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1916 Quarter Development Bill 2015: Second Stage [Private Members]

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 901 No. 1

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1916 Quarter Development Bill 2015: Second Stage [Private Members]

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

  Ba mhaith liom an Bille um Fhorbairt Ceathrú 1916 2015 a mholadh don Teach. Beimid ag déanamh comóradh ar Éirí Amach na Cásca agus ar chéad bliain ón Éirí Amach sin an bhliain seo chugainn. Tá sé fíorthábhachtach go ndéanfadh muid comóradh agus ceiliúradh ceart ar an Éirí Amach. Bhí go leor cainte ar an Éirí Amach ach go minic bíonn easpa tuisceana ar thábhacht an Éirí Amach, ní hamháin i stair na tíre seo, ach i stair an domhain. Bíonn daoine ag rá go bhféadfaí saoirse a bhaint amach ar bhealaí eile. Faraor géar, níl sé sin fíor.

  I recommend the 1916 Quarter Development Bill to the House. I believe the Bill is important as next year we commemorate and celebrate the 1916 Rising. I think it is very important that we leave a permanent legacy to the generations to come in terms of how we commemorate the Rising.

  Before I come to the details of the Bill, I would like to put the 1916 Rising in context. The 1916 Rising is often taken in its military context and obviously that is very important and is in a certain way the subject of the Bill because what we are seeking to preserve are the sites at which the Rising took place. However, to see the Rising in purely military terms is to underestimate the seismic change that came about as a result of the Rising, the legacy that those who survived the Rising took from the Rising and how they went on to build on the Rising in subsequent years.

  The world of 1916 was a world in which the British empire dominated on the world scene and where any map of the world would show that the influence of the British empire literally spread across all of the continents. In that context, a very small number of people decided that the only way they could break that empire's grip in this country would be to stage a rising. They believed that, in the events that had happened leading into the First World War and the opposition to home rule, even home rule itself would not come rapidly. Of course, what they aspired to, and what I think history proved the Irish people aspired to, was full independence.

  I have always believed that 1916 must be taken in the context of 1919 but it also must be taken in the context of the demise of the British Empire in the following 100 years. The story is recorded that, when the negotiations started in 1921 and Éamon de Valera went over to meet Lloyd George, he had a huge map of the empire and, to try to intimidate de Valera, he asked how little Ireland could stand out against all of this. The reply given was that de Valera would see, within his own lifetime, the demise of that empire. In fact, he did largely see the demise of that empire within his lifetime. However, it is fair to say that what happened in Ireland was the first stone taken out of the edifice - it was the first block removed that made the rest crumble. Therefore, 1916 is a world-important event. Anybody who has had any contact with people who were involved in Indian independence will say that the leaders of India took massive inspiration from the independence movement in Ireland in what they were seeking to do. It is only when we look at 1916 in this wider context that it becomes absolutely imperative that we respect the heritage we have inherited.

  As I said, to think of 1916 just as an event of a week or a few weeks is, in my view, to misunderstand exactly what happened. The leaders of the Rising knew, because of the countermanding order and the loss of the shipment of arms on the Aud, that militarily they could not succeed. However, what they also knew was that by making a stand, they would be able to influence and embolden public opinion and encourage people to look for their just rights, as an independent nation, and to believe they could get them.

  When we look at 1916, I always believe we cannot do so without looking at the 1918 election and the setting up of the First Dáil. For those who say that 1916 did not have a democratic mandate, they have to look at the first opportunity in a full franchise of men and women that was given after the Rising, in that the Rising got an overwhelming endorsement not only in 1918 but in the subsequent election of 1920. Therefore, to read the 1918 election purely in terms of conscription is, in my view, to miss the point.

  Why is the Dáil so important? It is important because we sit in this Dáil and this Dáil takes its numbers from the First Dáil and claims to be the successor of that First Dáil. Let us remember that of the people who were behind the setting up of the Dáil, many were either veterans or relatives of veterans of 1916. The inspiration for the First Dáil, a democratic assembly of the Irish people, free and independent, took its inspiration from 1916. When people talk about the military side of it, they often forget that the Proclamation talks about a government elected by its men and women. They did not see a government set up by military action as being the ideal one; they were very clear they wanted a government and a Dáil elected by the people. At the first opportunity they got, because they were the same people, they set up that Parliament.

  One of the extraordinary achievements of this nation is that it is, to my knowledge, the first country that undermined the rule of another country by literally replacing its administration with an alternative administration that had the will of the people. When we talk about the 1919-21 period, we often talk about the War of Independence but what we often ignore is that a proper Parliament was set up.

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