Building of the Republic ‘must always be a work in progress’
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has called for Irish people to take responsibility for building a true Republic.
In a keynote address to descendants of those who fought and died in the 1916 Easter Rising, Mr Higgins said the ideals of the Proclamation can inspire today.
“Our nation has journeyed many miles from the shell shocked and burning Dublin of 1916. We can see that in many respects we have not fully achieved the dreams and ideals for which our forebears gave so much,” he said.
“A democracy is always and must always be a work in progress, and how we use the independence we have been gifted will continue to challenge us, morally and ethically.
“We must ensure that our journey into the future is a collective one; one in which the homeless, the migrant, the disadvantaged, the marginalised and each and every citizen can find homes, are fellow travellers; a journey which includes all of the multitude of voices that together speak of, and for, a new Ireland born out of contemporary imagination and challenges.”
The President’s speech at the descendants’ reception in the RDS in Dublin on Saturday night followed the opening day of centenary celebrations.
Mr Higgins began the 100 year anniversary by laying a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square in honour of all those who fought and died for Irish freedom.
Official Ireland is striving to make the commemorations inclusive with ministers describing the events as a reflection and respectful, conscious of the sensitivities of unionists in Northern Ireland.
The President urged Irish citizens to grasp the need to keep building a republic, to make the founders of the state proud, representative of courage, vision and a profound spirit of generous humanity.
“Let us look to our past in a way that is emancipatory and transformative. Let us recognise all that was powerfully suggestive in that past as we set about constructing the foundations of a new and better Ireland,” he said.
Mr Higgins recalled conditions in Dublin at the time of Rising with 5,000 tenements in the city centre’s Georgian buildings housing 87,000 people, including 20,000 families with one room to call home.
He also highlighted the important role of women in the rebellion, largely overlooked for much of the 20th century, other than by some historians and feminists.
And he spoke of the diverse idealism which helped to inspire the insurrection including land rights, housing, language, politics, culture, nationhood and the pretext of the poorest in society fighting for empires in the First World War.
The President said all those who died in the insurrection should be remembered – 485 people, more than half of whom were civilians, and 40 of whom were children – as well as the rebel leaders documented in the history books.
It is only in the last year that their deaths have been catalogued.
“Let us remember all those who died or were injured in Dublin, the majority of whom were civilians. We reflect and recall the loss suffered by all families. We recall and respect all the families who lost sons, fathers, brothers, sisters or daughters,” he said.