Official commemoration of the anniversary of the First Dáil

Today, the Oireachtas sat at the Mansion House to commemorate 90 years of the Dáil. Any official celebration on the date of the actual anniversary, the 21st January (tomorrow), was prevented by the fact that Sinn Féin had pre-booked the Mansion House for their commemoration.

The Joint Sitting of the Oireachtas consisted of speeches by all the political parties and the Cathaoirlaigh of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann. Of the poitical leaders, Caoimhín O Caoileáin’s speech was the best, keeping the historic aspect of the occasion to the forefront. Sinn Féin is always very canny when it comes to striking the right notes.

John O’Donoghue, Cathaoirleach of the Dáil, quoted the impressive words of Cathal Brugha, who presided over the historic first meeting of the elected parliament of Ireland’s independent republic. What followed, however, was scarcely worthy of that tradition. In particular, the Taoiseach, Brian Cowan, used the occasion to promote the Lisbon Treaty and to attack its opponents. Not only that, he even said that the First Dáil had no international relevance, nor did any subsequent Dáil, until Ireland joined the EU. That is an outrageous thing for a Taoiseach to say in light of the international achievements of the nation from 1919 on, but it also leaves him open to the charge of disparaging the sovereignty of the state.

Ireland’s historic parliament was subjected to constant attack and its representatives to harassment, assault and assassination by the imperial power that would not recognise its existence. Choosing to adhere to the Lisbon Treaty’s requirement that it show its “loyalty” to the EU, the Irish government has similarly declared to the Irish people that its vote against the “treaty” (actually the EU Constitution, slightly reworked) is illegitimate and will be ignored. Cowan’s conduct at the commemoration mirrored his conduct as Taoiseach.

As the more bumbling and obvious PD leader, Ciaran Cannon, put it, “real freedom means” the attaining of a “position of influence”, which involves “pooling sovereignty”.

The joint degradation of the process of commemoration by the government and by Sinn Féin is telling.  It is up to the Irish people, not its present representatives, it would seem, to honour and celebrate its achievements.

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