President to speak of ‘complex legacies’ at Dáil commemoration

State must face ‘most difficult’ part of decade of centenaries ‘with sympathy and empathy’

President Michael D Higgins will urge people not to be afraid to "face the past" as they commemorate the most difficult centenaries of Irish history, including the War of Independence and the Civil War.

In a speech on Monday marking the 100th anniversary of the inaugural public meeting of Dáil Éireann, Mr Higgins will say that the country must acknowledge this troubled history including “all of the violence and cruelties released from pent-up exclusions, deprivations and humiliations”.

In his keynote address at the event in the Mansion House in Dublin, the president will tell an audience including the Taoiseach and descendants of those elected to the first Dáil that the country is entering “the most difficult part of our decade of centenaries”.

He will encourage people not to simply memorialise these centenaries “but to confront the complex legacies of our history with sympathy and empathy” and in a way that demonstrates “a hospitality towards the narratives of others, one open to the stories and perspectives of all the people of our shared island”.


‘Inequalities in power’

Mr Higgins will also use his speech to criticise shortcomings in Irish society, saying that the same challenges that confronted “the revolutionary generation” 100 years ago “still abide with us today”. The Republic “remains marred by inequalities in power, wealth, income and opportunity,” he will say.

“Poverty subsists amidst plenty, even as we fail to provide some of our citizens with the basic elements of a dignified existence within our republic – housing, healthcare, education, support for those with particular needs.

“True nationalism addresses need, as part of a nation and as part of an international family of nations.”

The president’s address will be followed by a speech from Prof Cathal McSwiney Brugha on the role played by his grandfather Cathal Brugha, the first Ceann Comhairle, in the formation of the first Dáil.

The Ceann Comhairle will then open a joint sitting of both Houses of the Oireachtas in the Round Room of the Mansion House. The event will be broadcast live from 3.30pm to 5.30pm on Oireachtas TV.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times