News & Events

Speech of the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar TD, Reflection on the Centenary of the Irish Civil War

17 September 2022

A Uachtaráin, A Thaoiseach, A Aire Mhártin, a Dhaoine uaisle

Sometimes the most painful parts of our past can only be told through pieces of great beauty.

This afternoon we reflect on the civil war using music, poetry, song and words, using the transformative power of art to make sense of something that was brutal, devastating, and tragically unnecessary. 

It is easy to tell the story of our country as one of repression, resistance and conflict. 

Our culture reminds us that this is only one part of a much richer and much more diverse story.  Ours is also a story of reconciliation, hope and achievement.  Of rising above great tragedy and realising our potential and promise.    

This is how we resolved the various conflicts on our island, whether between us and our neighbour, or between us and ourselves, north and south.   Today we remember the tragedies of our past, and we rededicate ourselves to making sure we never revisit them again. 

A friend of our country, whose death we remember today, reminded us of how we can bow to the past, but not be bound by it. 

For too long in our country I fear we were bound by the past, always looking behind to what had gone before, to the dead generations, and to the old arguments.  

For too long the civil war was the great rupture that dare not speak its name.

For too long our politics became frozen in time, as we tried to reconstruct an idealised vision of the past, instead of embracing the world of the future. 

Instead of building a society respectful of each other, embracing our differences and forgiving our many weaknesses, we closed our eyes and our ears for too long.  The cries of the anguished in 1922 and 1923 were replaced by different cries and they too were often ignored and forgotten. 

The civil war was a great failure as a nation.  

We were among the most successful revolutionaries in Irish history breaking free of the greatest empire in the world. Instead of turning our talents to the great challenges of the day, we turned our fire on ourselves.  It was a tragic mistake that set-back our country for too long. 

Today let us put aside our old animosities and tribal identities and rediscover that spirit of idealism from one hundred years ago.  Let us apply to the great challenges of today: housing; the cost of living equal opportunities for our children; that same drive and determination that won us our independence and a new beginning.

Let us find a unity that was absent one hundred years ago.  And let us persist until we succeed.