President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to the selfless Irish Volunteers whom he said laid the foundations for freedom 100 years ago.
He was joined by Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a public ceremony in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance to mark the centenary of the formation of Óglaigh na hÉireann (Irish Volunteers) this morning.
The president laid a wreath in honour of the founding volunteers and in his address praised the thousands of men who thought beyond themselves and their own lives.
He said: “This was an army drawn from people who were motivated to rise and to vindicate the unfulfilled hopes and aspirations for freedom, of the previous generations, men and women anxious to live up to their responsibilities as they saw them towards future generations. Through the foundation of Olaigh na hEireann they were envisioning a brighter future for our citizens in freedom.”
The Irish Volunteers – Óglaigh na hÉireann – was founded on 25 November 1913 at a public meeting held in the Rotunda Rink in Dublin.
Formed to reinforce their demand for Home Rule, just as the Ulster Volunteer Force was formed to resist it, they played an integral role in the events leading to the foundation of the Irish State.
Founding members included Padraig Pearse who would later lead the 1916 Easter Rising.
Two years ago, the British Queen honoured Ireland’s dead when she laid a wreath at the same memorial during her historic visit.
Mr Higgins, who is to make a similarly symbolic state visit to the UK next April, added: “We live in a very different world to that of the generation of 1913. One century later, our relations with our near neighbours, our place in Europe and in the world, has been transfigured. We live with our independence granted, connections offered to us, or blooming already, which would have been unimaginable to our forefathers.
“One hundred years on, many wounds have healed, new possibilities are opening up. We are now ready, in 2013, not only to cherish the memory and the stories of those who fought for the cause of Irish Freedom as we do today but are ready to endorse, in imagination and sympathy, the narrative of the other.”
From tomorrow, a Military Archives exhibition on the Irish Volunteers will open in the Pillar Room at the Rotunda Hospital and will run until November 29.