President joins descendants of republican women to mark centenary of Cumann na mBan

Higgins draws inspiration from women of 1916 as he prepares for state visit to Britain

Irish people are "called forth to fulfil a new promise" and to build new relations that our predecessors could only have dreamed of, President Michael D Higgins has said.

Laying a wreath at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin to mark the founding of Cumann na mBan 100 years ago, the President invoked the spirit of the women of the organisation who, he said, "sought and fought for Irish freedom".

Accompanying Mr Higgins were the British ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan and the chairman of Glasnevin Trust John Green. A ceremonial guard was provided by female members of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service.

Laid wreath
Earlier Mr Deenihan laid a wreath at the graves of Elizabeth O'Farrell and Julia Grenan. Both were founding members of Cumann na mBan and the cemetery is the resting place for more than 30 of the organisation's members who were active during the 1916 Rising.


“The vision that animated the women of Cumann na mBan a century ago at one of the most soul-stirring junctures in the history of Ireland, does not just evoke past struggles,” the President said.

“It holds a promise which remains available to us as a tool for our present and for the future. That vision calls upon us to overcome any destructive sense of helplessness, to become the conscious architects of the world we inhabit.”

The greatest moments in Irish history were always those “when our people turned towards the future and were motivated by a sense of what might be possible,” he continued.

“The centenary of the foundation of Cumann na mBan thus enables us to recall the possibilities and promises which the subsequent unfolding of history may have forgotten.”

Different world
Speaking before he makes a state visit to Britain next week, Mr Higgins added: "We live in a world very different from that of the generation of 1914, that fateful year when European nations and empires sleepwalked into mutual destruction. One century later, Europe is at peace; Ireland's relations with its nearest neighbour, its place in Europe and in the world, have been transfigured."

Ian Kelly attended the ceremony to honour Elizabeth O'Farrell, the bearer of the surrender after the Rising in Easter week 1916, and who was his grand-aunt. He said he was "proud and privileged" to be in Glasnevin to honour Irish women.

Muriel McAuley said she was there to honour members of her family buried in the republican plot. "My grandparents were Muriel and Thomas McDonagh. Muriel's sister, Grace, married Joseph Plunkett. "