Senator Daly speaks on the decade of commemorations

It is a great honour to serve with the Minister and his officials, John Kennedy and others on the Decade of Commemorations Committee, which is important in terms of acknowledgement of all the historic events which helped shaped this nation. While we must broaden our sympathies we do not have to lessen our loyalties. For a republican like me, the centrepiece of this decade of commemorations will be the 1916 Rising and the ordinary yet extraordinary men and women who did an extraordinary thing on an ordinary day, namely, took on the biggest empire the world had ever seen and struck a fatal blow.

The 1,600 men and women who went out on Easter week took on an empire in which the sun had never set and was at a day’s sail from Dublin. By the time the war had finished Britain and her allies had mobilised 17 million men. The Irish Volunteers were taking on odds of 11,000:1. The empire controlled 450 million people at the time, which was one in every four of the world’s population and had control of 13 million square miles of land, which is equal to one-quarter of the planet. Consider what those people did, when they appeared to have no prospect of success. Ultimately they did succeed, as a result of which we have this Chamber and the Dáil. The decade poses a number of opportunities for projects through which we can show the current generation what had to be done to achieve the Republic.

The military archives will put on a digital display so the world can see all those who participated in the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence. It means that every community will have an opportunity to see who fought and served in those events from their own area. The proposed freedom trail, similar to the Boston Freedom Train, would follow a line through the city connecting all the major locations connected to the 1916 Rising, including the Garden of Remembrance, Moore Street, the GPO, Wynn’s Hotel, Liberty Hall, Pearse’s home on Pearse Street and the Royal College of Surgeons, among others. One of the central points must be what can only be a dark stain on the entire nation, namely, the fact that now, 96 years after the Rising, the General Post Office is still solely a post office and not a centrepiece for a nation to come and reflect on such extraordinary people, as would be the case in any other country in the world.

As Senator Cullinane said, every Member has a particular topic within this decade in which he or she is personally interested. Senator Bacik spoke about the 1913 Lockout which was not only important in this country but throughout the world as it showed how capitalism, at its worst, can mobilise to inflict such pain on ordinary people. Senator Mac Conghail correctly made points about arts and culture. Without the Abbey Theatre, the culture of Ireland and the literary environment, there would have been no 1916 Rising. We must protect those institutions. I ask the Minister to take the issues raised by Senator Mac Conghail on board. There was also the very important contribution by Senator McAleese, who knows more than most the opportunities that this decade of commemorations offers in terms of reaching out, as well as the potential for things to go badly wrong if it is not managed properly. All sides of all traditions must show respect to each other to ensure this decade of commemoration is conducted in a fitting and appropriate manner.

The Proclamation, which Senator Cullinane discussed, is a document we can still reflect on today. That should be a part of our celebrations of the 1916 Rising in terms of how we benchmark ourselves against the aims and objectives set out in that timeless document. The challenge for this generation, as in the case of previous generations, is how to fulfil the objectives laid out in the 1916 Proclamation. In these difficult times, and we have experienced difficult times previously, we believe in ourselves enough to overcome the challenges we face. The people who fought in 1916 and those who struggled so hard through the centuries to achieve the Republic we have, are worthy of our respect and proper commemoration, especially through events such as the celebration of the events of 1916.

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