ADDRESS BY TONY KILLEEN, T.D.
MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
RINEEN AMBUSH 90TH ANNIVERSARY CEREMONY
Gabhaim buíochas leis an gcoiste eagartha as ucht cuireadh a thabhairt dom bheith libh inniu agus oráid a thabhairt ar ócháid cuimhneacháIn nócha bliain de cath Rineen anseo ar chnoc Droimín. Is mór an onóir dom mar Aire Cosanta páirt a ghlacadh ins an gcuimhneachán atá tuilte go maith ag na hÓglaigh a ghlac páirt ann. Tá sé deachair dúinn ag féachaint siar trí na ghlúinte, a thuiscint go chruinn cad a spreag iad chun tabhairt faoin namhaid sa slí seo and íobairt a dhéanamh thar cheann a dtír dhúchais. Tréasláim leis a gcoiste as an sár obair atá déanta acu le bregnach blian anuas chun an lá chuimhneacháin seo a riaradh. Go ró-mhinic déanaimíd dearmad ar na daoine a throid chun neamhspléachas a bhronnadh orainn agus táim buíoch don gcoiste nár lig said ócáid chumhneacháin nócha blian a shleamhnú tharainn gan aird.
I would like to begin by commending the Commemoration Committee for all of the hard work and effort invested in keeping the memory of the Rineen ambush and this period in our history alive.
Volunteers such as those who took part in the ambush were instrumental in laying the foundations for the State that we live in today. Despite the ensuing reprisals, local people supported the freedom movement and took pride in the ambush and that recognition continues unabated today.
With the march of time, events such as these can become lost in the public consciousness and that is why it is so important to have its memory preserved for future generations. Your committee and others like it are often at the centre of such preservation and the voluntary nature of your endeavours makes it all the more important that they are acknowledged.
Commemorating an event that took place ninety years ago is never an easy task. The participants have all passed on. For people today, it is almost impossible to imagine the context and the environment in which the ambush at Rineen took place.
We know the details, we know the circumstances but it is very challenging for us to get inside the minds of those who took part in the events.
The Rineen volunteers were products of an era of Gaelic revival. The rising of 1916 was itself the culmination of events leading on from the founding of the Gaelic League, the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Fenian movement. The men at Rineen were conditioned by both the pride in all things Gaelic and by public revulsion at the execution of the 1916 leaders.
The reprisals that followed the Rineen ambush strengthened the resolve of ordinary people to support the fight for Irish freedom.
While part of this island has only recently emerged from violence and turmoil, here in Clare we have known almost 90 years of peace.
The events at Rineen which we are marking today – and their aftermath – are now largely part of our history and our folk memory.
Today we are joined by the relations of those who were involved and historically not just those from the old IRA but the relations of some of the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary who were killed that day.
By gathering here today, ninety years on, our presence is testimony to the fact :
· that this generation still cherishes the ideals of the courageous men and women who fought for Ireland during the War of Independence;
· that we honour and respect their selfless idealism and patriotism;
· that we remember with gratitude the great sacrifices they made for us;
· we also remember and respect those who by accident of birth or history were on the other side.
It is right that we commemorate events such as these. We can be proud of our country’s history – the fight for our freedom and the many achievements that flowed from it.
It is also right that we should commemorate in a fashion whereby people of all parties and none can in an inclusive way pay their respects to that brave generation who gave us our national freedom. Remembrance is a respectful acknowledgement of the efforts and achievements of those who have gone before us.
Today we mark a ninetieth anniversary. And over the next decade we will start to mark the centenaries of events that took place during a very turbulent part of our national history. In marking this time, all of our actions must be inclusive and should operate on the first principle that commemoration should unite and not divide people of different backgrounds.
With this in mind let me say that a considerable debt of gratitude is due to the Béal na Bláth Commemorative Committee for inviting my colleague, Minister Brian Lenihan, to deliver the oration last month to mark the death of Michael Collins, that great leader among Irishmen.
It would not be right to reflect on our history without understanding of the divisions and differences, then and since, on identities, allegiances and the national future. As Michael Mallin, Commandant of the Irish Citizen Army wrote to his wife prior to his execution. “I find no fault with the soldiers or police. I forgive them from the bottom of my heart. Pray for all the souls that fell in this fight, Irish and English.”
The events of the decade between 1912 and 1922 were momentous and defining ones for all of the people of this island, and indeed for these islands.
It was a decade marked by blood sacrifice and bloody politics, a time of division and war, not only on this island but across the world.
It was a period that saw the achievement of Irish independence and the foundation of this State.
However it also saw the partition of this island and its people, and the two parts of the island losing touch with each other and with our shared heritage.
For most of the last century when we looked across the border, we saw and were mistrustful of the ‘other’. We compelled each other into making choices, into defining ourselves in exclusive terms. We fashioned separate histories – British and Irish, orange and green, republican, nationalist, unionist, loyalist – deep wells from which we thought we could draw relief and solace.
Thankfully we have moved on and credit for this must go to a more recent generation of political leaders, North and South and in Britain.
The events of that formative decade a century ago do not belong exclusively to one tradition or another. They are threads in the fabric of all our histories.
This coming decade of commemorations must enable all of us on this island to complete the journey we have started towards lasting peace and reconciliation. It will give us pause to reflect on where we have come from, and where we are going. With the centenaries of the Ulster Covenant, the Battle of the Somme, the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, the Government of Ireland Act and the Treaty, the events which led to the political division of this island will again emerge for evaluation.
Our previous commemorations in this state of the 1916 Rising did not fully capture the range of experiences which affected our island in that momentous period. Veterans of the Battle of the Somme and Messines kept a low profile. In general, apart from in Northern Ireland or in the quiet of their own homes, their story went untold.
As Sean Lemass noted in February 1966:
“In later years, it was common – and I also was guilty in this respect – to question the motives of those men who joined the new British armies formed at the outbreak of the war, but it must, in their honour and in fairness to their memory, be said that they were motivated by the highest purpose, and died in their tens of thousands in Flanders and Gallipoli believing they were giving their lives in the cause of human liberty everywhere, not excluding Ireland.”
As in so many things, Lemass was ahead of his time.
So let us remember and let us commemorate. In doing so let us also bear in mind the complexities of history and let us acknowledge the sincerity of motivation on all sides.My post content