Enda Kenny claims his administration has “retrieved and reinstated” the values of the founders of the Free State and put them at the heart of government policy.
The Taoiseach made the claim at Béal na mBláth in West Cork yesterday at the ceremony to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Michael Collins’ death.
In a 30-minute address to an estimated crowd of 4,000 people, the Taoiseach repeatedly invoked the spirit of Collins and painted the current government as an administration restoring high ideals to public life.
He said Collins would have been left “absolutely speechless” by the “gigantic discrepancies” that occurred in recent years, in what was taken as a reference to the erosion of principles in public and business life.
“But only momentarily,” Mr Kenny quickly added. “Helpless? Never.”
Mr Kenny said Collins was a doer, a pragmatist and an unfailing optimist who knew all about taking difficult and “sometimes impossible” decisions.
In the same vein, Mr Kenny said his government was taking the necessary, difficult decisions and would continue to do so in order to restore Ireland’s economic sovereignty.
“Just as [Collins] was undeterred by the dire financial straits in which Ireland found itself in the 1920s, the Government that I lead is equally determined. Because I refuse to allow our economic circumstances and difficulties become a political excuse — an excuse not to change, an excuse not to restructure, an excuse not to reform.
“In fact, I am absolutely resolute that the crisis we inherited is one that we will never pass on to another generation of the Irish people…
“In keeping with the ambitions of Collins, and the high ideals, as Taoiseach let me tell you that I refuse to allow what is in reality a temporary, hand-me-down financial straitjacket damage what will be a great future for our country, for our people, and for our children’s children.”
But the message behind the rhetoric was that the public would have to support and work with the Government in the rebuilding effort. Mr Kenny pledged that the Government would lead by example by making “real change” in the Dáil and across the political system.
“Because if we ask people in their homes and businesses and communities all across this country to make big changes, to make big sacrifices, then we have a political duty, indeed a moral duty, to lead by example and reform the political system itself. And that’s what we will do.
“I believe that Collins would approve of that. He would agree, and in the current circumstances, he would expect and demand no less of us: the Government and the people working side by side for our country and for the future of all our people.”
Mr Kenny vowed he and his administration would “not rest” until Ireland had “reclaimed and restored” its economic sovereignty.
Mr Kenny was the first serving taoiseach to address the annual commemoration. His speech won warm applause and occasional loud cheers from those present.
The grandniece of Michael Collins, Helen Collins, then spoke on behalf of the extended Collins family.
A piper’s lament followed, after which Mr Kenny, Defence Minister Alan Shatter, Defence Forces chief of staff Lieutenant General Seán McCann, and commemoration committee member Frank Metcalfe laid wreaths. A minute’s silence followed, before the raising of the Tricolour and the playing of the national anthem.
Also in attendance were Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan, MEP Seán Kelly, the mayors of Cork City and County Councils, and a host of TDs, senators and councillors.
Mr Kenny also referenced the warmth of British-Irish relations following Queen Elizabeth’s successful visit last year and the solidarity witnessed at the Olympics in London. “British spectators cheered for Irish athletes and vice-versa.
“I firmly believe that Michael Collins would be proud that reconciliation between Britain and Ireland has reached the point where such demonstrations of mutual respect — things that would been unimaginable just a few short years ago — can now be witnessed.”
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