April 9, 2023
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD’s speech at annual Easter Rising Commemoration

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD addressed the party’s annual commemoration of the 1916 Rising at Arbour Hill today.

Her full address is below:

A chairde, an Domhnach Cásc seo bailíonnemar le chéile ar thalamh beannaithe Cnoc an Arbhair chun na hÓglaigh cróga a throid a chomóradh sa Éirí Amach 1916 ar son Phoblacht na hÉireann.

Inniu, i ngach tríocha dó contae, seasann poblachtánaigh chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar na glúine tírghráthóir a lorg saoirse na hÉireann. 

Seasaimid le chéile gan éide bhróin a dhéanamh, ach i spiorad an dóchais, muinín, agus misneach gur muide an ghlúin a bhainfidh saoirse iomlán, aontacht agus náisiúnacht amach.

A chairde,

The place at which we gather today carries the legacy of Ireland’s proud revolutionary past and Ireland’s hopeful promise of a better future, a future defined by equality, economic justice, full Irish freedom, and unity. 

A future shaped by the opportunities, progress and prosperity that were denied to generations of Irish people.

It was for that promise, for that vision of Ireland’s future, that the rebels who lie here fought and died. 

Every nation has its sacred soil, its holy turf; places that evoke the sacrifice, courage and noble idealism of those patriots who went before us. For the people of Ireland, Arbour Hill is such a hallowed place.

Today, we walked from Moore Street.

The terrace there was the final meeting place of 1916 leaders. 

It is a national monument. Sanctified ground that belongs to the people of Ireland, to future generations, not to property developers intent on paving over our revolutionary history for profit. 

This is the fate to which Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have left Moore Street. We will never accept that.  

We will continue to fight for history’s streets and laneways to be transformed into a historical and cultural quarter. 

Across the Liffey, the yard at Kilmainham Gaol still rings with the gunshots that cut down the lives of the leaders of the Easter Rising. Arbour Hill still echoes with the travesty of their burial. 

Without rite or coffin, the bodies of fourteen patriots and leaders were cast into a quicklime grave. 

No funerals. No chance for family and loved ones to say a final goodbye.

This was the fate of all seven signatories of the Proclamation following their executions. Those hopeful authors of a parchment that was not only a notice of insurrection but also a blueprint for change, a beautifully expressed vision for a new Ireland. 

Through a hastened and undignified burial, the British sought to ensure the sacrifices of those rebels wouldn’t become an inspiration for further revolution. 

They believed that they could quench the flame of freedom lit by the Easter Rising. 

They were wrong.

They succeeded only in igniting the prophetic words delivered by Pearse at the graveside of O’Donovan Rossa the year previous. 

“Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations.” 

It is from the graves at which we now stand that sprung the spirit of liberty that drove the Irish revolution.

The rebellion of Easter Week was a watershed moment.

It changed the course of Irish history. 

To quote Yeats, “all changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.”

It was here on the cobbled streets of Dublin, that the Irish Republic was born, where it lived and breathed for six days, where gallant volunteers gave their lives in the hope that the Republic would not be swept from the Earth. That the Republic would endure. 

It was this noble vision that inspired the volunteers of the Irish Republican Army to resurrect the fight for freedom in the war against the Black and Tans. 

It sustained Republicans through bitter Civil War and Counter Revolution one hundred years ago.

Many republicans jailed by the Free State during the Civil War dated their prison journals ‘year six’ and ‘year seven’ of the Republic. Even in the throes of tragic defeat the dream of the Republic lived on.

It was this dream that spoke to the bold Robert Emmet who looked British rule square in the eye as he delivered his rousing Speech from the Dock.

It steadied the heart of Young Kevin Barry as he faced the hangman’s noose. 

It arrived as a lark’s song to ears of Bobby Sands and his comrades as they lay starved and brutalised in their Long kesh cells. 

Generations of struggle linked by the belief in a shared dream. 

Generations of Irish Republican change-makers writing their chapter, walking their length of the journey to a new, united Ireland. 

**********

It now falls to our generation to be the change-makers worthy of that dream, to complete the unfinished business of 1916.

Those who fought and died for the Republic did the extraordinary, but they were ordinary people. 

They had to work to put food on the table. They had rent to pay. They had children to raise. The Rising did not happen in the abstract. It happened amidst the struggles of everyday life.

Today is no different. 

It is that enduring desire for change that drives Sinn Féin’s ambition to lead government, north and south. 

Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil have governed for the last century. 

They have driven perpetual crises in housing and healthcare. 

Our young people see a government devoid of energy and ambition. 

Unable to put a secure, affordable roof over their heads, unable to strike out on their own, many now seek their shot at a better life in the US, Canada, or Australia.

The cruel decision of government to end the Eviction Ban speaks volumes.

It puts thousands of working families, single people, and pensioners at risk of losing their homes. It is devastating.

Seven thousand households face eviction over the next three months, and the government is unable to answer the question – where are people meant to go?

What kind of government does this to a family with a six-month-old baby and another child with Autism?

To an eighty-five-year-old man and his seventy-three-year-old wife? 

To a mother fighting cancer?

The answer is – a government that sees housing only as a commodity, not as a basic right of citizens. 

A government led by parties who cling to power and resist change at all costs. 

We will continue to fight this cruel decision with everything we’ve got. 

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been in power for far too long. The longer they are in office the more damage they will do. 

That’s why we need change like never before. 

We need a government with the vision, energy, and determination to fix housing, to fix healthcare and build a fairer economy that works for everyone. 

A government that really sees our young people, gets the challenges they face, and responds with urgency to allow them to fulfil their potential.

A government that will get the basics right in the here and now, and drive ambitious, positive plans for the future. 

Sinn Féin wants to lead that government for change.

Sinn Féin is ready. Ready to lead. Ready to get the job done. 

**********

Last year’s Assembly Election swept away the old certainties. 

Today, Michelle O’Neill stands elected as First Minister designate in a state that was designed to ensure that this could never happen. 

Well, it did happen, and now Michelle stands ready to lead an Executive for all. 

An Executive that will roll up its sleeves and get down to the hard work of delivering real improvements in people’s lives. 

An Executive that will tackle the crisis in healthcare, create new jobs and unleash the potential of a generation. 

Huge economic and investment opportunities lie ahead but they will only be realised with an Executive in place.

I again call on the DUP to end its damaging boycott of the democratic institutions. To join with Sinn Féin, and with other parties, to deliver the government that people want and need.

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the political institutions should be up and running.

The Agreement brought an end to a terrible conflict. 

It delivered peace. 

It transformed Ireland. 

It transcended the hurt and division of the past and shone as a beacon of hope for a better future.

Thanks to that era of heroic peacemakers, an entire generation has grown-up free of conflict.

Today’s political leaders now owe it to a new generation to recapture the spirit and determination of 1998. 

We owe it to our young people to overcome our differences and to make progress happen. 

The true test of political leadership is to make things better for our children. It’s a test to which we must all rise. 

By restoring the institutions, we can move forward. We can make politics work for everyone. That is what Martin McGuinness did. That is what Ian Paisley did, and this generation must make power sharing work once more.

**********

The Good Friday Agreement shows how much can be achieved when we act with common purpose. 

We have built the peace. 

Now, we look to write the next chapter – the reunification of Ireland. 

I believe that we will see Unity referendums in the next decade.

To win these referendums, and win them well, republicans will have to reach out, create space for others and build alliances right across society. 

We want to create a nation home for all our people, where the rights of everyone are protected and advanced.

There is no room for trading one form of discrimination for another.

We want an end to second class citizenship in all its forms.

To build opportunities for everyone.

A new Ireland based on the vision of Tone, an enduring reconciliation and a real union between the Orange and the Green, and between every community on this island.

I want to speak directly to Unionists, and to others who remain unconvinced of reunification.

I ask you to join what is the most important discussion of our generation.

This is your future too. 

Your culture, your traditions, your history matter.

Your voice, your opinions, and your ideas matter.

Be part of what is an exciting, positive, and engaging discussion.

The very best forum for the Unity conversation is a Citizens’ Assembly. 

It would be an inclusive forum for positive discussions on what a new, united Ireland would look like. 

Let me be very clear, if this government refuses to establish a Citizens’ Assembly on Irish Unity, a Sinn Féin government will.

**********

Friends,

The change sweeping across Ireland is led by ordinary people.

By workers, families and communities determined to achieve a new Ireland. 

An Ireland that is fairer, stronger, and better for everyone.

A united Ireland of equals.

This is the rising of a new generation. 

A rising fuelled by the enduring values of the Irish people – community, compassion, togetherness, and kindness. 

We seek to build the Irish nation anew. To end partition in our time. To unite our people and our country.

The gravesides of our patriots are not monuments at which to stand and lament. Rather they are signposts to the future that we will achieve together. 

A nation is a living, breathing thing. 

It pulses through the hopes of its people to endure, to continue, to reach its destiny, and we will not write the epitaphs of those who lie here until Ireland – united and free – takes its rightful place amongst the nations of the world.

That was the goal of Easter 1916. It is the goal now, and my friends, it will remain the goal until the day it is achieved.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go leir agus An Phoblacht abú! 

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