Friday, 9 October 2015
Public Holidays (Lá na Poblachta) Bill 2013: Second Stage [Private Members]
I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Molaim An Bille um Laethanta Saoire Poiblí (Lá na Poblachta) 2013. Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leo siúd ar fad a chuidigh liom an Bille seo a chur le chéile agus a smaoinigh an coincheap seo a bhogadh ar aghaidh go dtí an Bille atá os ár gcomhair inniu. Tharla sé seo thar roinnt blianta. Ar eagla go mbeadh aon míthuiscint ann, deirim lom amach nach gcreidim go bhfuil saoirse an náisiúin ársa seo bainte amach go fóill. Ach ní cóir go gcuirfeadh sin bac orainn ar fad, fiú más as traidisiúin polaitiúla difriúla muid, ceiliúradh cuí a dhéanamh ar chrógacht iad siúd a chuaigh sa bhearna baoil ag strachailt chun na Poblachta forásaí seo a bhunú, go háirithe iad siúd a d'fhógair an phoblacht, an tseachtain chinniúnach sin i 1916.
Níl i gceist agam go mbeadh ach Lá na Poblachta amháin ann. An coincheap atá sa Bhille seo ná go mbeadh lá saoire breise ann gach bliain as seo amach, chun an t-éacht, an chrógacht agus an fhís a bhain le hÉirí Amach na Cásca 1916 a cheiliúradh in imeachtaí cultúrtha agus oideachasúil in achan contae sa tír - is é sin sna 32 contae seachas na 26 contae amháin.
The purpose of the Bill is to have a new national holiday designated in law as Lá na Poblachta on 24 April annually. The second, but probably more important, aspect, is to establish a bord Lá na Poblachta to organise events in commemoration and appreciation of the contribution to the Irish nation over the centuries by many who gave their lives and liberties in pursuit of the Irish nation to free it from the occupation of a foreign power. As part of its role, the board would raise awareness, encourage an understanding of, and create a discourse around the ideals contained in the key revolutionary documents of Irish republicanism, and of the events leading up to the declaration of the Irish Republic contained in the Proclamation of Easter week 1916, which Pádraig Mac Piarais read at the front of the GPO on 24 April 1916.
In recognition of the central role played by the Proclamation in encapsulating the ideals of Irish republicanism, a programme of cultural and educational events should be held in each county for both citizens and tourists. I foresee many events being organised among our nation's citizens and supporters abroad. I have already seen much enthusiasm, for example at the recent re-enactment of the funeral of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, book launches and talks about 1916. There is nearly an insatiable demand among the Irish public for more information and events around the seminal event of Irish history.
Many nations have a day or event in their history which, for the present day citizens, captures the spirit of the nation. In the many episodes of bravery, foresight and selflessness in Irish history, the 1916 Rising stands out and is, therefore, the appropriate day to celebrate and commemorate as Ireland's national day. In the Bill, I have laid out the new public holiday, Lá na Poblachta, as a national day. It would fall annually on 24 April, the day on which the Irish Republic was declared. The Bill deals with practical issues such as what would happen if it falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, and I have also ensured it has the full meaning for workers of a public holiday as per the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. In setting out the functions of the board, I have set out how it would be funded, via ciste Lá na Poblachta, the rules governing its appointment, meetings, terms and conditions, duties and responsibilities and even the discipline. This is not a single issue Bill.
The Government has shot down the proposal, despite the fact that when I raised it, in February 2013, at the all-party decade of commemorations committee meetings, I received the backing of the Government's commemorations advisers, albeit for a single year's public holiday next year. The Government is turning its back on an opportunity. Neither the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, her predecessor with responsibility for commemorative events, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, nor the Government has had the vision to embrace the idea. This is despite the fact that Ireland has nine public holidays, fewer than the European average of 11. In September 2014, the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, said it was something to which she had not given a huge amount of consideration. It is probably the same attitude she and her Government had to Moore Street, reflected in her shambolic launch of the Government's 2016 centenary project at the GPO in November 2014. It could only get better. The public's rejection of the programme as not fitting forced the Minister and Government to rethink, call in the cavalry and look at and listen to the decade of commemorations committee, which had been in place for many years. More important, it forced them to listen to the hearts and voices of the people of the nation, who were demanding more appropriate commemorative events, not afterthoughts. Thankfully, the situation has moved on since that shambolic launch in November 2014. Regrettably, the Government is still obstructing ideas that are not its own.
That is why the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Alex White, faked outrage here yesterday when I raised his role in refusing to grant permission to Sinn Féin to use the frontage of the GPO for a light show spectacular next year. He misled the Dáil when he said that I make things up as I go along. Sinn Féin has been in contact with the OPW, An Garda Síochána, An Post and the Decade of Commemorations organisation seeking the required permissions to ensure that this event can happen. We also wrote to the Minister, having been told by Mr. George Moir, the OPW's director of heritage, that granting permission for the use of the GPO is in the gift of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Who is making things up? Is it the Minister and his officials, or is it me? I am not making things up; I have set out the facts here. The Minister should apologise to the House next week.
It is interesting that it is a Minister of State from the Labour Party who was sent in today to bat for the Government, to be a mudguard once again. I remind the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Ríordáin, that the former leader of his party, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, when calling for an additional public holiday in September 2006, said:
Ireland continues to lag well behind European averages in terms of public holidays. With only nine statutory days off each year, the Government should move to introduce two additional public holidays to bring us in line with the EU average of 11. It is unfair that our workforce is expected to work longer hours than our European neighbours yet not be rewarded by employers with sufficient days off. The Government could help plug this gap by introducing these extra public holidays.
Here is the Labour Party's opportunity to take one step closer to reaching the European average at least, albeit not on a topic that Deputy Quinn would embrace. However, his forefathers and his relatives in Newry would have seen the appropriateness of recognising those who fought against the Empire in a fitting way.
Some might question the wisdom of marking independence day as a national day when a nation is still partitioned or when freedom has not been fully achieved. However, a national day is a designated day, usually a public holiday, in most states in which nationhood is celebrated. It can be on the date of independence or a date of significance from history. Some countries have more than one such day - Pakistan, I am told, has three. Catalonia celebrates its national day on 11 September, Euskadi on 25 October, Cyprus on 16 August and Palestine on 5 November - they all mark their national days, despite not having been granted their freedom or continuing to be occupied or partitioned. Canada's day is on 1 July and, interestingly, that came about as a consequence of the actions in north America of the forefathers of the men and women of 1916. Germany - which is hopefully suffering this morning, although not financially, regretfully, considering its attitude to our debts and banks - marks its reunification on 3 October with German Unity Day. Both the partitioned states of Korea mark Korea's liberation from imperialist Japan on 15 August and, of course, the USA celebrates its revolution on 4 July and France celebrates its revolution on 14 July, Bastille Day.
I urge the Minister of State not to be afraid of the concept behind and proposal contained within this legislation, which was carefully thought out and was not just a whim on my part. I urge him to embrace it in the full understanding of what I am trying to achieve with this Bill. It is not just about an additional holiday. Its aim is to ensure that the vision of the Proclamation is considered and lived up to as much as possible or is, at the very least, the ideal to which we aspire. There should not be a problem with that concept, and we should ensure that all of our citizens understand that. All of our citizens should engage in a discussion on a vision for the future of Ireland, as well as considering their responsibilities as citizens as envisaged by those who declared a republic on the streets of Dublin just over 99 years ago. A new public holiday dedicated to the memory of the selfless men and women who had the vision and courage of their convictions is what this Bill proposes. I believe it would be appropriate to declare Lá na Poblachta.
Mar fhocal scoir, iarraim go leanfaimid fís na bliana 1916, ó thaobh díospóireachta seachas go míleata, chun an Phoblacht a bhí i gceist sa bhliain sin a bhunú i gceart. Ba cheart go mbeadh sé mar aidhm againn - i ngach uile ghnó atá á dhéanamh againn sa Teach seo, san Oireachtas ina iomlán, sa Stát seo, sa tír agus sa náisiún uilig - oibriú le chéile leis an dúshlán sin a chomhlíonadh agus na haidhmeanna sin a shroichint. Is féidir linn bheith bródúil as na daoine a chuaigh romhainn, a bhí de dhánacht agus de chrógacht acu ina lán bealaí seasamh leis an bhfís atá luaite agam i gcoinne impireacht ollmhór a bhí ann ag an am. Creidim gur féidir é sin a dhéanamh, i measc bealaí eile, trí Lá na Poblachta agus bord Lá na Poblachta a bheith bunaithe as seo amach.
Tugann an Bille seo deis dom eolas a thabhairt don Teach ar an dul chun chinn suntasach atá déanta ag an Rialtas chun Éirí Amach na Cásca a chomóradh an bhliain seo chugainn. Mar atá ráite cheana, tá sé i gceist ag an Rialtas go mbeidh an bhliain 2016 Ián d'imeachtaí éagsula agus ilchineálacha. Beidh deis ag pobal na tíre seo castacht iomlán na 100 bliana seo caite ar an oileán seo a chíoradh agus a cheiliúradh. Is léir go bhfuil tacaíocht forleathan ag cur chuige an Rialtais. Sheol an Taoiseach clár na n-údaráis áitiúla inné. Tá beagnach 2,000 imeacht pleanáilte ag pobail aitiúla ar fud na tíre. Tá sé seo mar bhreis ar an gclár suntasach a sheol an Rialtas i mí Márta. Is ceart a thabhairt faoi deara gur tríd imeachtaí shearmanais an Stáit a thabharfaidh saoránaigh na hÉireann aitheantas foirmiúil agus sollúnta d'Éirí Amach na bliana 1916, agus is ar Sheachtain na Cásca a leagtar an bhéim. Athródh an Bille atá os ár gcomhair an bhéim sin go huile agus go hiomlán. Ní fheicim go bhfuil aon tacaíocht taobh thiar den chur chuige sin.
The surprising thing about the Bill before us is that it would move the focus of the 1916 commemorations away from the Easter weekend to the end of April. This would seriously dilute the traditional Easter Rising commemorations, and there is no demand for such a move. The Government put in place one of the most comprehensive public consultation processes ever seen in this country, with over 80 very well attended public meetings across the country, in every county. A new public holiday was not sought; nor was there support to move the focus of commemoration from Easter to 24 April. In this regard, I note that the Bill has been sold in the media as an opportunity to introduce an additional public holiday next year, but this is disingenuous. The Bill would, in fact, introduce a new public holiday in perpetuity, but there has been no discussion of the cost of such an additional annual holiday.
Next year will be a time for reflection, celebration and commemoration. It is not a year for singular narratives of the events of Easter 1916 but one in which we embrace the multiplicity of traditions on our island and celebrate our independence. The Ireland 2016 centenary programmeis a fully inclusive programme.
It contains formal State commemorations and a broad programme of events and initiatives planned in partnership with the national cultural institutions, universities, State bodies and agencies, local authorities, local communities and a number of other interested individuals and groups. That this programme is a cross-government, non-political initiative in which all citizens regardless of political background are encouraged to take part should not be underestimated. This is the key to ensuring broad participation in the events being planned for next year and is a sentiment which featured strongly in the various consultations conducted in recent months. Those who attended the consultation meetings did not want the commemorations to become a party political football.
There has been widespread support for the programme across the political spectrum and significant engagement at both national and local levels throughout the country and abroad. The programme was drafted following extensive consultation with a range of stakeholders and was welcomed by the expert advisory group on commemorations, chaired by Dr. Maurice Manning, and the all-party consultation group on commemorations, of which Deputy Ó Snodaigh is a member.
Only yesterday, we launched 31 individual local authority plans to commemorate the centenary of 1916. Local communities have taken the themes of Ireland 2016 and developed exciting and innovative plans for next year covering art, historical reflection, community events, events involving children and young people and a range of other activities, all of which have been designed to be inclusive and reflect the diversity of opinion on the events of 1916.
My colleagues, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys, and the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, recently launched an extensive nationwide programme of activities for primary and post-primary schools, including research projects, competitions and awards as part of the youth and imagination strand of the programme. The Government's "Flag for Schools" initiative has got off to a great start, with more than 700 flags already delivered to primary schools by members of the Defence Forces. We are also working with the third level institutions which have developed extensive and reflective programmes for 2016. For example, only this week, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht launched the National University of Ireland Galway, NUIG, programme, which offers a range of activities for next year.
On Saturday last, I launched the Department's Culture Ireland international programme, I Am Ireland, which is a key element of the Ireland 2016 global and diaspora strand of the Ireland 2016 programme. It is a programme of celebration through contemporary arts which also reflects on Ireland's cultural journey over the past 100 years. The Arts Council and national cultural institutions also have extensive programmes planned for next year. The diaspora will also be involved in events next year and our network of embassies abroad has developed a range of activities to engage with the diaspora and local communities. Full details of the programme were launched in June and it continues to grow.
The core of the programme will be the State commemorative events, including ceremonies at the GPO on Easter Sunday and events at Kilmainham Gaol and Arbour Hill. Many events will also take place at local level on an annual basis. Next year, a range of additional commemorative events will be held to mark the centenary of the Rising and the existing Easter bank holiday will provide an appropriate opportunity for a major public celebration to mark the end of the Easter commemorative events. This will build on the very successful Road to the Rising Easter Monday events in Dublin this year.
It is clear the forthcoming year will be a year of solemn remembrance, reflection and celebration. It will also be a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-imagine our future, reflect on the ideals of the Proclamation and use this learning as inspiration for this generation. The Government will continue to work with everyone to ensure the Ireland 2016 centenary programme is a success.
This Bill seeks to distract from the Easter weekend commemoration. It seeks to provide an additional public holiday in perpetuity for which there is no public demand and to use a singular narrative which could undermine the respectful and inclusive approach to all commemorations on this island which the House supports. Ar na cúiseanna sin go leir mé féidir leis an Rialtas seo glacadh leis an Bhille seo.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill, which proposes the introduction of a dedicated bank holiday on 24 April to celebrate the 1916 Rising. Most, if not practically all Irish people, would agree with this proposal for the centenary year of 2016. The Bill goes further and provides for a bank holiday on 24 April on a permanent basis. The least we can do, as an initial step, is agree to the proposal for 2016, the centenary year. The merits of introducing an additional bank holiday have been well argued, including that the number of bank holidays in Ireland is below the European average. The Bill facilitates a proper examination of this issue.
I am disappointed with the Minister of State's contribution, in which he took a party political approach, specifically in his reference to parties being divisive. I had hoped the Government would not go down that route.
Next year, 2016, will be an incredibly important commemorative year and it should be celebrated with dignity and respect. Most other countries have an independence day, whether on 4 July in the United States, Bastille Day in France or the other dates to which Deputy Ó Snodaigh referred.
The Fianna Fáil Party is very proud of its direct roots in the rebellion of 1916. The first leader of our party was the most senior leader to survive the rebellion. Furthermore, the entire founding generation of the party was made up of people who risked everything for the cause of the country in 1916. We believe, however, that the commemorations do not belong to any group or party but to all Irish people and this must be respected.
I understand military tactics were the reason the date of Easter Monday 1916 was chosen for the Rising. The day was scheduled to be a normal bank holiday and, as such, people knew that many of the British forces would attend the races in Fairyhouse, meaning the military presence would not be especially strong. The decision to stage the Rising on 24 April 1916 was taken by the leaders of the rebellion for military reasons, rather than on the basis that it was Easter week. While the Rising was suppressed and many of its leaders executed, by any fair measure it was a remarkable success. A poor people with few resources was inspired to stand up in the face of overwhelming odds and the Rising subsequently received irrefutable democratic endorsement. What was achieved in 1916 was the very definition of a revolutionary event.
The modern and progressive vision of a republican Ireland, which is so wonderfully expressed in the Proclamation, should be reflected on more widely. The Proclamation contains a message of friendship and unity between groups and rejects sectarianism and the types of aggressive nationalism evident in many other countries. It sets out a positive vision of a state which serves the people and demands that those who promote the Republic do not dishonour it by using illegitimate means. It also insists on the full rights of all Irish people, irrespective of gender, religion or privilege.
Ireland never gave in to the ideological extremes which caused so much tragedy in the 20th century. We have one of the world's oldest continuous democracies and our democratic, republican Constitution was the first of its kind ever adopted in a free referendum. These many factors provide a direct and positive link to the events of 1916.
I have never spoken previously in this House about my family's immediate and direct involvement in the 1916 Rising. It will be news to many people in Dublin that the first event of the Rising took place in Clonad outside Portlaoise. The countermanding order standing down the rebellion planned for the Easter Monday did not reach Portlaoise on Easter Sunday.
The people in Portlaoise and surrounding areas went out on the mission they had planned as part of the lead-up to the event commencing in Dublin the following day. Their mission was to derail the train coming from Waterford through County Laois carrying reinforcements of British troops to put down the rebellion in Dublin. The mission given to a small group of men and women in County Laois, including those on the look-out, was to take up the railway track to derail the train such that the train carrying reinforcements would not reach the capital. That was done successfully, but the train company spotted that the tracks had been taken up. It sent out a spotter train to see what was happening on the line. In that time, there was an exchange of one, two or three shots. I am not quite sure of the figure as there are different accounts, but in any event the first shots of the 1916 Rising were fired in a place called Clonad outside Portlaoise, County Laois. I am particularly proud that it was my uncle Eamon - not grand-uncle or great grand-uncle, but my direct uncle - who was the officer in command of that mission. He was assisted by many others on the day, including his brother Patrick Fleming who went on to a major participation in the War of Independence. The event at Clonad has been celebrated over the past decade by a local committee and there is a significant monument on the side of what was the old N7 Dublin to Cork road outside Portlaoise. It is now bypassed by the motorway, but a significant event is held there every year. The people in Laois are proud of their county's direct involvement in the Easter week events which were not just confined to Dublin.
My uncle Patrick was arrested several times during the War of Independence. Prior to that, he was imprisoned in Portlaoise Prison and went on extensive hunger strikes which ultimately threatened his health. They eventually released him. He went on hunger strike to get status as political prisoner and he was released to get him to discontinue that. He was subsequently rearrested and eventually sent to Mountjoy where he led a famous escape over the prison's walls which is written in folklore. One of the programmes in TG4's "Éalú" series of the past two years which shows famous escapes from Irish prisons was dedicated to that particular event. A great many people have co-operated on a film being made locally in Laois to commemorate the event and it will be launched early in the new year. When my uncle Paddy was in Portlaoise Prison, the British authorities tried to force feed him during his hunger strike. They put him in a straitjacket because he tried to break out and damage the furniture. They had to remove the ceiling above his cell to make it a double-height ceiling on which they could place heaters to heat him against his will. He also broke those. Some Sinn Féin Members beside me were imprisoned in Portlaoise Prison in more recent years. Whenever I meet Deputy Martin Ferris and others, they talk about the famous history of Paddy Fleming and the Paddy Fleming cell in Portlaoise Prison. As such, it would be remiss of me if I failed to support the Bill.
I am a Member quite a number of years but have never spoken in the Dáil Chamber of my direct family history. My uncle Paddy went on to stand for Fianna Fáil as a candidate in the 1927 general election, but 1916 is not just about Fianna Fáil, it is about everybody. We played our part as did the other parties in the House. In the spirit of the centenary year, a special bank holiday to commemorate the actual date of the Rising is appropriate. The Irish people will support it.
In his response, the Minister of State said the 2016 commemoration will be "a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine our future, reflect on the ideals of the Proclamation and use this learning as inspiration for this generation". There is a little village in north Leitrim called Kiltyclogher. Was the Minister of State in Kiltyclogher at the Seán Mac Diarmada cottage?
He should visit. There is a beautiful little village in north Leitrim called Kiltyclogher, just outside which Seán Mac Diarmada was born. His original cottage is still there and is being very well maintained by the Office of Public Works. For over 40 years, a commemoration has been run on the Sunday nearest 12 May to reflect on Seán Mac Diarmada's execution and ideals and on how Ireland today matches with the ideals of Seán Mac Diarmada and his comrades. The commemoration is attended by all, including Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, people of no party persuasion and the community. People travel from far and wide to attend the commemoration. There is a small active committee which has organised the commemoration every year for 40 years and not one cent was ever sought or received from the State to run it.
The problem is in the words of the Minister of State - 2016 is being regarded as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Remembering 1916, its heroes and their ideas should not be a once in a lifetime matter. Every year, we should reflect on those who founded our nation and sought to bring about a free, independent Ireland. That day, year and quest for freedom does not belong to Sinn Féin alone. Of course, it does not. It is in the heart of every Irish man and woman. To relegate this to one year or one week of fanfare, colour, money and shiny buttons is not good enough. It is not about a once in a lifetime opportunity. There is a gulf of understanding between the legislation before the House and the mind of Government. The legislation is very simple. It proposes that 1916 should be commemorated not only in 2016 but in every year.
The Minister of State said in his reply that no thought had been given to what this would cost. He said there was no discussion as to the cost of such an additional annual holiday. Is this it? Spend plenty of money in one year, get the headlines, blow the trumpets, fly the flags and banners but only for one year because it might be wrong if the people began to question the extent to which the ideals of the freedom fighters of 1916 are met in modern Ireland. Run it for one year, take control of it, put money into it, wrap it up in a nice little parcel and close it afterwards.
I am disappointed with the Government's response. It could have left this suggestion open for further scrutiny, but it will not do so. It intends that 2016 will commemorate 1916 and let that be the end of the matter so that, when the flags in schools become faded, people will forget. Do not encourage people to search for the idealism of 1916 because they might be disappointed by the lack of idealism in 2016. Put it in a box, put a shiny ribbon on it, tie it up and sin é.
I do not know how these Private Members' Bills work because I have not been a Deputy for long enough and protocol is not one of my strongest suits, but if there is any way for the Government to change its response to what is simple legislation and not a party political Bill, which is what the Minister of State seems to be saying, will it please do so? Will it please say that the next Government or Dáil or a committee in the next Dáil will examine the matter? Do not just say that the Government is doing a good job in 2016 and that we in Sinn Féin are naughty for doing our own thing, something that we should not be doing. Of course we will do our own thing, but we will actively participate in all of the national commemorations. I will be there on the Sunday closest to 12 May in beautiful Kiltyclogher for our annual commemoration, which has been running for more than 40 years, and so will hundreds of others from all parties and none. That commemoration will continue. The organising committee will not stand aside and do nothing just because the Government will organise a series of events as part of a national commemoration in 2016. The committee will continue doing what it has done for more than 40 years, namely, honour the memory of those who died for Irish freedom, learn from their idealism and promote that idealism in the Ireland of today. It does it every year. The Government should accept this Bill and hold a commemoration every year.
Following on from the small, simple commemoration in Kiltyclogher and with the assistance of Leitrim County Council, Maynooth University and the many good people of the Kiltyclogher Community Council, we run an excellent and thriving summer school that examines Irish history. This is the type of activity that is required. The Government needs to understand that. This should be more than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It should be constant and a part of who we are.
Ba mhaith liom tacaíocht a thabhairt don Bille seo. The Minister of State raised a number of issues with the timing of the proposed Lá na Poblachta. The point of Deputy Ó Snodaigh's Bill is to separate the celebration from the Easter weekend, which is a religious time for many people. Celebrating 1916 in a chronological fashion is logical. If the Minister of State sticks to his own dates, it will be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, which changes every year, whereas commemorating it on the date that it actually happened makes sense.
It is also bizarre for the Government to claim that there will be Government commemorations and no others. The Government has a poor record in terms of these celebrations. It created a video that was full of celebrities but sanitised of the Easter Rising participants. It created a website in the Irish language that used Google Translate to populate the screen. Given the fact that the people of 1916 were also cultural revolutionaries, that was sickening from my point of view as a Gaeilgeoir. If we are to wait for the Government to be the only people in town as regards the development of anniversary events, we will end up with the lowest common denominator. Instead, the Government should empower all community organisations, be they political parties or elements of civic society, to organise celebrations. Sinn Féin encourages people to get involved in the State commemorations also.
In recent times, many members of the Government have stated that no one owns 1916 or republicanism. That is true, as 1916 belongs to the Irish people and no one has a right to commandeer it. In the same way, no one owns republicanism. Republicanism and 1916 are about three simple ideas: full Irish independence, equality and justice. If these are the Minister of State's objectives and what he strives for, he can claim to be an Irish republican. Sinn Féin has a clearly defined strategy for achieving these. If others have realistic strategies, they should by all means get a move on. God speed and get to work. Many of the utterances about 1916 and commandeering republicanism have usually been made by Deputies who are increasingly defensive about the centenary celebration. The truth is that they want to cash in on the political kudos of Irish republicanism without having made the investment to further their ideals. The men and women who fought in 1916 did so for a thirty-two county Irish Republic. They did not die for partition. They did not die for the Minister of State opposite to claim that a product made in the North should not be allowed to call itself Irish.
Some want to bask in the commemorative glow of Pearse and Connolly while hundreds of thousands remain on housing waiting lists and thousands more remain homeless. Some use the word "equality" and stretch it, but how can it be used when billions of euro are being spent to repay unsecured debts while elderly people remain on trolleys? One in six Irish people live abroad. Tens of thousands of grandmothers Skype their grandchildren's first words in an Australian accent, their first days at school and their first Holy Communions. Is this the justice that inspired the men and women who risked death in 1916?
Irish republicanism is a powerful objective and a realisable goal. It is a remedy to the mé féin sickness at the heart of this State. It is not the property of one political party, and is certainly not an elastic, meaningless tool for some spin doctor to rebrand decades of neglect and indifference. The goals of full independence, equality and justice cannot be achieved solely by my party or any other party. That will only happen when all political parties play their parts. Sinn Féin has held 1916 commemorations for nearly 100 years. We tended the graves of fallen heroes when others found no political profit in it. However, this is not a closed shop. It is open to all who hold these objectives true.
History often sterilises the humanity of the past, but it is important to remember that each of the men and women who were involved in 1916 were just like the Minister of State and me. They had the struggles, distresses and strains of life. They were gripped by fear and often lacked confidence and second-guessed whether their republic would be possible. Despite these frailties, they achieved something real and of lasting value.
Another debate rages among the chattering classes as to how best to commemorate these men and women. The establishment has tied itself in knots trying to commemorate the people while ignoring the objectives of those same people. The truth that is the only way to commemorate these heroes is for this generation to complete their objectives. This is not a job for other people; republicanism is not a spectator sport. We all live under the same sky and are responsible for one another, and it is important that people do not let these commemorations pass without stepping up to the plate.
The Bill introduced by Deputy Ó Snodaigh simply allows for a day on which people can lay down their tools, be with their family and friends and focus on the sacrifice of the men and women of 1916, as well as on their political objectives. Earlier, the Minister of State made a strong effort to suggest that this was non-political, but 1916 is one of the most political actions in the history of Ireland. This was a movement of national liberation that produced a political document called the Proclamation, and for anyone to try to neuter or sanitise the politics of 1916 and the commemorations does an injustice to those same people.
Tá a lán den mhéid atá le rá agam ráite agam cheana féin. Bhí mé ag súil go mbeadh Aire nó Aire Stáit anseo a léireodh go bhfuil tuisint aige nó aici ar an méid atá i gceist sa Bhille seo, seachas an Aire Stáit a tháinig anseo chun an cheist atá ardaithe agam inniu, agus le tamall de bhlianta anuas, a pholaitiú. Tá an tAire Stáit tar éis iarracht a dhéanamh rud polaitiúil a dhéanamh as rud nár cheart dó a bheith polaitiúil. Níor tháinig mé isteach anseo inniu chun iarracht a dhéanamh bua a fháil ar an Rialtas. Rinne mé iarracht i dtús báire an cheist seo a ardú sa bhealach cuí agus cóir. Tháinig an tAire Stáit isteach agus dúirt sé nach bhfuil mé go hiomlán dáiríre - d'úsáid sé an focal "disingenuous" - ó thaobh an bhealach ina bhfuil an reachtaíocht seo á chur chun tosaigh agam.
You accuse me - and the nerve of you to say-----
The Minister of State accused me of being disingenuous in his contribution. However, his statement is a most disingenuous response to an attempt by a Deputy to put forward something positive. Moreover, as I stated earlier, his former leader, Deputy Quinn, sought to have two additional public holidays. I did not simply come into the Chamber today, a few months before the 2016 celebrations, seeking to have a public holiday, but went to the bother of first raising this proposal with the Ministers in 2012, that is, three and a half years ago. I was mindful that were there to be a public holiday, that there would be a cost associated with it and that it would be necessary to inform the business community and to prepare for it. I was not the one who delayed it. I have been a member of the decade of commemorations committee since 2006 and have raised many issues. I note that eventually, in January of this year, the State started to listen to me and to others who had put forward positive proposals of how the State should commemorate the events of 1916. I did not keep all the ideas to myself or among my party but encouraged everybody to join us. In 2013, I raised this proposal at a meeting of the decade of commemorations committee and had the support of the very same advisers - namely, Martin Mansergh and the group's chair, Maurice Manning - whom the Minister of State had the nerve to quote back at me earlier. They agreed that at the very least there should be one day next year on which there would be a public holiday. Perhaps the Minister of State was not present at that meeting, because it took place in February 2013. I have stayed for the entire time and have raised the issue constantly.
Moreover, there is a demand for it. I do not listen to Joe Duffy's radio programme, but I know the Minister of State does. He should ask Joe. He featured this issue on his programme during the week; it was nothing to do with me, as I had not raised the issue on it before that. Moreover, 70% of those who took part in a 6,000-respondent poll said they would welcome and endorse a new public holiday. However, if the Minister of State is not worried about Joe Duffy, he should ask Deputy Quinn what precisely he meant in 2006 when he stated that as Ireland had fewer public holidays than the European average, it should have another two days. I am proposing the introduction of one such day and the Government can pick whatever one it wishes beyond that.
It is appropriate and would be ideal were the Government to consider the reasoning behind the date chosen, 24 April, because that was the day on which the Republic was declared. The Minister of State again accused me in his statement of trying to take away from Easter weekend by moving the holiday to the end of April, but then later stated that there was no support, when the public was consulted, for moving the focus of commemoration away from Easter. The reason for this is that the State had already declared that its commemorations and major commemorative events would be held on Easter Sunday. Consequently, why would the public try to change it? The Government had already declared it; it was afait accompli. I argued at the aforementioned committee that 24 April should be the date until the Minister of the day, Deputy Deenihan, took the decision that it would not be on that day but on Easter Sunday, which is a religious holiday. I argued that the appropriate day, at the very least for next year, should be 24 April, and the record stands. I am not the one being disingenuous; it is the Minister of State.
As for making it a political football, as Deputy Tóibín noted, Sinn Féin has had continuous commemorations since 1916. However, within my family, I note that my father's job in the National Museum was threatened because the State sought to politicise 1916 during the 1970s and did not want any commemorations. He spoke as a civil servant at an event on the history of 1916 and was threatened that he would be drummed out of his job for so doing. The Minister of the day was Mr. Donegan. That is an example of the State politicising the event, and it was politicised because for nearly 30 years, during which the State did not hold a commemoration for one of the seminal events in 1916. The State commemoration for 1916 was re-established in 2006. The Minister of State should check the record. You might be too young to remember that in the 1970s, the State-----
This meant, by that very action, that the State was politicising the ideals and commemorations of 1916.
In my document, bhí sé i gceist agam lá saoire náisiúnta a chur sa tsiúil. Is ait liom go bhfuil an Stát ag cur ina choinne. Bhí sé i gceist agam chomh maith bord Lá na Poblachta a bhunú. Ba é sin an príomhrud a bhí le rá agam níos luaithe. Ní raibh sé faoi mo réim, ná faoi réim an Stáit. Bhí sé i gceist agam go mbeadh an tAire in ann daoine a ainmniú chuig an mbord. Dúirt mé go mbeadh sé mar chuid de ról an bhoird sin díospóireacht ar na ceisteanna seo a chothú. Cén fáth a bhfuil eagla ar an Aire Stáit faoin gcuid sin den Bhille? Tá sé ag diúltiú ní hamháin don lá saoire, ach freisin don chuid eile den mholadh seo. Dúirt sé nach bhfuil sé i gceist aige an reachtaíocht a scaoileadh ar aghaidh chuig Céim an Choiste. Tá formhór an phobail go huile is go hiomlán taobh thiar de chomórthaí difriúla.
Is féidir leo freastal ar chomóradh an Stáit, ar chomóradh Shinn Féin nó fiú comóradh Fhianna Fáil. Go bhfios dom, níl aon chomóradh eagraithe ag Fine Gael nó ag Páirtí an Lucht Oibre go fóill, ach b'fhéidir go bhfuil.
An rud a dúirt mé ná nach bhfuil a fhios agam gó fóill. Má tá comóradh eagraithe acu, chuirfinn fáilte roimh gach éinne freastal orthu ar fad nó freastal ar a rogha comóradh. Sin mar ba chóir a mholadh. Ba chóir dúinn ar fad daoine a mholadh chun féachaint arís ar na hidéil agus ar an fhís a bhí ann i 1916. Nílim ag caitheamh anuas ar Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre ó thaobh 1916 in aon chor. Táim ag rá go bhfuil dreamanna éagsúla ag eagrú comórthaí agus go mbeidh neart imeachtaí ar siúl. Is léir sin ón méid a chur an Rialtas os ár gcomhair inné. Glacfaidh a lán dár gcomhairleoirí páirt sa phróiseas agus molfaidh siad go mbeidh imeachtaí áitiúla ar fud na tíre. Ní hamháin go raibh baint le hÉirí Amach na Cásca le Baile Átha Cliath, bhí baint aige leis an tír ar fad.
The Government's minuscule response is disappointing, as is the fact it was totally and utterly disingenuous. It is disgraceful that the Government is refusing even to contemplate the Bill before it today.