Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny, T.D.
At the unveiling of the statue in honour of Seán Mac Eoin at Ballinalee Co. Longford on 16th June 2013.
Mayor Farrell, Councillor Carrigy;
People of Longford, and especially, Ballinalee.
I’m honoured to be here today to unveil this magnificent statue to one of our greatest heroes and to the men of the North Longford Flying Column.
These men might belong to history.
But their bravery is evidenced to this very day in the very existence of this State, which they and their actions, helped found.
The 5th of November 1920 is writ large across this county and the hearts of all who live here.
Ballinalee is rightly acknowledged as one of the most inspiring moments of the War of Independence.
And it is equally right that we should acknowledge and commemorate the heroism of General Mac Eoin and his men, in the statue we are unveiling here today.
Sean MacEoin was part of a remarkable generation of revolutionary leaders who came to prominence at a time of acute transition.
They rose to the challenge. They changed those times.
And it must be said, those times changed them.
The glory of their achievements, was marred, in part, by a Civil War that scarred memories and perspectives for several generations.
The war and its legacy demand rigorous and dispassionate analysis by historians. An analysis based on all the facts.
At the time, and as with every conflict, self-serving myth replaced fact.
But this will change with the release of the Military Pension Service Records when the actions of all who took part will be fully known.
In the possession of the state is the Military Service Pensions Archives.
These are vast archives containing nearly 300,000 files relating to the dramatic and divisive period from Easter Week 1916 through the War of Independence and the Civil War, to the 1st October 1924.
A team of archivists has been working for a number of years in Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin preparing for their release online.
I hope to be in a position to release these records shortly.
The release will start with the 1916 files and work from there.
It will give us a glimpse into the lives and contribution of the men and women and women not covered by the Bureau of Military History.
I hope it will transform our understanding of the period and its people.
We will see and for the first time details of those whose actions laid the foundations of the State.
It is their story in their words.
It is our inheritance, a legacy we are lucky to have.
The Committee on Commemorations chaired by Minister Deenihan, has decided that an Expert Group of Historians chaired by Maurice Manning would be set up to advise it.
This group informs the development and delivery of the commemorative programme for the period up to 2016.
In particular it seeks to find and set a tone that is inclusive and non-triumphalist.
One that ensures authenticity, proportionality and openness.
It will seek to encourage original research at local and national level such as has been done here today in Ballinalee.
While acknowledging throughout its work, the multiple identities and traditions, which are part of the story of the island of Ireland and Irish people across the world.
Sean Mac Eoin’s story is well known.
Army Chief of Staff, a local TD, Minister for Justice and Defence, contender for the Presidency on two occasions.
But the stories of his comrades in arms we honour here today, remain largely untold.
I believe the release of the Military Pension Records will allow the fullest recognition of their contributions.
Our world, your future was shaped in part by these men and women.
We owe it to them to preserve their memory, acknowledge their sacrifice, value their achievements.
And what achievements they were.
One of the most remarkable, yet most taken for granted, was the handover of power in 1932.
A history where so many Irish men played their part, especially in the First World War.
Over 40,000 Irishmen died in the Great War.
284 of them were from Longford.
This statue commemorates ordinary people who did extraordinary things.
I commend the sculptor, Rory Breslin, from Mayo and Cast Ltd in Dublin, for doing such magnificent work.
I commend the Leader Programme for the recent grant they made to the renovation of the Tomas Ashe Hall.
I thank Longford County Council, Councillor Carrigy and the local organising committee for having the vision and commitment to commission this statue.
I now ask for silence as I honour the dead whose names are inscribed on this statue and the history of this county and country.
Let history record that the long held ambition of nationhood was achieved in no small part by the actions of the following:
Sean Duffy, Ballinalee
James J Brady, Ballinamuck
Tom Brady, Cartronmarkey
Paddy Callaghan, Clonbroney
Seamus Conway, Clonbroney
Pat Cooke, Tubber
Seamus Farrelly, Purth
Paddy Finnegan, Molly
Larry Geraghty, Ballymore
Mick Gormley, Esker,Killoe
Hugh Hourican, Clonbroney
Jack Hughes, Gowna
Mick Kenny, Clonbroney
Paddy Lynch, Pulladoey
John McDowell, Clonbroney
Jack Moore, Streete
Mick Mulligan, Willsbrook
Michael F. Reynolds, Killoe
Sean Sexton, Ballinalee
Jim Sheeran, Killoe
Frank Davis, Ballinamuck
Seamus MacEoin, Ballinalee
Thomas Earley, Ballinalee
Frank Martin, Colmcille
Michael Treacy, Ballinalee
Ned Tynan, Ballinalee
Peadar Conlon, Ballinalee
Michael F. Heslin, Killoe
Barney Kilbride, Granard
Tom Reilly, Colmcille
Larry Kiernan, Leitrim, Dring
Michael MacEoin, Ballinalee
Seán Lynch, Pulladoey
Frank Gormley, Esker,Killoe
Frank Reilly, Tawnagh, Ballinamuck
Joe Keenan, Ballinalee
James J. Killean, Currygrane
Sean Mac Eoin..
General, Chief of Staff, Minister and TD.
Always and ever to his people - “the Blacksmith of Ballinalee.”