish language activists.
They rose up against British rule in Ireland and declared a Republic.
On that Easter Monday April 24th 1916 Padraig Pearse marched with a small number of comrades to the General Post Office and read from its steps the Proclamation of a new Republic.
For Ireland and for the British Empire this was a point from which all changed utterly.
It was a hugely courageous act.
A few hundreds of Irish men and women taking on the might of what was then the largest empire in history, and the foremost global power.
By 1916 the British Empire controlled a fifth of the world population and a quarter of the world’s landmass.
For the British the Easter Rising, and struggle for self-determination and sovereignty, set an example that was to be imitated successfully in the following decades in its countless colonies around the globe.
For the people of Ireland it was the declaration of an independent Republic.
But not just any Republic.
This Republic was to be uniquely democratic and positively inclusive.
The core values of it were mapped out in the 1916 Proclamation, which remains for me one of the great documents of history and the mission statement of modern Irish republicanism.
It is a freedom charter for this whole island and all the people who live here.
It guarantees religious and civil liberty and is avowedly anti-sectarian.
It promotes equal rights and equal opportunities for all citizens.
It addresses Irishmen and Irishwomen.
At a time when women did not have the vote this was a revolutionary commitment to universal suffrage.
The Proclamation is a declaration of social and economic intent for a rights based society in which the people are sovereign.
At the end of six days the centre of Dublin was in ruins and the leaders of the Provisional Government met for the last time in 16 Moore Street and ordered the surrender.
The leaders were court martialled and 15 were executed over the following two weeks.
Roger Casement was later hanged in London.
The executions caused outrage.
The British hoped by the speed of their actions and the scale of the executions that the flame of freedom would be extinguished.
They were wrong.
At his court martial Pádraig Pearse got it exactly right:
'Believe that we, too, love freedom and desire it. To us it is more desirable than anything in the world. If you strike us down now, we shall rise again to renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom.'
In my view the vast majority of Irish people instinctively understand this.
The Nobel prize winner, writer, journalist and essayist George Bernard Shaw wrote: “My own view … is that the men who were shot in cold blood after their capture or surrender were prisoners of war, and that it was, therefore, entirely incorrect to slaughter them …”.
The Easter Rising is one of the great watershed moments in Irish history.
It transformed politics and the public mood.
This was given expression in the writing of the period.
George William Russell (AE) wrote:
“Their dream had left me numb and cold,
But yet my spirit rose in pride,
Refashioning in burnished gold
The Images of those who died,
Or were shut in the penal cell.
Here’s to you, Pearse, your dream not mine,
But yet the thought, for this you fell,
Has turned life’s water into wine.”
In the elections that followed in December 1918 the Irish Parliamentary Party was decimated.
It was a landslide victory for Sinn Féin which took 73 of the 105 seats.
On January 21st 1919 the First Dáil met in the Mansion House.
It was an unequivocal act of national self-determination that left the British government and the world in no doubt that the Irish people demanded freedom.
April 1916 saw a small band of patriots declare that we are a people created equal.
The Proclamation and the Rising was a declaration heard around the world – that we were no longer colonized subjects; we were free Irish citizens; and that our destiny would not be determined for us; it would be determined by us.
The patriots of 1916 believed that a better Ireland was possible.
And to achieve it – to win their freedom – to win our freedom - they were willing to lay it all on the line. Their lives. Their futures.
But the struggle is not over.
The reality is that the revolutionary period was followed by a counter revolution and an awful civil war.
Our island was partitioned.
Narrow and mean minded conservative regimes were established and the old colonial administration was replaced by native elites – north and south.
Partition has retarded and distorted life on this island ever since.
Emigration and partition are the two most glaring failures of successive Irish governments.
The 1916 Proclamation – especially in this era of right wing austerity policies and partition – remains unfinished business.
We need the spirt and the vision; the selflessness and generosity of those who struck for freedom almost 100 years ago.
Our goal, like theirs is to build a new future; a new Republic.
A new future in which citizens are sovereign and equal; in a society which is tolerant and inclusive of every person irrespective of race or colour or class or creed or gender or disability.
An Ireland built on positive change, on equality and on partnership.
A new Ireland which is open, transparent and accountable.
A new Republic where the wealth is invested creatively and fairly, and where our children are not burdened by poverty.
Where our schools are properly resourced and where no one lies on a hospital trolley or has no home or no job.
These goals are achievable.
So the centenary celebration of the Easter Rising is a time to build.
It is a time to rededicate ourselves to the achievement of the politics of Wolfe Tone, of Padraig Pearse and James Connolly, of Maire Drumm and Mairead Farrell, and of Bobby Sands.
Let us remember and honour those who rose in rebellion but more importantly let us complete their work.
Let us imagine and achieve that better future.
The Proclamation summons her children to her flag and strike for her freedom.
We are those children.
I invite you to join in that great historic enterprise.
Táimid anois ag cuimhniú siar ach ag an am céanna taimid ag amharc ar aghaidh.
Mar sin, bígí linn, ar aghaidh linn!