Speech by Cllr. Jim O’Callaghan on the election of a Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Dublin City Council
29 June 2015
Ard Mhaor, ar dtús ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leat ar an toghchán. Thanaig tú ar an comhairle cathrach seo I mblian dhá mhíle is a sé, agus thosaigh mé ag obair leatsa I mblian dhá mhíle is a naoi. Is comhairleoir an-dícheallach thú, agus an-cairdiúil freisin. Deanann tú a lán obair an-mhaith ar an comhairle ar son na daoine baile atha cliath, go háirithe na daoine bochta. Tá súil agam go mbeidh tú agus do chlann an-sasta i mblian seo chugann san oifig ard mhaor. Beidh mé féin agus mo phairtí ag obair leatsa i mblian seo chugann.
Lord Mayor, I want to congratulate you on your election and I look forward to working with you in the coming year. I have always enjoyed working with you in the past and I have found you to be a very hard working and diligent councillor. I wish you well and I know that you will continue to work very hard in the job in what will be a very important year for the city and people of Dublin.
I want to thank my colleagues in Fianna Fáil for nominating me and I also wish to thank all those councillors who voted for me. It is a great honour to be nominated for such an important position in such an important year.
Next year will be a very significant year for the city of Dublin. It marks the centenary of the 1916 Rising which had consequences for the whole island but which took place predominantly in Dublin. It will be a year in which the events of 100 years ago will be commemorated and the people whose actions ultimately led to Irish independence will be honoured.
The 1916 Rising was a remarkable event, not just nationally but internationally. It was a Rising that arose because of the persistent failure of the then government to grant independence or self rule to Ireland, notwithstanding the overwhelming democratic desire of the Irish people for self rule. The sacrifice made by Clarke, Pearse and others was a proportionate and necessary response to centuries of oppression of and discrimination against the Irish people.
The leaders of 1916 were Republicans who referred in the Proclamation to the 6 occasions in the preceding 300 years when Irish people had sought their freedom through insurrection. The most important of those 6 and the defining moment of Irish Republicanism was 1798 when the spirit of the French Revolution inspired Tone and the United Irishmen to seek the unity of all Irish people – catholic, protestant and dissenter.
It was that objective that Pearse and others sought to achieve in 1916 and which they did in fact achieve, posthumously, when independence was subsequently won. They knew they were never going to defeat the might of the British state in a battle centred on Dublin but they wanted to have a valiant attempt at inspiring Irish people to the cause of Irish independence. In that they succeeded; but their success was based on their sacrifice.
The commemoration of this valiant Rising against the then most powerful empire in the world will be about people and events that deserve to be recalled and honoured. It will be a commemoration in which there is and will be great international interest. It is a commemoration that belongs to all the people of Ireland.
Fianna Fáil has a very close association with the Easter Rising. Constance Markievicz who was second in command at St Stephens Green during the Rising, was a founding member of Fianna Fáil and was elected as a Fianna Fáil TD in 1927. Eamon De Valera, who was in command of Boland’s Mill during the Rising, was the founding member of Fianna Fáil and the most significant Irish politician of the 20th century. Margaret Pearse, mother of Padraig and Willie, was also a founding member of Fianna Fáil. Another of her children, Margaret, a sister of Padraig and Willie, was elected as a Fianna Fáil TD. Jim Ryan, who fought in the GPO and as a young medical student treated James Connolly’s wounds, was a Fianna Fáil minister for many years.
Part of the reason why I believed it appropriate that a Fianna Fáil candidate should contest the mayoralty election for this historic year is because of my party’s close association with the Rising. However, Fianna Fáil has no greater claim on the Rising than anyone else. The commemoration belongs to all the people of Ireland and it would be wrong for any one party to seek to use it for its own advantage.
That leads me to the other reason why I wanted to be a candidate in this election. Everyone in this chamber knows that the one demand that Sinn Fein had last year was that it would hold the office of the Mayor during 2016. That was Sinn Fein’s one absolute demand. A year ago Fianna Fáil in this chamber saw through this and refused to be part of the hijacking of such an important event. Other parties such as the Greens and Labour also saw through it but were bought off by being given the chairs of Special Policy Committees.
Although I have great respect for Criona ni Dhalaigh and I regard her as a very hard working councillor, everyone in this chamber knows that Sinn Fein is a party that operates democratic centralism. All decisions about next year will be made by a small cabal, mostly based in Belfast. My fear and the fear of my party is that Sinn Fein will hijack this important year of commemoration to justify the 30 year pointless and counterproductive campaign of the provisional IRA. My fear and the fear of my party is that Sinn Fein will seek to associate the sacrifice made by the men and women of 1916 with the horrific violence and disrespect for human life that dominated the provisional ‘s 30 year campaign. My fear and the fear of my party is that Sinn Fein will seek to present the actions of the provisionals in killing Irish protestants as being in some way consistent with the principle of Irish Republicanism as fought for in Easter 1916.
We can all see that the biggest obstacle now to uniting catholic, protestant and dissenter on this island is the pain and suffering and memory caused by the campaign of violence that dominated this island for 30 years and which members of Sinn Fein eventually recognised was pointless and counterproductive.
It is your job as the new Lord Mayor to ensure that this important year of commemoration is not hijacked by people who will wish to use this commemoration for their own revisionist purpose. I don’t envy your task as history teaches us that dissent and disobedience is quashed in parties that operate democratic centralism. You are now Mayor for all the people of Dublin. You are not Lord Mayor for those who now wish to put a different gloss on what happened in the north of Ireland where for 30 years the British security services, the loyalist paramilitaries and the provisionals were all involved in sectarian murder.
It was not for that that Clarke, Mac Diarmada, MacDonagh, Pearse, Ceannt, Connolly and Plunkett signed the proclamation and sacrificed their lives.