22 October 2005

Fianna Fail to reclaim 1916 with Easter military pomp

Irish Independent

FIANNA Fail is to re-claim the legacy of 1916 by bringing back military parades in front of the GPO from next Easter.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced the Easter Rising commemoration plans in what's being seen as a bid to counter the threat posed by Sinn Fein before the next general election.

Over 3,000 delegates at the Ard Fheis delivered a rapturous response when he announced that the Defence Forces will march past the GPO in Dublin on the 90th anniversary of the rising, to show they are the true successors of the volunteers.


And the Taoiseach confirmed the Government will establish a 1916 Centenary Committee to plan for a major celebration in 2016.

Even though he said this was a Government decision, Mr Ahern made it clear that Fianna Fail is laying primary claim to the Rising.

"Next Easter Sunday, we are reintroducing a parade to commemorate 1916. Our Defence Forces - the only legitimate army of the Irish people - will parade to commemorate this historic event and their proud contribution in the service of the State," he told cheering delegates.

Mr Ahern said the State will "recognise and praise the vision of the volunteers of 1916 and indeed the War of Independence. . . . The Irish people need to reclaim the spirit of 1916, which is not the property of those who have abused and debased the title of republicanism."

And he told party members: "I want next Easter to be an expression of our pride as a nation. This is our State's inheritance."

The last major military parade to commemorate 1916 was for the 50th anniversary in 1966. The annual parades were abandoned after the Troubles in the North exploded and the IRA launched its 30-year campaign of violence.

The last official commemoration was in 1991, the 75th anniversary, when there was a token military presence outside the GPO.

With Fianna Fail morale suffering a battering in recent weeks Mr Ahern used the opening address of the Ard Fheis in Killarney to signal the government party is gearing up for a fightback against Sinn Fein.

Although he did not name Sinn Fein, the Taoiseach said the Government wanted to demonstrate that 1916 was not the property "of those who abused and debased the title of republicanism."

Indicating that his party was preparing for a big political fight-back to recover from months of setbacks, he warned delegatesthat the key to winning the next election was their commitment to the campaign.

"We have a strong case to make to the Irish people. As candidates are nominated, as campaigns begin, it is vital that all of us . . . go door to door and make the case for Fianna Fail," he urged.


He also signalled that the Government is expecting a popularity "bounce" when the €15bn of SSIA savings start coming on stream.

And the onslaught against the opposition leaders is to continue today with an attack on the Labour Party leader, Pat Rabbitte.

Defence Minister Willie O'Dea will claim that not only did Labour lose the 2002 election badly, "they ended up with an aging windbag as leader . . . though, compared to the rest of his parliamentary party, he's a mere gasún".

O'Dea is also expected to round on the former links between Rabbitte and Sean Garland, who was arrested in Belfast recently on charges related to alleged forgery of US dollars.

The opposition parties, he will tell delegates, are only just starting to muster themselves into a credible alternative government.

Brian Dowling
Political Correspondent

What a hypocrite !
Fianna Fail has collaborated , from the day of its inception , with Westminster . Now Bertie , the 'socialist' , is fumbling in his greasy till for a 'republican' fig-leaf to cover his exposed pro-Brit rump . They have no shame .

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