22 October 2020


Commemorating 1916…..
An excerpt from a talk given by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at Regina Mundi College.

It is not enough in 2016 to commemorate and celebrate an historical event of one hundred years ago.  We have to ask how those who fought in 1916 for Irish Independence would judge us and our society today.

In the memoirs of a Capuchin priest who attended some of the prisoners before their execution in 1916, there is a striking encounter of the priest with Padraig Pearse in the days after his arrest.  This priest was one of the very first people from outside the prison and military system who met Pearse.  He describes entering Pearce’s cell and find him alone sitting at a table with his head in his hands asking:  “So much bloodshed; hopefully all this will have achieved something of what we hoped for Ireland”.

The aim of those who proclaimed a Republic in 1916 was not just for an eventual Treaty, affirming the independence of Ireland.  It was much more.  It was about a dream for very different Ireland.  How successful that dream has been realised in Ireland today cannot be measured simply in parades and celebrations, or through dramas and books and television documentaries.  The success will be measured in terms of what kind of society we have built.

It is interesting to remember that the dream of an Ireland which would cherish all its children equally sprang from a society where just a few hundred meters from Dublin’s GPO, there existed one of the worst slums in all of Europe.  One hundred years later, can we honestly say that all our children have equal opportunity in life?

The evaluation of the success of those dreams of 1916 is not something that can be left to the pundits and the columnists.   The evaluation of the success of the dreams of 1916 takes place within the lives and hopes of each of us.  We can judge the success or failure of the dreams of 1916 by the kind of dreams that each of us has for Ireland today and for tomorrow’s Ireland.