Ninety years ago in Dublin, seven men with a dream led out a small army of Irishmen and women - that Ireland might be free. The dream was an age-old one, half-formed and rough shaped at first but becoming more clearly defined down the years. The United Irishmen gave it substance, Wolfe Tone delineated it, Emmet, the Young Irelanders and the Fenians strove to achieve it.
In the 20th century the Irish language revival movement nurtured it anew - the dream of a free Ireland, owing allegiance to no other authority except her own; a Republic in which the Irish people would resume their rightful heritage as owners and rulers of the land. In this the 21st century we in Republican Sinn Fein continue the struggle to make the dream a reality.
This was the dream of Pearse, Connolly, Clarke, Plunkett, MacDonagh, MacDermot and Ceannt. By force of arms they set out to make reality of the dream. After their fight and their deaths things were never the same again in Ireland. The nation had been set upon a road on which there could be no turning back. Age-old traditions never again could be reneged.
"If we today", said Pearse, "are fighting for something either greater than or less than the thing our fathers fought for, either our fathers did not fight for freedom at all or we are not fighting for freedom. If I do not hold the faith of Tone and if Tone was not a heretic, then I am. If Tone said: 'break the connection with England' and if I say: 'Maintain the connection with England.' I may be preaching a saner gospel than his, but I am obviously not preaching the same gospel."
But there was no mistaking the object for which the men of 1916 fought and died. It is clearly and uncompromisingly set out in the Proclamation of the Republic:
This Proclamation was signed in blood by the seven leaders of the Rising. Scores of others also sacrificed their lives for it, hundreds more suffered imprisonment and internment, thousands forfeited freedom, comfort and careers to carry its term into effect.
Are we today fully mindful of what occurred in that Easter Week of 1916? Have we forgotten the dream for which these men died? We could do worse, perhaps, than perform now a national examination of conscience.
We might ask ourselves such questions as these:
Where is the Republic dreamed of by Pearse and Connolly?
How much of Ireland is owned by the people of Ireland?
To what extent are the destinies of the Irish people within the control of the Irish people?
Does the Irish Republic hold the allegiance of every Irishman & Irishwoman?
What price the religious and civil liberty guaranteed in Proclamation?
Can we truthfully say we afford equal rights and equal opportunities to all our citizens?
Do we pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts?
Do we cherish all the children of the nation equally?
The answers to these questions may be disquieting. They may even be considered out of place as we commemorate the Ninetieth Anniversary of the Rising just now. But if we are to be honest, we must answer these questions. We would be less than true to the memory of the men of 1916 if we shirk this duty now.