28 January 2006



01/27/06 14:25 EST

"The kind of Ireland the heroes of the 1916 Irish Rising aspired to was based on an inclusivity that would 'cherish all the children of the nation equally'" President Mary McAleese said in an address to a conference in Cork today.

"In the hearts of those who took part in the Rising, in what was then an undivided Ireland, was an unshakable belief that whatever our personal political or religious perspectives, there was huge potential for an Ireland in which loyalist, republican, unionist, nationalist, catholic, protestant, atheist, agnostic pulled together to build a shared future, owned by one and all," Mrs McAleese said.

The President said that there was a tendency for "powerful and pitiless elites" to "dismiss with damning labels" those who oppose them, explaining accusations that the 1916 Rising was an exclusive and sectarian enterprise.

She said those who took part in the Rising were "attempting to establish a free country in which we ourselves could take responsibility for our own destiny, a country that could stand up for itself, have its own distinct perspective, pull itself up by its bootstraps, and be counted with respect, among the free nations of Europe and the world."

Mrs McAleese also criticised the use of the phrase "narrow nationalism" being applied to Ireland.

"I have a strong impression that to its enemies, both in Ireland and abroad, Irish nationalism looked like a version of the imperialism it opposed, a sort of 'imperialism lite' through which Ireland would attempt to be what the Great European powers were - the domination of one cultural and ethnic tradition over others," she said.

"Irish nationalism, from the start, was a multilateral enterprise, attempting to escape the dominance of a single class and, in our case a largely foreign class, into a wider world. Many of the leaders had experience of the Americas, and in particular of North America . . . others were active participants in the international working class movements of their day. Whatever you might think of those involvements, they were universalist and global rather than constricted and blinkered."

"That small band who proclaimed the Rising, inhabited a sea of death, an unspeakable time of the most profligate world-wide waste of human life, yet their deaths rise far above the clamour - their voices insistent still," she concluded.

Mrs McAleese ended her speech by telling delegates to enjoy the rows the conference would generate.

The conference, entitled The Long Revolution: the 1916 Rising in Context, is being held today and tomorrow at UCC.

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