Speech of Billy Kelleher MEP at the
2021 Sean Moylan Commemoration
Kiskeam, Co. Cork – 14th Nov 2021

My sincere thanks to the Sean Moylan Commemoration Committee for giving me this opportunity – to give the oration at the grave of Sean Moylan here in Kiskeam for the 3rd time is one of the greatest honour of my time as a Fianna Fáil public representative.

Each year as we gather here in all kinds of weather, I reflect on this Commemoration and how even after all these years, people still flock to this place in November to pay tribute not only to Sean Moylan, but to all the women and men who gave so much of themselves to free Ireland, many of whom are buried here in Kiskeam.

I believe the people who travel here have huge pride in Ireland, a deep sense of pride of their native place, and pride in the great people who went before us and sacrificed so much for future generations.

Sean Moylan and his comrades had a vision for Ireland – an Ireland of equal opportunity where every citizen had the chance to prosper, a truly Republican ideal with access to education at the heart of their vision.

Minister for Education

During his time as Minister for Education, Sean Moylan set in motion a cultural change to the delivery of Education in Ireland and gave people in areas such as Duhallow new possibilities that generations prior to them wouldn’t dream of.

This vision of change for our Education system was always at the heart of what Sean Moylan wanted to achieve, and what Fianna Fáil wanted to achieve when Donagh O’ Malley introduced free education in 1967 which opened doors for so many young people to access post-primary education.

The vision and ideals of Sean Moylan continue to inspire me today. To fight for those on the margins of education or people with disabilities – to level the playing pitch to ensure that everyone gets the opportunity they deserve in life. I am fully committed to working for those people in very way I can, to ensure that education is available to everyone, to allow them to grow and reach their full potential.

History has shown us that education and lifelong learning are crucial to meeting the challenges we all face in life – as a society we must always strive to ensure that everyone can take part in education, to enable everyone to live their life to the fullest and to contribute to their community.

Minister for Lands

Having read so much about Sean Moylan’s time as Minister for Lands, I have given a lot of thought to the challenges facing Irish agriculture.

We need to be more vocal about the quality of the incredible produce that Irish farmers deliver throughout the world, and in an environmentally sustainable way that is an example to other countries.

Our beef and our sheep, our dairy products, are predominantly grass based, and our method of farming is accepted as more environmentally friendly than anywhere in the world.

To quote the great Daniel O’ Connell – “There is nothing politically right that is morally wrong”. While there are people in the world going hungry, I believe it would be morally wrong to sacrifice our quality food production for less sustainable food produce.

We are so lucky in this country to have had leaders of vision and foresight like Sean Moylan and his comrades, who brought about such enormous change to their country. They met the challenges of their time head on, and they should inspire us to meet the challenges of today.

Sustainability is the key word for our generation, to find the balance between caring for our planet and environment, and the economic needs of society. This is the great challenge for our generation, to create a sustainable future for our children, and for the generations to come.

We should look positively on the part we can all play, individually and as a community – thinking more of what we can do, rather than what we shouldn’t.

Supporting local produce, local businesses is not just good for the environment – its good for our community. Look at the possibilities and options locally before ordering online, we can all begin to make a difference there.

Tír gan teanga tír gan anam. Táim bródúil as mo cúltúr agus is cheart dúinn Gaeilge a cur chun cinn nuair is féidir linn.

A United Ireland

As a republican, I want to see a 32 county Ireland – I am very excited to see the growing level of discussion and debate about Irish reunification. And the pursuit of Irish reunification is absolutely correct and legitimate – it is worth remembering that it is expressly referred to and recognised in our constitution.

Article 3 says it is the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions.

Article 3 also recognises that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island.

So this is not a topic that should be avoided. It is one of the political objectives of Fianna Fail, the Republican Party, and it is clearly an objective that is consistent with the Good Friday agreement.

The partition of Ireland has caused so much division on this island in the past 100 years – a disastrous part of our history and certainly not worth commemorating in any way.

The world has changed so much since partition, and the debate about Irish reunification should not be dominated by the divisions that existed 100 years ago. A united Ireland can liberate us from sectarianism that has caused such damage, and reunification would transform the opportunities for people on both sides of the border.

For all the trouble it has caused, Brexit has shown how communities North and South can work together economically and socially. Everyone can only benefit from positive engagement and discussion, and the notion that one community can hold the country to ransom is nonsense. Ireland has seen in the last 2 years what can be achieved when all sides work together.

Irish reunification will produce a stronger country, with a more diverse population and a stronger economy. We can build a new Ireland that would be an example of how reconciliation and agreement overcame centuries of division and violence.

A new Ireland that brings everyone together and leaves nobody behind – Sean Moylan and his comrades who we honour today had a vision of a strong united Ireland, a nation built on republican ideals of equality and opportunity where success is measured by the qualify of life of its citizens.

I spoke earlier about the challenges this generation faces, and like those who went before us, it is our collective responsibility to meet those challenges together.

As we remember Sean Moylan today and the events of the War of Independence, it is impossible for us to imagine what it was like back then.

It was a time when ordinary people did extraordinary things, when Irish people from every walk of life made enormous sacrifices for what the 1916 Proclamation had termed “the common good”.

That wonderful generation which set in train our national independence could not have done so by military force alone. Without a huge level of community support, the resistance of the IRA to British rule could not have prevailed.

All of us who cherish our independence owe an incalculable debt to the military ability of the Volunteers from 1916 to 1921, but we should also never forget that an unbreakable community spirit was at the very heart of the achievement of national freedom.

The ambition of establishing a free Ireland was propelled by men and women, young and old, many of whom never fired a shot, but were prepared to put themselves at risk by storing arms, providing shelter, maintaining safe-houses, providing local intelligence, delivering messages and offering encouragement to their fellow countrymen and women in the fight for freedom.

Our history teaches us that community solidarity is a collective strength that can overcome the greatest challenges. Sean Moylan’s famous motto was ‘Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’ – ‘In the shadow of each other the people live’. The phrase sums up Moylan’s commitment to community solidarity as the bedrock of our democracy.

The Covid pandemic has placed an enormous burden on every citizen of this country. Every aspect of our lives has been impacted – our care for each other and our courage as a community has made a positive difference. We can be proud of the determination and resilience so many people in our community have shown to face this unprecedented challenge.

We look forward to the days when we don’t check the Covid numbers for the day, when we don’t have to think about restrictions, when we don’t have to check we have our mask leaving the house. And I have great faith that we will continue to face the challenges of the future together, as a community and as a country.

The legacy of Sean Moylan and his comrades continues to inspire us all to work together towards a better country, to look forward with optimism and hope for a bright future for our children – standing here today at the graveside of this great patriot, we continue to share the same dream of a republic full of opportunity and equality for all of its people.