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Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen, TD, at the Liam Lynch Commemoration, Kilcrumper Cemetery, Fermoy, Co. Cork on Sunday, 14 September, 2008 at 1.00pm

 

Bhí áthas orm glacadh leis an gcuireadh a bheith anseo inniu ar ócáid chomóradh Liam Ó Loingsigh. Is deis atá ann dom machnamh a dhéanamh ar shaighdiúr cróga, Éireannach dílis, fear a raibh an tírghrá go smior ann.

Rinne Liam Ó Loingsigh a chion féin ar son a mhuintire, is diol suntais gach ar éirigh leis a bhaint amach agus is cinnte gur chuir sé go mór leis an iarracht a déanadh ar mhaithe le saoirse na hÉireann. Is iomaí sin ball do na páirtí a rinne an t-aistear go dtí an t-ionad seo le blianta, agus leanfaimid á dhéanamh go ceann i bhfad amach anseo mar go bhfuil an t-ómós sin tuillte ag laoch mar an Loingseach.

Is ceart go ndéanfaimis comóradh orthu siúd a chuir iad féin sa bhearna baoil agus a sheas go tréan, mar a rinne an Loingseach, i gcoinne impireachta a bhí fior-chumhachtach. Is acu a bhí an mhisneach agus an fhís a leag an bhunchloch ar ar tógadh Éire, Éire atá anois láidir agus neamhspleach, Éire a bhfuil na glúnta seo d'Éireannaigh muiníneach aisti agus tír a bhfuil meas uirthi ar fud na cruinne, tír a chuireann leis an gcomhphobal daonna ar stáitse an domhain mhóir.

Florence O'Donoghue, Liam Lynch's comrade-in-arms and his subsequent biographer, wrote of his fervent hope that men like Liam Lynch do not die a second death by fading from the memory of the nation. Eighty-five years on from the death of General Liam Lynch, our presence at this commemoration ensures that will not happen.

For that fearless generation of which Liam Lynch was a distinguished leader of the Army of the Republic, achieving our freedom, encompassed their practical idealism and belief in a future for their country shaped by their fellow Irishmen and Irishwomen. They fought and, in some instances, tragically died for an Ireland which was to be no longer a colony promoting the interests of an imperial power, but a vibrant and sovereign country in which we are privileged to live today. That proud legacy is our inspiration as we continue to strive for the building of that Republic.

Florence O'Donoghue eloquently wrote: "The significance of a man like Liam extends beyond his lifetime. Men of his quality are a minority in every nation, but, after they are gone from us, they become ancestors in spirit to a self replenishing heritage. He enriched that conscious sense of nationhood which is the soul of Ireland. He was in harmony with his time and in harmony with the most durable spiritual forces which have moulded and continue to mould the Irish nation. He was amongst the makers of history."

It is appropriate today to recall the many significant events which Liam Lynch was associated with during his lifetime. He began his journey 115 years ago in Barnagurraha, in rural Limerick, and he was raised in a strongly held nationalist tradition. From a young age, he was an avid reader with a deep respect for our history and culture. Like so many of his generation, he regarded the events of 1916 as a turning point in his life.

Liam Lynch in his own writings tells of how he stood on the bridge, here in Fermoy, and watched the British garrison march Thomas Kent out of town towards his court martial and ultimate execution. It was a scene that made a lasting impression on Liam and saw him inexorably drawn to the cause of Irish national self-determination.

Liam Lynch led the Southern Division of the Republican forces. He was a pivotal figure in our War of Independence and commandeered the most active division in the country. He was first and foremost a soldier of Dail Éireann. He fought under the mandate of a clear national policy, recognised by our national parliament elected by the votes of the Irish people, which existed to establish an Ireland that would be free, an Ireland that would be democratic, and an Ireland that would promote social justice.

Lynch had many military successes and working alongside other Cork leaders of our national struggle for independence, like Sean Moylan, Michael Collins and Tom Barry, their daring and skill were key factors in fighting far superior resourced opponents to a standstill. Indeed, in the run-up to the truce in 1921, An tÓglach, the official publication of the Irish Volunteers, made special reference to this county's massive contribution to the fight for independence. It records :

"The Cork brigades have proved themselves to have reached a level of military efficiency which makes them a match for the most highly trained soldiers in the world. An example has been set which every brigade in Ireland should strive to emulate."

The exploits of Lynch and his Cork No.2 Brigade inflicted sizeable damage on British morale. The raid on Araglin Barracks, the celebrated capture of General Lucas while fishing on the Blackwater, the action at Clonbanin, the ambush at Rathmore and the taking of the British military stronghold of Mallow Barracks, are all the stuff of legend.

Liam Lynch, in his time, did what he had to do because he was one of many in his generation who decided to act and to do what was necessary, and to make a difference. He was an intensely private individual, who shunned publicity and was happiest in the company of neighbours and family. He was motivated throughout his life to do what he saw was his duty and not because he sought fame or wanted to be referred to as a hero.

Liam Lynch fought not for an abstract freedom, he fought for the freedom of the Irish people to chart their own destiny. He had enormous confidence in the potential of an independent Ireland to deliver progress for all its citizens.

In 1921, Liam Lynch wrote "we can scarcely realise what a fine country Ireland will be when freedom comes." Another biographer of Lynch, Meda Ryan, noted that he invariably spoke not of dying for Ireland but living and working for Ireland. He saw Irish republicanism as a modernising force with an unwavering focus on the goal of an Ireland where all our people can excel.

In our time, it is our duty, too, to work for such an Ireland and for the common good. Liam Lynch and his patriotic colleagues were not afraid to think about the future of Ireland and to transform this country for the better. And, in our own time, neither should we.

The world we live in today, and the challenges it brings, are very different from those of Liam Lynch's times. Ireland's relationship with Britain, with Europe and the wider world could scarcely be more different. The new challenges of the modern world require collaboration and co-operation between states. In short, to succeed, we must embrace the concept of interdependence and forge common policies with other like-minded states in order to establish the conditions for stability and prosperity.

Creating common policies with States that share our democratic values is a necessary exercise of that freedom. Finding our own voice in independence, Ireland opened itself out to the world. Joining the European Economic Community became the means by which Ireland ended the constraints of our economic over-reliance on our nearest neighbour. New possibilities and new markets abroad, creating new jobs at home, provided Ireland with the space to breathe a new vibrancy and vigour into the social and economic experience our people endured up to then. True republicans understand the importance of this new pathway to progress and prosperity, including through our strong engagement with Europe. A cursory glance at recent economy history in Ireland provides ample confirmation of that fact.

We must be committed internationalists, who see Ireland's place among the nations, committed to the resolution of disputes through strong adherence to the requirements of international law, and unswerving in the positioning of our interests on the side of those that espouse democratic values and uphold personal freedoms.

In this 21st century world of interdependence, going solo is not an option. Choosing wisely who to partner with is the only way forward.
In the world in which we live today, we trade solitary action for strength in numbers. By sharing sovereignty in some areas, we have devised the means to overcome age old problems like high unemployment and forced emigration. Opting out has its consequences, it weakens rather than strengthens our prospects.
In today's global environment, this country can not afford to turn its back on closer co-operation with like-minded countries on critical international issues such as developing trade links that foster jobs at home and exploit opportunities abroad, protecting the environment, tackling climate change, dealing with migration and ensuring the security of vital energy supplies in the years ahead. In the modern world, it is meaningless to talk about sovereignty in absolutist terms and this is especially so in an era of economic and monetary union. Indeed, it can not be contended by any sensible person that this country could better protect itself from the present turbulence in international financial markets, for example, were we standing on our own,

In building up the modern Ireland of today, we should recall that all the patriots who strove to carve an independent Ireland out of the most powerful empire in the world in Liam Lynch's time were progressive political thinkers in their own era.

This country's War of Independence was about empowering our people economically, socially and culturally. Liam Lynch and his comrades fought for the freedom of the Irish people in every generation to plan their own future, according to the common good as we see it.

Lynch did not fight for an Ireland that would stand still, or merely seek to replicate the political norms of the 1920s. He and his brave contemporaries saw the exercise of freedom by the Irish people as a continuously evolving and transformative phenomenon. They did not seek to put a constraint on how future generations should exercise that freedom and they well understood Parnell's famous exhortation that "no man has the right to fix the boundary of a nation. No man has the right to say to his country, 'Thus far shalt thou go and no further'."

This living generation can honour the sacrifice of the generation who gave us our national freedom by demonstrating similar fortitude and dedication in meeting the particular challenges we face. The patriots of the past knew that this country had vast potential and would continue to evolve even in ways that would be beyond their comprehension and their times.

In the final days of Liam Lynch's life, he and DeValera had one such famous discussion. As they reflected upon the various options open to them to uphold the republican cause, Lynch wondered aloud what the old Fenian Tom Clarke might have done. DeValera's often quoted reply was :

 

"Tom Clarke is dead. He has not our responsibilities. Nobody will ever know what he would do, for this situation did not arise for him. But it arises for us and we must face it with our intelligence and conscious of our responsibility. It would be impossible to conduct a struggle if we had always to be thinking what would Clarke do, what would Pearse do in a situation they had never to meet. We know what they stood for and we should be guided by that, but each crisis has its own problems which must be decided by those living them."

There is a salutary lesson for every political generation in those words. Men of the stature of DeValera and Lynch were optimistic people with great confidence in the capacity of each generation of Irish people to confront the problems of their time through their own ingenuity and common sense, building on what was achieved up to then.

The very basis of the long struggle for Irish independence was to enable us to determine our own destiny in the world. And just as we have created common institutions in helping us to develop our relationship with Britain and Northern Ireland in the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements, so too, our experience in working in European institutions has been a positive and rewarding one. The role of successive Irish governments in working within the European Union has seen Ireland progress in ways that would have been beyond our capacity were we still trying to act alone, on the outside looking in.
The quest for national self-determination in Ireland has always been about taking our place among the nations, not standing separate from them.

Liam Lynch was not yet thirty years of age when he was killed in the Civil War. That conflict is an indelible part on our history and one that Lynch made repeated efforts to avert. He had attended the public Dáil debates on the Treaty with Liam Deasy and found it a most distressing experience. Deasy recorded : "Day after sad day.... we had to listen to men who a few short months before were fighting as comrades side by side now indulging in bitter recrimination, rancour, invective, charges and counter-charges. Gone was the old chivalry. This meant many of our dreams and hopes for Ireland's freedom were being shattered."

Following the shelling of the Four Courts and the outbreak of conflict, Lynch felt compelled to once again take up arms to defend the Republic. Yet despite the hostilities, Liam Lynch's respect for his former comrades remained undiminished.

It says much about Lynch's generosity of spirit that he never sought to denigrate the contribution of those who had fought with him in the War of Independence but with whom he would subsequently differ. This Government is of the view that in recalling and commemorating our struggle for independence, it is imperative that we should honour the achievement of all those who took part.
For too long in this country, there has been a tendency to measure people's contribution through the partisan prism of whether they had sided with the Republic or the Free State. At this remove, it behoves us all to foster an ethos where the commemoration of those who fought for Irish independence is representative of all.

If there is one lesson which we should reflect upon today, it is the need to guard against those who wish to hijack our shared history for their own narrow purpose.

We need to nurture in this country a culture of commemoration where people of all parties and none, irrespective of current political standpoints, can in an inclusive way pay their respects to that brave generation who gave us our national freedom. Commemoration is a respectful acknowledgement of the efforts and achievements of our forebears. It would be an abuse if it were ever progressed with an aggressive intention to diminish another tradition or discomfort its adherents.

We approach a period when the Centenary anniversaries of a very turbulent part of our national history will arise. The enduring significance of the events of these years requires that we mark these signal anniversaries in a very special way. We have much to commemorate and to celebrate. However, it would not be appropriate to reflect on our history without sensitivity to the divisions and differences, then and since, on identities, allegiances and the national future.
In the coming months, the government will resume its consultation, on an inclusive basis, with all parties in the Oireachtas on the arrangements for official Centenary commemorations and other private and community initiatives.

A renewed consultation group has recently been formed to carry forward during this Dáil term the dialogue on commemoration of the Rising and related issues. Work has already commenced on a number of projects of relevance, including the preparation of the records of the Military History Bureau for public access.
An initial assessment of the potential for developments in the GPO complex towards public amenity use will be completed shortly.

In April 1923, delivering the graveside oration, here in Kilcrumper Cemetery, Professor William Stockley T.D. said, "Ireland should be allowed to live her own life, and it was in that hope Mr Lynch had lived and died."

Liam Lynch wanted the Irish people to be able to choose their own form of government free from external impediment. Ten years on from the Good Friday Agreement and the first act of all-island self-determination since the 1918 General Election, we should be proud of our successful, vibrant, modern Irish and European nation built on the sacrifices and the courage of those who have gone before us.

The institutions established by the democratic will of the people of this island, North and South, are in place to deal with problems that remain.

In the coming weeks, I will lead the Irish Government delegation at meetings of the North/South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council. I will join with my colleagues, the leaders of the Northern Ireland Executive, and other administrations in these islands.

We will discuss important and practical steps to further develop North/South and East/West co-operation as we all work together to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.

In these challenging times, democratically elected leaders must take on the responsibilities given to them by the people to make a better present and a better future for everyone.

The work of building peace, prosperity and reconciliation continues, in the North and across all of Ireland.

Agus sinn ag ceiliúradh shaol Liam Uí Loingsigh inniu, is féidir linn súil a chaitheamh go bródúil ar a bhfuil bainte amach againn.

Níor cheart dúinn ach oiread dearmad a dhéanamh ar an iliomad íobairt a rinne go leor eile dár muintir a chuaigh romhainn, iobairtí a sheas leis an bhfís a bhí ag Liam Ó Loinsigh don tír seo.

Tá dualgas orainn leanacht leis an obair sin, meabhraím daoibh arís gurb iad na híobairtí a rinne sé féin agus a chuid comrádaithe a sheas leis an inspioráid as ar fhás an náisiún atá againn inniu.

Gura fada buan inár gcuimhní é.

Ends.