Ambassador Rooney addresses Sean Moylan Commemoration
The 53rd Annual Sean Moylan Commemoration took place in Kiskeam on Sunday, November 14, 2010. The following is Ambassador Rooney’s oration in commemoration for Sean Moylan.
November 14, 2010
We are gathered here, this afternoon, to honor a patriot. It is fitting at such a commemoration to remember the man -- both for what he did and for who he was. He was a man for Ireland.
Remembering the past, renewing our acquaintance with our history, reliving again the days gone by is increasingly difficult, especially for younger folk who, in a world that is full of distractions and the pressure of now, of this day. Finding time in our busy schedules for reflection. A time to think, a time for action.
But we forget to remember the past at our own peril. For without a view of the past, we will repeat the mistakes made then. And we will be hurt by our failure to learn the lessons that those who went before us learned at such a great price.
The stories we have forgotten to remember -- to tell to each other -- they are lost. With that loss goes a certain richness to our lives here in the present. The acts of courage - leadership are gone. But we should not let go of them.
We cannot build for the future if we do not know where we have come from. We must remember the commitment, the supreme sacrifice made to make us free.
So I will remember with you, this afternoon, in this place, the deeds of this son of Ireland, Seán Moylan.
Seán was a Corkman, though born in Limerick thirty miles from here into a family of Irish patriots. He, like so many of his generation, grew up hearing the stories of the Fenians and their struggle against the British.
Seán joined the fledgling G.A.A. as a youth, and the Gaelic League in 1904, believing in Pearse's dictum that "A country without a language is a country without a soul," and so became a fluent Irish speaker.
He was a man for all seasons: trained as a carpenter, he was a builder by trade.
He married his beloved, Nora Murphy.
Seán Moylan was a great patriot and lover of Ireland. At the time of the Easter Rising, Seán Moylan committed himself to the freedom of Ireland.
The inspiration of Fenian roots in his own family and his commitment to a free Ireland became clear in 1916.
Looking back at that time, Seán Moylan remembered in his own words: “An insurrection was to become a revolution and I was to become one of its organizers. I was never again to follow my hum-drum occupation, to live my quiet and uneventful life.
I was to travel many a weary mile, to make good friends and bitter enemies, to develop endless patience and tolerance, to know wounds and hunger and weariness of spirit, to learn how fear is conquered and to stand at last in the shadow of the gallows tree.”
He was a soldier, a leader of men into combat, a commanding officer, a prisoner of war.
His sense of humor and poise in the midst of combat is evident in his referring to the War of Independence as an "International Disagreement," and in his account of the ambush at Tureengariffe in January 1921. Remembering how he had organized the ambush, he makes the point that "from the viewpoint of observation we had perfect cover, from that of protection, none!"
Also, it was after this action, where he and his column had captured a British Army car, he told the story of how, with deadly seriousness, he instructed that the vehicle be carefully hidden. In a feat of derring-do, this was in fact implemented by the volunteers lending this same car for use at a wedding in Killarney under the noses of the British authorities!
History shows that while winning an individual battle is hard and winning the war harder still, it is the winning of the peace that is hardest of all.
Seán Moylan is renowned for the role he played in Ireland’s struggle for independence. He demonstrated both tactical and strategic vision in his leadership of the men under his command. He fought with all he had, and then some. He battled against his opponents and then, sadly, against even his fellow patriots in Ireland’s Civil War.
Seán was most distressed by the bitter civil war that found him set against his fellow Irishmen. It was, again in his own words: "A difficult story to tell for one who called both Mellows and Collins friend, who held both in high esteem, to whom their deaths were an agony and by whom their memory is revered. It is a story of failure and disruption, of bitterness and antagonism, from it may be learned the method of eliminating these evils and avoiding them."
However – it was in how he worked to win the peace that Seán left his biggest mark on this beautiful island. It was in how he transitioned from fighting to win independence and freedom to building and serving the nascent institutions of this independent and free country that are his best and most important legacy to Ireland.
Seán wrote that “Those who would serve a nation are confronted by many difficulties, not the least of which is a mental outlook created by past conditions and continuing unchanged when those conditions have disappeared.” His ability to adapt, to rise above and to hold to a higher vision of a free Ireland sets him among the great leaders of our time.
Seán was “one of the truest and bravest of the many brave and true men who in our time have devoted themselves to the service of our nation and our people.”
Seán Moylan was a public servant and a politician. He was elected to both Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann.
As a TD he held high office as Minister for Lands and Minister for Education. Remarkably, in 1957, he became the first Senator to be a Government Minister when appointed Minister for Agriculture.
As a member of the Cabinet in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Seán was no stranger to difficult decisions in trying times and would have relished the opportunity to tackle the challenges that Ireland currently faces.
He was a great believer in the ability of the youth of Ireland. As Minister for Education, Seán led massive investment in the educational infrastructure of Ireland and worked to bring about universal and free post primary education. His legacy is obvious in the reputation Ireland maintains as a land of scholarship and scholars.
Seán was a friend of the United States and this friendship was built on the common history we share, shaped and enriched by the Irish community in America.
I said before, we cannot build for the future if we do not know where we have come from. It has been my honor and pleasure to briefly remember with you the man who was Seán Moylan.
Seán would not recognize many of the good and positive changes that have taken place in Ireland since his untimely death 53 years ago. Many of these changes, political, cultural and economical, are a direct result of the work of Seán Moylan, and people like him.
In light of our past, we must build for the future. In closing, I would like to borrow the words of the great American architect Daniel Burnham . . . Make no little plans. Little plans have no magic to stir men’s blood into action. And little plans will probably not themselves be realized.
Make big plans. Aim high in hope and in work. Strive to be a visionary, remembering that a noble and logical vision, once recorded, will never die. A noble and logical vision will, long after we are gone, still be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.
Never forget the past – but never forget that our own children and grandchildren are going to do things that would stagger us. Think big. Aim high. Let your watchword be Order and the beacon before you Beauty. Maintain hope, keep the faith.
Thank you. May Seán Moylan and all of those good and faithful sons and daughters of Ireland, lovers of freedom, continue to rest in the peaceful embrace of our loving heavenly Father.
Go raibh maith agaibh