President Higgins: ‘Don’t allow violence take root’

When we commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising we must also commit to ensuring such violence is never again allowed to take root in our country, President Michael D Higgins.

The President was addressing over 6,000 students who had come to Croke Park in Dublin to receive a national flag and a copy of the 1916 Proclamation.

“While we acknowledge the motivations that led the rebels to act as they did 100 years ago, we recall, too, the human suffering associated with this armed rebellion,” he said.

As well as the rebels, there were many civilians who lost their lives — children wounded or killed in the crossfire and families grief-stricken by the loss of a loved one, he said.

Mr Higgins said the Irish tricolour rapidly became accepted as the unquestioned symbol of freedom and unity by the Irish independence movement.

A green, white, and orange banner had been hoisted onto the roof of the GPO by insurgents just before Padraig Pearse read the Proclamation of the Republic.

At the time little was known about the tricolour, even among the rebels.

What was to become the new flag for a new nation founded on peace, unity and equality was first raised in Waterford in 1848 by Thomas Francis Meagher.

It had been brought to Dublin before 1916 by Irish Volunteers from Waterford City.

President Higgins said the white could play an even greater role in embracing as one nation the much more diverse and rich tapestry of people from various cultures who called Ireland their home.

He told the secondary school students who had gathered in Croke Park for the ceremony — part of the State’s 2016 centenary programme, that they had a role to play in shaping Ireland’s future.

“We need your ideas, your enthusiasm, your dreams to continue the work of building together a society in which all of our citizens can flourish.

“We need your creativity, your generosity and energy to respond to the great challenges of our time, such as climate change, the ongoing refugee crisis and global poverty.”

Pupils and teachers watch proceedings at the ceremony in Croke Park, which was attended by more than 6,000 students.

The President said the Easter Rising could in many ways be described as a stunningly ambitious act of imagination.

“Today it is up to our young people to take charge of change and imagine what Ireland might become,”.

Chair of the Thomas F Meagher Foundation, Rev Michael Cavanagh, told the young people they were responsible for communicating the flag’s message — that conflict had to stop.

Rev Cavanagh said they had been left a foundation they could build on so that they and future generations could live in peace, prosperity and mutual respect.

Lily Whelan, a distant relation of Thomas Francis Meagher, said young people were proud to play their part in promoting the national flag’s message of peace and friendship in their community.

“We are looking forward to Proclamation Day on March 15 when we will raise the national flag in our schools and read the 1916 Proclamation,” she said.

Paralympic swimmer, Ailbhe Kelly accepts an Irish flag from Arts Minister Heather Humphreys at Croke Park

Meanwhile, Riverdance star, Michael Flatley, has released The Rising, a musical tribute to the heroes of 1916 and the soundtrack for the film of the same name starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Fiona Shaw due to be released next year.

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