Micheál Martin sets stall for 1916 events

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has accused the Government of taking a “highly partisan” and “often tribal” approach to Ireland’s past, as preparations get under way to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.

The focus of events in two years’ time should be about the Irish people, he said, and “nothing should be allowed to distract” from that.

The 2016 commemorations “can be a wonderful moment for our country where we put aside the things which divide us on a daily basis and remember those things which unite us”, he said. “It could also be a moment which is lost because of leaders too interested in elite set-pieces or actively promoting a party version of history.”

Speaking at his party’s Easter Rising commemoration in Arbour Hill, Dublin, Mr Martin saved his strongest criticism for Sinn Féin, saying republicanism was “under threat” by their attempts to “falsify history for their own political gain”. He said the party has “zero claim to be the party of 1916” adding they stood for different things than the men and women who participated in the Rising.

“The overwhelming majority of survivors participated in the democratic life of this state and did not participate in the marginal and almost cult-like movement which used the names of Sinn Féin and the IRA in later years,” he said.

“It is not even the direct democratic successor of the party founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith and which only ever won a majority when Éamon de Valera was its leader,” he added. “In an irony which seems to escape them, while they name party units and conferences after Countess Markievicz, she chaired the founding meeting of Fianna Fáil and was a Fianna Fáil TD. It was our founding leader, Éamon de Valera, who gave the oration at her graveside.”

Mr Martin said Sinn Féin has even gone so far as to compare people like Padraig Pearse to “car bombers who targeted civilians for the last 40 years” and said there was “no greater insult to the men and women of 1916 than to compare them to the Provisional movement”.

He said it was no longer the anti-nationalist historians who represent a threat to the standing of 1916, “today the threat comes from those who would exploit it for their party interests or see it stripped of its core national and republican ideals”.

The Fianna Fáil leader accused the current Government of taking a “hands off” approach to the North and said relations between Britain and Ireland are becoming more “superficial” and less focused on substance.

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