Violent protest neither virtuous nor effective, says Fitzgerald

Minister for Justice addresses annual Béal na Bláth commemoration in West Cork

“Fine Gael has always stood for the rule of law, believing that with rights come responsibility - the solemn responsibility of all Irish men and women to respect and adhere to those same laws.” - Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

“Fine Gael has always stood for the rule of law, believing that with rights come responsibility - the solemn responsibility of all Irish men and women to respect and adhere to those same laws.” - Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Fine Gael must never cease in challenging the propaganda that suggests violent protest is virtuous and effective, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald told attendees at the annual Béal na Bláth commemoration in West Cork on Saturday.

Ms Fitzgerald, who delivered the keynote oration, stressed that violent protest is neither virtuous nor effective.

“We must challenge the misuse of our flag, as if it belonged to a group who use it as a symbol of violence. The flag that billows in the great painting of Michael Collins at Griffith’s funeral was always meant to be a symbol of tolerance, of inclusiveness, of unity and of peace,” she said.

The Minister said it is important that we remember that, for Collins, in government, the rule of law was paramount.

“Fine Gael has always stood for the rule of law, believing that with rights come responsibility - the solemn responsibility of all Irish men and women to respect and adhere to those same laws. For Collins, disagreement was to be cherished, but interference with the people, their safety and their property, was unacceptable and was to be clamped down upon.”

‘Disagreement is democratic’

She insisted this position is precious to Fine Gael. “Disagreement is democratic. Terrorising those with whom you disagree is not.”

Looking to the country’s emergence from an economic meltdown, Ms Fitzgerald said we must always remember that damage to the economy may be temporary, but the memory of losing a business, losing a job and losing the self-respect that comes with employment is very definitely not temporary.

Ms Fitzgerald said it is in the job description of the Fine Gael party to acknowledge, not just the contribution or suffering of the last few years, but the lingering pain, anger and fear.

“It is Fine Gael’s task to convince our citizens that trust matters and can be recreated - and that rejection of politics, as a system, leads only to chaos and a deeper fear, as we see, even as I speak, in the most beautiful of countries, Greece.

“Trust starts with stability. A sound economic base is pivotal to our future as a country with full employment, with the continuing input of foreign direct investment matched by increasing focus on the small and medium enterprises that form the backbone of the Irish economy.”

The Minister also referenced the legacy of Michael Collins, stating he was just 26 years old in 1916 when he carried life-and-death duties. She told the hundreds of attendees he wasn’t “old before his time, but responsible above his age”.

Falling star

“Michael Collins had a life as brief as that of a falling star, but the one thing we know for sure is that he made what he could of it, driving himself and others in a relentless pursuit of the best.

“If we look at the totality of his life, what we see is a man who understood that every section of the emerging nation needed structure, needed planning, needed control, needed measurement.

“He carried - willingly carried - on broad shoulders the responsibility to build statehood out of subservience and subversion. The task was without precedent.”

Michael Collins was killed on August 22nd, 1922, after being ambushed on the Cork to Bandon road by anti-Treaty IRA forces.

General Collins served as Ireland’s minister for finance from April 2nd, 1919, until his death at age 31, and his achievements in putting the fledgling State on a solid financial footing are ranked alongside his remarkable abilities as the IRA’s military commander during the War of Independence.

Speakers at the commemoration over the years have included Lord David Puttnam, Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney, former President Mary Robinson and broadcaster Bill O’Herlihy.