Leo Varadkar takes aim at Sinn Féin during Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins commemoration

The Fine Gael leader said Sinn Féin used the name of the party Arthur Griffith formed in the early 1900s but never tried to understand or follow the principles he and Collins lived by.

Speaking in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin for the annual commemoration of the death in 1922 of the two Irish independence leaders, Mr Varadkar said: “As we all know, the name Sinn Féin was later used by those who never tried to understand the principles for which people like Griffith and Collins had given their lives, nor to follow them.”

“Griffith’s vision of Ireland was broad and inclusive, and he met with unionist leaders because he knew that the starting point for any discussion of our shared island had to begin with ‘fair play for all sections and understanding between all sections’. Principles as relevant today as they were one hundred years ago.”

Griffith died on August 12, 1922 of a brain haemorrhage aged 51 while Collins was shot and killed ten days later by anti-Treaty soldiers who ambushed him in Cork.

Mr Varadkar said Collins is a “personal as well as a political inspiration” and told those gathered he will be paying tribute to him alongside Taoiseach Micheal Martin at the annual Béal na mBláth event.

“It will be a powerful statement about how far our politics has come, the wounds which have been healed, and a reminder that the bold prophecies of freedom one hundred years ago are still being fulfilled,” he said.

The Tánaiste said Collins entire life was a “profile in courage”. “He had the courage to fight the British empire despite overwhelming odds, and to force it to the negotiating table,” he said.

“He had the courage to risk his reputation and his life by working to secure peace, and then persuade the majority of people in the Dáil and in the country to support it. Most importantly, he had the courage to believe in his fellow countrymen and women, he had faith in the future, and he trusted what future generations would be able to achieve,” he added.

Mr Varadkar said Griffith never lost heart and never stopped working for freedom. The Fine Gael leader said his greatness was the way he made his case so convincingly for almost twenty years.

He said Griffith brought people together and took advantage of changing political circumstances to put his ideas into operation.

He also noted that the “formidable editor and journalist” was also a champion of equality.

“He could also be fierce in defence of those who were wronged. When a newspaper published a disgraceful and sexist attack on Maud Gonne, he was jailed for horsewhipping the editor,” he added.

The event was chaired by the chair of the Collins/Griffith Commemoration Society, William Lavelle and was attended by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, Deputy Chief-of-Staff of the Defence Forces Major General Anthony McKenna, Justice Minister Helen McEntee and former Justice Minister Nora Owen.

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