Address at the Unveiling of the  Memorial Stone  at Mac’s Quay, Askeaton  Sunday, 9th October 2016
Cuirim fáilte ó chroí roimh gach éinne atá anseo inniu, idir mhuintir an pharóiste agus na cáirde atá tagtha chun ceiliúradh linn. Is ocáid sár-speisialta dúinn é i bParóiste Eas Géitine agus Baile Stiabhna inniu.
This has been a voyage of discovery for many of us. We, the members of Coiste na Saoirse, are an ad hoc group, who came together with the simple desire to honour all those from the parish who, between the years of 1798 and 1921, contributed to the struggle for Irish freedom and strove for an Irish Republic. Our concern was to give as fitting a tribute as we were capable of, not only to those who had sacrificed their lives but also to the ordinary but heroic women and men who had contributed over the years in their own special ways to the achievement of Irish freedom. In the course of carrying out our plan, facts have come to the surface that lay hidden for many years, matters that people were perhaps even embarrassed to talk about, that lay hidden in attics and in wardrobes, and in the recesses of the memory. This year of national celebration has given people ‘permission’, so to speak, to bring these out into the open, and to recognise them for what they were. I hope that our effort has done something similar at our all-important local level. There is a greatness in people that is often brought out only at a time of extreme conflict agus is tábhachtach dúinn é sin a chomóradh. And doesn’t it look as if this green, which was built and reclaimed from the River Deel several years ago, has been waiting in anticipation of this day when it would become Páirc na Saoirse, the memorial site to our local Laochra na Saoirse.
Not being a native of this parish I knew very little about its republican history. So, I am hugely indebted, in the first place, to three inspirations I received from my native parish of Dromcollogher. The first is Pat Scanlan and his committee who organised the 1916 centenary commemoration on Easter Sunday of this year in Dromcollogher. Secondly, there is Ger Greaney who organised the commemorative march from many parishes to Glenquin Castle where the West Limerick Volunteers assembled on Easter Sunday 1916. In both of those cases what was very evident was the pride of people in those who had been part of the struggle for freedom. Thirdly, there is the booklet produced by the Wall family from a recording they had made of Charles Wall, Commandant of the West Limerick Volunteers at Glenquin in 1916. The centre of that booklet carries the names of Limerick men who had been interned in Ballykinlar, Co. Down. We might note that they all wrote their names in Irish! Four of them were from this parish. Ina dhiaidh sin fuaireamar amach go raibh beirt eile freisin ón bparóiste i Ballykinlar. This began the quest for me, along with a fine article written by Paul Anglim in the ABC News about the 1798 United Irishman, Paddy O Neill.
In my view the most pleasing aspect of this commemoration is that we have reclaimed our history. It’s strange how we have allowed other European countries who took part in two great wars to celebrate their dead, without recrimination, and yet we have been slow to honour our laochra who struggled for our freedom. In fact, there was almost a national amnesia for some years regarding those who made such heroic sacrifices. It’s not that those people chose in the first place to go and fight or to die or to make sacrifices. Rather it was that they saw no other option: what could have been granted to them by peaceful means was denied over several centuries. Ní ortha a bhí an locht faoi sin.
Echoing the words of Wolfe Tone we want this celebration to be a united one: United Irishmen, United Irish men and women. The signing of the Treaty was a cause of disunity among those great men and women. Perhaps the mistake was that they didn’t stick together, regardless. But then, at this remove it is easy for us to talk. We hope that whatever is done in the coming years to commemorate the Civil War will be fair to people on all sides. They were all great Irish men and women and they should be remembered as such. Today we gather to honour them as people who stood united and achieved our independence and freedom.
I would hope that we will recover some of the energy and enthusiasm of our people of around a century ago, where they made a real effort to bring to the fore and rediscover all the richness in our culture, and that includes our language. It is a pity that we haven’t developed that sense of the importance and the beauty of our language by learning to speak, even as our second language, what is the oldest vernacular language in Europe. I would hope that celebrations like this will inspire people to make that effort again. As Pádraig Pearse once envisioned, an Ireland that is not only free but Gaelic as well; not only Gaelic but free as well.
Tá alán daoine agus cumanna gur mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leo but it is impossible to name them all individually here. So, forgive me if I make just a general acknowledgement of those who have contributed to the success of this day and the events leading up to it: our suppliers and artisans, those who prepared Páirc na Saoirse, and those who have participated directly in today’s celebration. This has been a truly community event where we took pride in our forebears, and we thank you all for your support and for being part of the celebration here today. Especially I wish to thank the members of Coiste na Saoirse. We had never before worked together as a team, but it has been a highly committed group, cohesive and hard-working, since early April last. I often marvelled at the range of skills of the members, skills which complemented each other.  So I wish to thank them in a very special way: it was a privilege to have worked with you.
Finally, may I say that I hope that none of us will ever be guilty again of forgetting those who sacrificed so much that we might have our freedom. Iarraimíd omós a thabhairt dóibh inniu faoi mar atá tuilte go maith acu. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.