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Adams pays tribute to life and legacy of O’ Donovan Rossa

1 August, 2015 - by Gerry Adams TD


Sinn Féin Leader, Gerry Adams TD paid tribute to the life and legacy of Jeremiah O’ Donovan Rossa in a speech delivered by his graveside today, one hundred years to the day and to the very hour that he was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Mr Adams said:

“Who was Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa? He was from a family of tenant farmers from Roscarberry, County Cork. In 1856, not long after the Great Hunger, he established the Phoenix National Literary Society whose aim was the "the liberation of Ireland by force of arms”. In 1858, he was jailed without trial for 6 months.

“In 1865, he was charged with plotting a Fenian rising, and sentenced to penal servitude for life. He served his time in Pentonville, Portland and Chatham prisons in England. His prison conditions were horrendous. Infamously he was manacled and had to eat his food like a dog from a dish on the prison floor.

"In an 1869 by-election he was elected for the constituency of Tipperary, but the election was declared invalid because Rossa was a prisoner. In 1870 he was exiled to America with other Fenians. There he established The United Irishman newspaper and organised a bombing campaign in England known as “the dynamite campaign”.

“He also organised a fund to support the fight against British rule. Isn’t it great that this morning the Irish government celebrated this old Fenian and his activities? He was in many ways a very active republican.

“At the time of O’ Donovan Rossa’s death, aged 83, a new generation of revolutionary republicans were organising and preparing for a Rising.They were determined to have Rossa brought home and buried in Ireland.

“Rossa’s funeral mobilised and galvanised all sides of progressive opinion. The funeral committee included 11 of the leaders of the Rising who were executed 10 months later. They stood where we are standing today.

“At that time Ireland had been dragged by England into an imperialist war. Even the most limited form of autonomy had been denied to us. Partition was being plotted and planned.

“But those who gathered at Rossa’s graveside resolved not to accept this, to protest, to resist and, ultimately to take on the might of the British Empire. The funeral of O’Donovan Rossa was a prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916.

“Today almost a century later we have many, like O’Donovan Rossa, who spent years as political prisoners, or were on the run or were forced into exile. We remember also all those who suffered and died in the most recent conflict, including our patriot dead, some of whom are laid to rest in this cemetery. 

“We have with us also many younger people who, thankfully, have not known directly the terrible reality of armed conflict in our country.

“Let us be very clear that the Peace Process and the political progress we have achieved were made possible because of the sacrifices of countless republicans over the generations. It is hugely positive and progressive that we today can pursue the complete unity and freedom of the Irish people, by peaceful means. And we are pursuing that cause.

“Today is a reminder, as the events of the Centenary of the Easter Rising in the coming months will be reminders, that the business of Pádraig Mac Piarais and James Connolly and Constance Markievicz and Bobby Sands and Máiréad Farrell is unfinished business. 

“Some people in high places do not like to be reminded of that unfinished business. Mar a dúirt an Phiarsaigh: The fools. The fools. The fools.

“The way citizens are being treated today demands another Rising - a popular re-conquest of Ireland by the people of Ireland. Our country is still partitioned. And Ireland divided never can be free. We do not yet have a national Republic. But republicanism is growing, as never before.

“The Proclamation has yet to be implemented. Equality has yet to be achieved. But we are living in a time of great change and great hope, and great potential.

“Never was there a greater need for a genuine, rights-based society, for republicanism and a real democratic revolution. Because we are as determined to move forward and as determined to achieve complete freedom as the men and women who gathered here 100 years ago today.”

Full Speech

Ar dtús ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le gach  duine a ghlac páirt san ócáid speisialta seo inniú -daoine a tháinig ó gach cuid den tír agus daoine a  tháinig anseo ó thar lear.

I want to thank everyone who has taken part in this very special event.  I want to thank our organisers and reenactors.

Who was Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa?

He was from a family of tenant farmers from Roscarberry, County Cork.

In 1856, not long after the Great Hunger, he established the Phoenix National Literary Society whose aim was the "the liberation of Ireland by force of arms”.

In 1858, he was jailed without trial for 6 months.

In 1865, he was charged with plotting a Fenian rising, and sentenced to penal servitude for life.

He served his time in Pentonville, Portland and Chatham prisons in England.

His prison conditions were horrendous.

Infamously he was manacled and had to eat his food like a dog from a dish on the prison floor.

In an 1869 by-election he was elected for the constituency of Tipperary, but the election was declared invalid because Rossa was a prisoner. 

In 1870 he was exiled to America with other Fenians.

There he established The United Irishman newspaper and organised a bombing campaign in England known as “the dynamite campaign”.

He also organised a fund to support the fight against British rule.

Isn’t it great that this morning the Irish government celebrated this old Fenian and his activities?

He was married 3 times and had 18 children.

He was in many ways a very active republican.

At the time of his death, aged 83, a new generation of revolutionary republicans were organising and preparing for a Rising.

They were determined to have Rossa brought home and buried in Ireland.

Rossa’s funeral mobilised and galvanised all sides of progressive opinion.

The funeral committee included 11 of the leaders of the Rising who were executed 10 months later.

They stood where we are standing today.

This afternoon we have with us people whose parents or grandparents or other relatives stood here exactly 100 years ago.  

Fáilte speisialta do na daoine sin.

Like us, they were men and women who believed in Irish freedom.

They were in the IRB, the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan, Na FiannaÉireann, Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, Conradh na Gaeilge and many other organisations, as well as tens of thousands of citizens. 

There were trade unionists, feminists, writers and artists.

Their common cause was the unity and independence of Ireland.

At that time Ireland had been dragged by England into an imperialist war.

Even the most limited form of autonomy had been denied to us.

Partition was being plotted and planned.

But those who gathered at Rossa’s graveside resolved not to accept this, to protest, to resist and, ultimately to take on the might of the British Empire.

The funeral of O’Donovan Rossa was a prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916.

Today almost a century later we have many, like O’Donovan Rossa, who spent years as political prisoners, or were on the run or were forced into exile.

Fáilte mór romhaibh.

We remember also all those who suffered and died in the most recent conflict, including our patriot dead, some of whom are laid to rest in this cemetery.

We have with us also many younger people who, thankfully, have not known directly the terrible reality of armed conflict in our country.

Let us be very clear that the Peace Process and the political progress we have achieved were made possible because of the sacrifices of countless republicans over the generations.

Mar thoradh ar an bPróiséas Síochána tá bealach síochánta agus daonlathach chuig Éire Aontaithe ann.

Agus tá sé mar dualgas orainn dul ar aghaidh le chéile ar an mbealach sin.

It is hugely positive and progressive that we today can pursue the complete unity and freedom of the Irish people, by peaceful means.

And we are pursuing that cause.

Today is a reminder, as the events of the Centenary of the Easter Rising in the coming months will be reminders, that the business of Pádraig Mac Piarais and James Connolly and Constance Markievicz and Bobby Sands and Máiréad Farrell is unfinished business.

Some people in high places do not like to be reminded of that unfinished business. 

 Mar a dúirt an Phiarsaigh: The fools. The fools. The fools.

The way citizens are being treated today demands another Rising - a popular re-conquest of Ireland by the people of Ireland. 

Our country is still partitioned. And Ireland divided never can be free.

We do not yet have a national Republic.

But republicanism is growing, as never before.

The Proclamation has yet to be implemented.

Equality has yet to be achieved.

But we are living in a time of great change and great hope, and great potential.

Never was there a greater need for a genuine, rights-based society, for republicanism and a real democratic revolution.

Níl Éire saor agus Gaelach againn, i bhfocail an Phiarsaigh ag an uaigh seo. 

Bí cinnte go mbeidh.

Because we are as determined to move forward and as determined to achieve complete freedom as the men and women who gathered here 100 years ago today.

Bobby Sands put it well,

“There’s an inner thing in everyone,

Do you know this thing my friend?

It has withstood the blows of a million years,

And will do so to the end.

It lies in the hearts of heroes dead,

It screams in tyrants’ eyes,

It has reached the peak of mountains high,

It comes searing ‘cross the skies.

It lights the dark of this prison cell,

It thunders forth its might

It is ‘the undauntable thought’ my friend,

That thought that says ‘I’m right!’

Thank you Bobby. Thank you Máire Drumm. Thank you Padraig MacPiarais, and James Connolly. Thank you O’Donovan Rossa.

Thank You For Being Right

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