Seanad Éireann - Volume 118 - 26 February, 1988

[1909] Pursuant to Resolutions passed by Dáil Éireann and by Seanad Éireann on 18 February 1988 both Houses met in the Dáil Chamber at 3 p.m., the Ceann Comhairle presiding.

Prayer.

The Taoiseach (Deputy Charles J. Haughey), Deputy Dukes (Leader of Fine Gael), Deputy Spring (Leader of The Labour Party), Deputy Keating (Deputy Leader of the Progressive Democrats) and Deputy Mac Giolla (Leader of The Workers' Party) conducted Francois Mitterand, President of the French Republic, to the dais, where, Members standing and applauding, he was received by the Ceann Comhairle.

The President then took his seat on the dais beside the Ceann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: A Uachtaráin Uasail, ocáid mhór stairiúil Uachtarán Phoblacht na Fraince a bheith ar cuairt ar thír na hÉireann. Tá an-áthas agus an-bhród orainne, i dTithe an Oireachtais, tú a bheith ar cuairt chugainn chun labhairt linn. Fearaimid fíorchaoin fáilte romhat agus guímid gach rath agus sonas ort féin agus ar mhuintir na Fraince.

Mr. President, the first State visit to Ireland of the Head of the French Republic offers us in the Houses of the Oireachtas the opportunity to express to you and the French people something long overdue: the immense depth of gratitude and affection for France which we harbour in our hearts and which is very much part of being Irish.

[1910] It is particularly fitting, on an occassion as auspicious as this, to acknowledge that for centuries France was one of Ireland's principal sources of hope and help at difficult moments in our history.

It was to France that members of Ireland's leading families fled in the 17th century after the collapse of the Gealic civilisation; and later France provided a haven for thousands of our people who had been forced by penal legislation and persecution to seek refuge abroad. Many of these “wild geese” played a distinguished role in the armies of France.

It was from France — where else — that the first seeds of republicanism were sown in Irish soil, to mature into what we are proud to call today our republican state. It was in Paris that Theobald Wolfe Tone wrote his most enduring statement of his aims and objectives. Almost 200 years after they were written his words still have great relevance for the Ireland we live in today. I quote:

To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissensions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter.

The embracing of the republican ideals of France by Theobald Wolfe Tone and by other patriots of later generations has had a profound influence on the political evolution of our country. Even our Tricolour Flag owes its origins to France and the ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Mr. President, in dealing with our own times, when we consider the sheer amount of French thought and commitment — including of course your own splendid contribution — to the creation of the European Community, we have a very high standard against which to measure our own commitment. Since our accession in 1973, the Irish Parliament has given legislative effect to the responsibilities of membership.

I know well that it is a pleasure for our Ministers and Members of Parliament to work together with yours to improve our understanding of each other's problems and towards the creation of even closer European unity.

We fervently wish that your visit and the anniversary next year of the Fall of the Bastille — in which I believe there was some Irish involvement — will lead to a reawakening of mutual friendship and co-operation, which will bind us closer together and enable us to face the next century with renewed vigour and confidence.

[1911] Mr. President, I shall conclude my brief remarks by invoking what is perhaps a symbol of what I have said. In 1789, when France was threatened with bankruptcy, patriotic gifts began to flow into the treasury from all sides. The College des Irlandais in Paris offered their plate and church ornaments to the French nation, and Lally Tollendal, whose father emigrated from Galway in 1691, was the bearer of the gifts of his countrymen.

Irish students remained in the College right through the Revolution and many offered to fight in the Revolutionary armies. I hope you appreciate, Mr. President, how appropriate it is that future generations of Irish students who turn to France will be able to find their home in the College des Irelandais, in the heart of Paris, beside the Pantheon, La Mémoire de la France.

Monsieur le Président, toujours reconnaissant de la grande contribution de la France, dans la cause et la célébration de la liberté, j'ai l'honneur de vous inviter a adresser cette session mixte du Parlement de l'Irlande.