Fine Gael must never cease in challenging the propaganda that suggests violent protest is virtuous or effective, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald told those attending the annual Béal na mBláth commemoration in West Cork yesterday.
Ms Fitzgerald, who delivered the keynote oration, stressed that violent protest does not achieve its aims and is not a virtuous course of action.
“We must challenge the misuse of our flag, as if it belonged to a group who use it as a symbol of violence.
“The flag that billows in the great painting of Michael Collins at Griffith’s funeral was always meant to be a symbol of tolerance, inclusiveness, of unity, and of peace.”
The minister said it is also important that we remember that for Collins, in government, the rule of law was paramount.
“Fine Gael has always stood for the rule of law, believing that with rights comes responsibility — the solemn responsibility of all Irish men and women to respect and adhere to those same laws.
A cut-out of General Michael Collins at the commemoration.
“For Collins, disagreement was to be cherished, but interference with the people, their safety and their property was unacceptable and was to be clamped down upon.”
She insisted this position is precious to Fine Gael.
“Disagreement is democratic. Terrorising those with whom you disagree is not.”
Meanwhile, looking to our emergence from an economic meltdown, Ms Fitzgerald said that we must always remember that the damage to the economy may have been temporary, but the memory of losing a business, losing a job, and losing the self-respect that comes with employment is very definitely not temporary.
Ms Fitzgerald said it is in the job description of the Fine Gael party to acknowledge not just the contribution or suffering of the last few years, but the lingering pain, anger, and fear.
“It is Fine Gael’s task to convince our citizens that trust matters and can be recreated, and that rejection of politics as a system leads only to chaos and a deeper fear, as we see, even as I speak, in the most beautiful of countries, Greece.
“Trust starts with stability,” she added.
A section of the large crowd at Béal na mBláth.
“A sound economic base is pivotal to our future as a country with full employment, with the continuing input of foreign direct investment matched by increasing focus on the small and medium enterprises that form the backbone of the economy.”
The minister also referenced the legacy of Michael Collins, stating that he was just 26 years old in 1916 when he carried life and death duties.
She told the hundreds of attendees that he wasn’t “old before his time but responsible above his age”.
“Michael Collins had a life as brief as that of a falling star, but the one thing we know for sure is that he made what he could of it, driving himself and others in a relentless pursuit of the best.
“If we look at the totality of his life, what we see is a man who understood that every section of the emerging nation needed structure, needed planning, needed control, needed measurement.
“He carried — willingly carried — on broad shoulders the responsibility to build statehood out of subservience and subversion. The task was without precedent.”
Michael Collins was killed on August 22, 1922, after being ambushed on the Cork to Bandon road by anti-Treaty IRA forces.
General Collins served as Ireland’s finance minister from April 2, 1919 until his death at age 31 and his achievements in putting the fledgling State on a solid financial footing are ranked alongside his remarkable abilities as the IRA’s military commander during the War of Independence.
Speakers at the commemoration over the years have included David Puttnam, Fine Gael minister Simon Coveney, former president Mary Robinson and broadcaster Bill O’Herlihy.
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