President says there are people who have been poor for too long

Michael D Higgins marks centenary of ‘determined’ and ‘kind’ James Connolly’s death

President Michael D Higgins has said that there were people who had been poor for too long, as he marked the centenary of James Connolly's death.

Mr Higgins praised the work of the Dublin Capuchin centre providing meals for the poor before he and Sabina Higgins attended a special service at the Capuchin Friary.

Thanking the President for his interest in the centre, Brother Kevin Crowley, who oversees the project, said there was no great difference between the poverty of years ago and today.

President Higgins said courage was required to do things differently. “The Capuchins are inviting us all to do differently,’’ he said.


The President praised the "the quiet, determined, great intellectual strength of James Connolly, the internationalist, the feminist, the person who cared for the poor, the kind person who dealt with young people and so forth''.

He praised the work of the day centre which he had observed during a private visit one lunchtime.

He saw people co-operating to provide the necessary things for living with elementary dignity, not existing. “And they are all through Connolly’s writings,’’ he added.

At a ceremony later in Arbour Hill, outgoing Labour leader Joan Burton said it was a poignant and proud day for the family of James Connolly, the party, and the movement he founded.

“Connolly and his fellow leaders of the Rising lit the flame for independence,’’ said Ms Burton.

“We commemorate the centenary of 2016 as an independent, democratic and, by international standards, prosperous if far from perfect state…that is Connolly’s legacy.’’

Connolly's biographer Donal Nevin, she said, had described him as "a soldier, agitator, propagandist, orator, socialist, organiser, pamphleteer, trade union leader, insurgent, political thinker, social democrat, revolutionist, syndicalist, and, of course, one of the co-founders of the Labour party''.

Ms Burton said as an organiser he had a practical as well inspirational mind-set, which was evident in such detail as the arrangements to print the 1916 Proclamation at Liberty Hall, quite an immense task on the eve of the Rising.

“I would add he was a staunch and committed feminist, too, one of a small number of men absolutely ahead of his time at that time in Irish history,’’ she added.

Siptu general secretary Jack O'Connor said the Ireland delineated in the Irish Citizen Army constitution, the 1916 Proclamation and the Democratic Programme of the First Dail, aspiring to cherishing all the children of the nation equally, had still to be realised.

“As you know there are children in this very area, and throughout Dublin, returning to a hotel room or bed and breakfast hostel each night rather than a home of their own,’’ Mr O’Connor added.

“Their physical living conditions are not as stark as those of their great grandparents but they suffer from a similar sense of insecurity and second class status in our society.’’

He said in commemorating the heroism of Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army, and in contemplating the profundity of their sacrifice in this, the centenary year, the opportunity must be used to reject the “crude winner takes all value system that led to our third existential crisis in 60 years’’.

Mr O’Connor said it was “arrant, illusionary and disingenuous nonsense’’ to pretend everybody’s taxes could be cut at the same time.

"In the most rapidly growing economy in Europe, all of our people deserve the best public services and public utilities possible, but we will have to gradually develop a European style tax structure to pay for them,'' he added.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times