First Dáil ceremony is celebratory event
The 100th anniversary of the first sitting of Dáil Eireann was celebrated in Glenbrien village with a ceremony that the organisers said was both commemorative and celebratory.
The event was organised by the local village renewal group and one of its members, David Doyle, told this newspaper that it was a lovely occasion that was poignant and respectful.
Among the people in attendance were Minister Paul Kehoe and Deputy James Browne along with members of the Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women (ONE), and the United Nations Veterans' Association (IUNVA).
Members of the local authority were also invited to the event with Cllrs Johnny Mythen and Willie Kavanagh both present to witness the ceremony.
The commemoration began with mass, celebrated by Fr John Byrne, during which the members of the IUNVA formed a colour guard of honour assisted by Anthony Nolan on bugle.
After the mass a parade, formed under Willie Gilbert and Mick O'Neill - both from the IUNVA - marched to the local public amenity site where Minister Kehoe unveiled a specially commissioned plaque.
Three new flagpoles were also erected on the site and Minister Kehoe raised the national flag, Cllr Willie Kavanagh raised the Oylegate-Glenbrien flag and Deputy James Browne raised the flag of the EU.
Minister Kehoe, in his speech, expressed delight at being able to attend such a significant event.
Referring to a previous ceremony he attended in the Mansion House - also marking the centenary of the first Dáil - he said he had time to reflect on what it means to serve in Dáil Eireann as a representative of the people of Wexford.
'The centenary event also allowed us a parliament, and indeed nation, to reflect on the journey that we have made, the country we have become,' he said.
'There is no doubt the events that took place a century ago paved the way for this country's autonomy, nationhood and ultimately, democracy,' he added.
He then referenced the Declaration of Independence and the first Dáil and said of its members: '[They] yearned for an open, free and democratic nation. It was a nation which sought to re-establish justice, to provide for future defence and, perhaps most importantly, to ensure peace at home and goodwill with all nations.'
Following the General Election of December 1918, 105 politicians were elected to the UK parliament, however, the Sinn Féin delegation's 73 members declined to take their seats at Westminster and that prompted the first Dáil sitting on January 21, 1919.
Minister Kehoe spoke of Roger Sweetman and Dr Jim Ryan, both of whom were from Co Wexford, who were members of that first Dáil.
'As proud Wexford people, we should cherish each opportunity to reflect on the life and achievements of the county's first two members of Dáil Éireann,' said Minister Kehoe.
'Not every part of our past was free from violence, disorder and indeed bloodshed, but if we are to truly remember our past, we must do so with dignity, honesty and respect.'
The choir from the local national school also performed at the event and they gave a rousing rendition of the national anthem assisted by Orla Quirke and Fiona Quirke.
Following the formalities everyone in attendance was invited back to the old school community hall for light refreshments.
On behalf of the organising committee Mr Doyle thanked everyone who attended and those who helped make the event a success including O'Brien's Inn which provided refreshments for the school choir.