President unveils Connolly memorial

 

THE best tribute to James Connolly is to draw further inspiration from his commitment to pluralism and inclusiveness, according to the President, Mrs Robinson. She was speaking at the unveiling of a memorial to the labour leader and 1916 martyr in Beresford Place, opposite Liberty Hall in Dublin yesterday.

Mrs Robinson also cited his recognition of the value of full participation by women and young people to society.

Several hundred people attended the unveiling, which was hosted by SIPTU. These included senior Government figures and survivors of the Connolly Column, which fought for the Spanish republic.

Mrs Robinson said Connolly was inclusive in his approach to ethnic and religious minorities in Ireland. "He was the only Irish politician I know of to issue an election leaflet in Yiddish. It was addressed to immigrant and refugee Jewish workers of Dublin in 1902. He wanted to include and respect an important minority in our society."

His action provided an important lesson in pluralism and inclusiveness "to all of us in Ireland to reach out to minorities". He was also a feminist and she felt he "would probably be happy enough for a woman president to unveil a statue to him in 1996".

She said Connolly's testament was "a challenge to us to move forward, not as a society where the divide is widening but as a people with a strong sense of community".

The 7 ft 6 in bronze statue was designed and cast by Mr Eamonn O'Donerty. It weighs half a tonne, cost £50,000 and stands on the spot where Connolly frequently addressed public meetings. He paraded the Irish Citizen Army at the same site before they took part in the 1916 Rising.

Other speakers at the unveiling included Mr Edward J. Cleary, president of the New York State AFL CIO; the general president of SIPTU, Mr Edmund Browne; James Connolly's grandson Ross and Mr Brian Trench of the NUJ, who said that Beresford Place should now be renamed Connolly Place.

In the audience were the Tanaiste, Mr Spring; the Minister for Social Welfare, Mr De Rossa; the Minister for Finance, Mr Quinn; the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ms Joan Burton; and the deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ms Mary Frechill.

There were several members of the Connolly family, including Brig Gen James Connolly. The Dublin city and county manager, Mr Frank Feely, also attended. It was Mr Feely's last function before he retired at midnight.

The Sinn Fein president, Mr Gerry Adams, also attended as well as the local Labour TD, Mr Joe Costello, and the former Workers Party leader and TD, Mr Tomas Mac Giolla.