Saturday, February 6, 2016

And the election is ON!

The starting pistol has been fired; the referee has blown his whistle; the starting gates have been thrown open; and we are off the blocks. And at the end of all those sporting metaphors I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that we are now in the midst of the general election.

There has been a sort of phoney election campaign going on for months. All of the parties have been writing their manifestos and polishing off their policy documents. In the last three weeks anyone who follows me on twitter will know that I have been travelling across the south for the campaign launches of Sinn Féin candidates.

From Meath to Wicklow and Wexford, to Dublin, Cork and Galway. In Louth Imelda Munster and I had a great campaign launch. We are hoping to take two of the five seats. It’s a big ask but doable.

The mood among activists is expectant and positive. There is a widely held view that the party will do better this time than we did in 2011 when we won fourteen seats in the Dáil and three subsequently in the Seanad.

But we can take nothing for granted. This is senior hurling. Not a vote has been cast. So the next three weeks will be a frenetic round of public meetings, canvassing and media interviews. The leadership debates will undoubtedly attract a lot of interest. It’s not clear yet who will participate in what. The RTE debates could involve up to seven party leaders. That’s a lot. I don’t envy those who will have the task of ensuring impartiality and balance and equal time for so many.

It will come as no surprise that the establishment parties of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour seek a continuation of ‘business as usual’. That means continued political cronyism and policies that entrench inequality and unfairness.

The current Fine Gael/Labour coalition like its Fianna Fail predecessor, has presided over an unprecedented housing and homeless crisis, chaos in our hospitals, increased taxes on struggling families and workers, regressive budgets, the dismantling of vital public services and the abandonment of rural communities.

Fine Gael is clearly advocating a return to reckless 'boom and bust' policies which previously caused the collapse of the economy. The result will be a further erosion of public services and increased hardship for ordinary, working people.

The so-called ‘recovery’ they boast off and wish to sustain is a recovery only for those who have already benefited – high earners, bankers and property developers.

Fine Gael and Labour have continued to protect the Golden Circle. Just like Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party have continued political appointments to state boards and refused to act on high salaries for politicians, in banking and on state bodies.

Meanwhile they have ignored the demands of hundreds of thousands of citizens who have taken to the streets again and again to demand the scrapping of domestic Water Charges.

The outgoing government has also refused to engage with the British government in the consistent strategic way that is required to ensure the full implementation of the Good Friday and other agreements.

One message that Sinn Féin canvassers will bring to the doorsteps is that a vote for Labour in this election is a vote for a Fine Gael-led Government. The Labour Party claim they are in Government to put the brakes on Fine Gael's right-wing impulse. We’ve heard it all before and all the evidence demonstrates the opposite.

Labour Ministers have been the most enthusiastic proponents of vicious cuts to the welfare of ordinary families. As a senior Cabinet member, Joan Burton oversaw the implementation of water charges, the Property Tax, cuts to child benefit, removal of medical cards, cuts to health and welfare, and a succession of stealth taxes.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil cannot provide a credible opposition to the present Government which is merely implementing a policy plan laid out for it five years ago by Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil Leader Mícheál Martin sat around the cabinet table for 14 years, developing the very policies now being implemented by Fine Gael and Labour. Domestic water charges, were Fianna Fáil’s brainchild.

Micheál Martin has ruled out going into coalition with Fine Gael or Sinn Féin. He has effectively ruled Fianna Fáil out of Government. As a consequence Martin has made Fianna Fáil irrelevant to the election campaign.

So, this election boils down to a choice between two different visions for Irish society - between a Fine Gael-led Government which will continue unfairness and inequality or a Sinn Féin-led Government committed to a recovery for all citizens - in other words, a genuine republic.

Had anyone at any time in the last 40 years suggested that politics in this state would see Sinn Féin as the government in waiting they would run the risk of being told they were mad. Whatever the outcome this time one thing is certain – it’s no longer a matter of if Sinn Féin will be in government in Dublin – it’s a matter of when.

In just less than three very short weeks citizens will have the opportunity to elect a progressive, republican Government which will pursue a fair recovery, end the chaos in health and housing and stand up for ordinary citizens. In this Centenary year of the 1916 Rising isn’t that worth working hard to achieve?


Thursday, January 28, 2016

My Little Book of Tweets

I feel an adventure coming on

The internet and social media have revolutionised how we communicate. Not just politically but personally too. I have friends who spend hours on their Facebook accounts keeping in touch with family and friends – some of whom they may not have seen in years. Or who may just be in another room.  Skype and Facetime too are now a common part of our language.

Five years ago they weren’t as popular as they are now. Some probably didn’t exist. For my part, apart from emails and my blog my engagement with social media was limited.

All of that began to change when I agreed to stand for Louth and East Meath. That was just before Christmas in December 2010. It was a big step made easier by the warm welcome I received.

When shortly afterwards I was elected as a TD, Shaun Tracey from our Leinster House press office  opened a twitter account in my name. It sat there for two years unused. In February 2013 Shaun and RG decided it was time I really joined the social media world. I vaguely remember a long conversation about how Twitter works and what it would entail. I had no objections to the proposal but I had one condition. That my twitter account should be MY twitter account. I was only half serious but they agreed.

The Twitter account was activated, new passwords inserted and it was over to me to decide when and where and how it would commence.

A few days later I was in Louth doing some constituency work. I had to travel back to Dublin for an Ard Chomhairle meeting the next day. RG was heading back to Belfast. He dropped me out to where we stayed and drove off. The problem was he had the keys to  our lodging. That was the origin of the first tweet. “RG took the car, took my keys also. I feel an adventure coming on."

The response to my tweets was very interesting. Journalists rang the press office and asked if it was really me. It was they were told by Shaun.  I soon discovered when the Sunday Indo spends 17 pages having a good go at me and Sinn Fein  a tweet on a totally unrelated and humorous issue was a good way of showing that I didn’t really care about the rubbish they print.

Irony is a great ally in any argument.  And not taking yourself too seriously. So is contrariness.  Tweeting allows me to give vent to that. It doesn’t all need to be about the politics. It can be about people or the little people in my life or the dogs I have known or the trauma of visits to the barbers or ducks.

Some journos, who don’t know me or have never met me, thought it was some clever ploy by the Sinn Féin thought police to soften my image! I once watched part of a serious BBC political programme where a couple of academics – who I have never met - discussed the hidden meaning of my musings and the cleverness of Sinn Féin in using twitter. RTE and others were not to be left out.

And these folks said my tweets are bizarre! Their preoccupation with my tweets was what was really bizarre.

If truth be told I like the independence of tweeting. I like its immediacy. I can tweet a photo or a comment and within seconds there are responses and retweets. I like the fact that no one is looking over my shoulder. No editor is scrutinising the words.

I also like the fact that in a very real way the social media allows everyone to reach an audience beyond the bias of elements of the media. There is no interpreter; no person in the middle putting his or her spin on what I or other Sinn Féin activists are saying or writing.

Today I checked my twitter. I was curious about its reach. Currently I have ninety eight thousand followers and in the last 24 hours there have been 193,713 impressions connected to my account. That’s a bigger circulation than the Indo.

Perhaps that’s one reason why some opponents in the media and in politics get so obsessed with Twitter. We have moved beyond them.

I  thought of including in this blog some examples of the things that I tweet about. The birds and the bees. RG.  Hurling and football. Life and music and books and poetry and food. Tom and Ted. They strutted their stuff years before the Marriage Equality Referendum.  All the fun and humour that is a natural part of the human condition.

 But I don’t have the space. So I have put together My Little Book Of Tweets. It has been published by Mercier Press.

My first Tweet took life almost exactly three years ago. It’s been an experience. It’s been an adventure. And a bit of craic.

I will be launching ‘My  Little Book Of Tweets’ in Dublin in Easons, Stephens Green at 5pm on Friday. If you have the time join me there. Or in the Kennedy Centre in Belfast on Saturday at 1pm.

Chífidh mé thú ansin.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Election promises last only as long as the campaign


Sinn Féin will be fighting two major elections on the island this year. An assembly election in the north, and a general election in the south.


Elections are funny things. Not funny ha ha. But funny peculiar and in some ways predictable. Of course, the outcome isn’t always predictable – that’s in the gift of the electorate - but the language and actions of some of the participants can be.


Enda Kenny is still holding off on setting a date for the general election. The reasons are many. It is thought by some he is waiting until after the party conferences are concluded. The Fine Gael party conference is this weekend. The Labour Party conference is the week after.


The last few months have been full of government announcements proclaiming to all and sundry what a great job the coalition parties are doing. And there have been the usual glut of election promises. Last week the Taoiseach and some of his ministers did a presser at which they claimed to have delivered on 93 per cent of their election promises from the last time. The reality of course has been much different.


The government’s electoral spin juxtaposes the stability they claim is offered by Fine Gael and Labour to the chaos of a government made up of anyone else. One Labour Minister, Brendan Howlin went so far as to arrogantly suggest that all of the other parties could save ourselves the effort of even bothering to produce a manifesto.


But for many citizens the reality is very different from that experienced by government Ministers and their spin doctors.


Where is the stability in the 29 emergency departments across the southern state where every day hundreds of patients, many of them elderly, lie on hospital trolleys? Or the half a million citizens who have been forced to emigrate in search of work? Or the hundreds of families impacted by the recent floods and the government’s cutbacks to flood defenses?


Where is the stability for homeless families and the tens of thousands on growing housing waiting lists? There are now 5100 citizens in homeless accommodation, including 1638 children. Since last January homelessness has risen by 93%.


Predictably Fine Gael and Labour are already engaging in the worst kind of auction politics and negative campaigning. Last week Labour promised to reduce childcare costs to two euro an hour if they are returned to government. No costings just a promise.


In 2011 Labour produced its now infamous Tesco ad. It outlined a series of measures the Labour Party claimed Fine Gael planned to bring in if they won the election. The message was simple. If you want to stop child benefit from being cut – vote Labour. If you want to stop water charges – vote Labour.


Labour then went into coalition with Fine Gael and introduced every measure they had promised to oppose.


As Mary Lou reminded the Labour leader last week in the Dáil: “In your 2011 election manifesto your party promised ‘to develop a comprehensive national pre-school service’. Tánaiste you broke that promise. Just like you broke your promise to protect child benefit, just like you broke your promise not to cut one-parent family payment until you introduced a Scandinavian style childcare system.’”


Two weeks ago it was revealed that as part of its negative campaigning Labour planned to produce an add showing the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and mise as a gay couple getting married outside the Dáil. The slogan to accompany the ad was: “This is one marriage we should vote NO to this year.”


The ad was slated on social media, and Labour, which had supported the marriage equality vote last year, squirmed as it was heavily criticised.


Fine Gael and Labour believe that election promises only last as long as the campaign.


And Fianna Fáil is no better. Elements of that party were responsible for systemic corruption and economic chaos. In government Fianna Fáil was responsible for the worst banking collapse in Irish history, which almost bankrupted the 26 counties, set new record levels of unemployment and emigration, and drove hundreds of thousands of households in negative equity.


As it tries to reinvent its image Fianna Fáil has directed part of its negative campaigning at Sinn Féin. Like Thatcher in her day Micheál Martin has resorted to the language of criminalization accusing the party of being like a ‘mafia’ and of failing to expose criminals.


The reality is that Martin’s increasingly strident rants against Sinn Féin, and his vindictive revisionism of recent history does not serve the cause of Irish republicanism or indeed the stated objectives of Fianna Fáil. His attacks on those of us who supported the IRA during the conflict is an attack also on more principled elements within Fianna Fáil who sheltered IRA Volunteers, republican escapees and others at that time.


When Micheál Martin attacks Sinn Féin he is attacking that generation, which is not unique to Fianna Fáil and includes some Fine Gael supporters, who kept faith with the people of the north.


From the 1950s border campaign, to the civil rights in the 1960s, to providing safe houses for IRA volunteers and supporting the hunger strikers, many good and decent Fianna Fáil people supported the demand for freedom and were also among the strongest supporters of the peace process. There is undoubtedly concern among many Fianna Fáil people at Micheál Martin’s anti-Sinn Féin crusade. In this centenary year he sounds a lot like Thatcher or former Fine Gael leader John Bruton who believes the Rising was wrong.


So the phoney election war is almost over. Sinn Féin has 50 candidates standing in 40 constituencies and all of the election launches I have spoken at – in Bray, Dublin, Kells, Cork and Wexford have been excellent. The activists are highly motivated and ready to seize the opportunities of 2016.



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dundalk Traveller families evicted by Louth Council

Last Friday, and with only 48 hours notice, Louth County Council began a process to evict 23 Traveller families from a halting site at Woodland Park in Dundalk.
Those evicted included at least 22 children, some of them babies only days old, and two pregnant women. This was a shameful action.
A large force of An Garda Síochána were present, including members of the Armed Response Unit. I have no complaints about the Garda although I do believe the numbers involved were excessive and that the response was inappropriate.
The distress and trauma for the families as a result of this decision by the Executive of Louth County Council and especially for the children was unreasonable and unnecessary. It was also the coldest weekend of the winter.
The decision to evict was taken without consultation with councillors.
I raised this issue with Louth Chief Executive in November and visited the Woodland Park site in December. During Christmas week I made representations about conditions on the site to the Council and other agencies. There was no mains electricity, no mains water, no sewerage or other necessary services.

The basis on which Louth County Council said that it was carrying out these evictions was a fire safety inspection.
However Louth County Council, like all other councils, was given the Programme to Review Fire Safety in Traveller Accommodation report that was prepared early last December.

This report which was produced by the Department of the Environment and the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management, was initiated after the tragic fire at a halting site on the Glenamuck Road in Carrickmines in which ten people, five of them children, from the same extended family were killed. According to a note at the beginning of the report the document was distributed to all local authority CEOs on December 3rd 2015.

The project’s objective was to ensure that practical and appropriate fire safety measures were introduced.
The report acknowledged that there was, and I quote, “a fear that fire safety may be used as a basis for seeking changes in accommodation arrangements.”

It makes it clear that “nothing in this fire safety review process is intended to be used to address the broader Traveller accommodation issues in a negative way.”
In other words it was not a green light to evict Travellers from halting sites which do not meet fire safety standards. It is about providing health and safety measures.

The last five families on the Woodland Park site are being evicted today and tomorrow.
Some have had to sell their mobile homes for small amounts of money because of the Council’s eviction process.This has added to the trauma of some of the families.

Yesterday the families were also told that the Council would provide an auctioneer to assist their alternative accommodation in residential housing. Today when they met him they were told there was no availability.
Some of the women, including at least one pregnant woman have had to sleep in cars for the past three nights. This is outrageous.

There is already a homeless crisis in Louth. Five thousand people are on the housing waiting list. The Chief Executive’s action adds to this crisis. The Chief Executive also banned one of my constituency representatives and the Traveller’s solicitor from attending a meeting on Tuesday. This was unhelpful.
The common sense and most cost efficient resolution to this issue is to urgently bring the halting site up to health and safety standards.

This would have allowed Traveller families to remain in their home and would be in keeping with their culture and ethnicity.
I understand from the Woodland Park Travellers representatives today that Louth County Council is saying that it will now have to review its Traveller Accommodation Programme and that this will take three months.

Only at the end of that process will the Council consider applying for funding to upgrade Woodland Park.
I fail to understand why the Council are imposing this delay. Their Traveller Accommodation Programme is supposed to run from 2014 to 2018. They are not half way through it yet.

During Topical issues in the Dáil today I raised this issue with Minister Paudie Coffey. In his response the Minister spoke of short term solutions having been discussed and agreed with the Travellers. This is not what I have been told by the representatives of the Traveller families. The Minister also says that he is satisfied that the Council is committed to working with the families and their representatives. I remain to be convinced of this.
Today I understand that some of those evicted from the site have had their social welfare payments stopped because they are no longer resident at the addresses they had given to the Social Welfare department. So families have suffered the indignity and trauma of eviction by the council and the state has now stopped their welfare payments.

The treatment of the Woodland Park families in this centenary year of the Proclamation has been deplorable.
Last year the Minister for Equality Aodhán Ó Riordáin promised that traveller ethnicity would be a reality. He gave a firm commitment that it would happen within months. 

Minister Ó Riordáin rightly acknowledged that this didn’t need legislation, constitutional change or a referendum. 

His commitment came after the Oireachtas Committee on Justice also recommended this step which is supported by the United Nations and the Irish Human Rights Commission.
There are only weeks remaining of this Dáil. Will the government commit to honouring Minister Ó Riordáin pledge or will this be another broken promise?



Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hair today. Gone tomorrow.

Isn’t it funny that women get their hair done. Men get their hair cut. I hate getting my hair cut. But I wouldn’t mind getting my hair done. The problem is that no matter what you tell them most barbers seem afflicted with a desire to cut as much hair as possible.

When you wear glasses as I do you have to remove them for the shearing session. So things are a bit of a blur until the process is concluded and then what can you say? Nothing, except, that’s grand.

I’ve known many barbers. Some of them talk incessantly. About everything. Especially politics. I hate that.

RG hates that also. He confided in me one time that as well as being short sight he’s becoming slightly deaf.

So not only cannot he not see what’s happening to his head he can’t hear what he’s being interrogated about.

Although I don’t think he’ll have to worry about the barbers for too long!

The worst barbers I ever met were in Long Kesh.

I think some of them did it as a joke. Or as a protest against internment.

That’s why my hair and beard were shoulder length.

And then there are other barbers who flit in and out of your life. Cutting your hair almost on a whim. These are usually nieces or other female relations who dress hair for a living or as a hobby. Usually they don’t charge you.

Anyway I am drawn to this subject because of a recent experience and because I don’t want to write about politics at the beginning of the year.

I had managed to avoid getting my hair cut for a long time – well longer than usual – when I was pulled in by the Sinn Féin style police.

Your hair and beard are too long they told me. Get them cut I was instructed.

Getting a hair cut in Dublin can be a bit of a challenge.

“I wouldn’t mind going to a Turkish barber,” I said to RG as we sat gridlocked along the Quays in early morning traffic.

“There’s one at the corner of Holles Street,” he said.

So we meandered our way in that direction.

I told RG about the Tyrone woman’s husband going to a Turkish barbers because for every three haircuts you got the fourth one was free.

We both agreed that that seemed like a good deal.

But when we reach Holles Street the Turkish barber’s was closed.

Getting parked was another problem.

It wasn’t long passed nine o clock.

“I’ll drop you off” said RG. “It should be opening soon.”

“Where will you go?” I asked?

“I’ll drive round” he replied. “See you back here in half an hour”.

So that’s what we did.

I felt a bit conspicuous standing outside the shuttered shop with its posters proclaiming hot towels, shaves and other mysterious procedures.

So, I went for a walk.

A homeless man hunkered down in a doorway greeted me cheerfully.

He was wrapped in sleeping bags.

“Do you know when the Turkish barbers opens?” I asked him.

“No” he replied. “I haven’t been to the barbers in years.”

We talked for a few moments about the recession, the Taoiseach and the peace process before I wandered back.

Still no sign of the Turkish barber opening.

I loitered for another while until RG pulled into the kerb.

“Maybe it’s closed” he suggested.

“Of course it’s closed” I said. More sharply than I intended.

“No I mean closed – closed” he said.

“Check it out in that supermarket” he instructed me.

“I’ll do another circuit” he said driving off with great patience.

The supermarket wasn’t really a supermarket. It was a corner shop.

The young woman behind the counter looked as if she was Polish. She was tall and angular and she had a nice smile.

“Do you know when the Turkish barbers opens?” I asked her.

“It’s closed” she said.

I thought I noticed her eyes misting over slightly.

“Abdullah has left. He said he couldn’t get enough customers” she said.

I imagined Abdullah being drawn from his empty barber shop to the young Polish woman with the nice smile. I imagined him confiding in her about difficult things were. They were both exiles. I presumed Abdullah was young.  She obviously missed him now.

“Where did he go?” I asked.

“Why do you ask?” she replied, as her smile faded.

“Oh just wondering I stammered. Thank you.”

“Have a nice day” she concluded, smiling once again.

Afterwards as we made our way to Leinster House I told RG about the beautiful Polish shop assistant and her Turkish lover.

“A real delight” he said. His patience finally evaporating.

Later that day I surrendered to a barber’s chair. I noticed how white my shorn locks were against the darkness of the cape that I was draped in. Not just white – Persil white. And that was only the beard.

“Could you cut that bit here?” I asked.

“It always grows in a big clump.”

“Someday you’ll be glad to have a big clump to complain about”, my tormentor gruffly responded.

There was no answer to that.  

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016 a year for National Renewal

Next Thursday – January 7th 2016 – Sinn Féin will begin our commemorative year of events to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising. The first of these will take place in the Mansion House where the first democratically elected Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann, met and pledged it’s allegiance to the Republic proclaimed in Easter 1916.

The Mansion House event will be a celebration of the lives and dedication and struggle of the men and women of 1916 and of subsequent generations. It will encompass music and theatre and speeches and will set the context for that historic period and its implications for today.

We are on the eve of a momentous year. This time a hundred years ago, republican men and women in all parts of this island and beyond were planning the overthrow of the British Empire in Ireland. It was a huge undertaking. The British Empire was at the height of its political and economic power. It was the biggest empire the world had ever seen. It’s colonies stretched across every inhabited continent and held hundreds of millions of people in subjection. They were the object of exploitation and repression.

Ireland was Britain’s first colony. But despite hundreds of years of occupation, of brutality and famine there remained a deeply held desire for freedom. This yearning was given shape by the republican philosophy of the late 18th century and the rebellion of 1798. At its core was and is a belief that all people are sovereign and equal. That people are citizens, not subjects. And that people have certain rights for living, including the right to food, to water, to a home and work and to health and education, and a decent environment.

Society must reflect the entirety of its people, not part of them. Why should gender or race or class or skin colour or creed give one group of human beings the ability to deny others of their full rights as citizens.

The men and women who participated in the 1916 Rising envisaged a Republic, where people had fundamental rights, not arbitrary privileges; where there was equality, not elitism; where there was unity, not partition and division. These beliefs were given expression in the Proclamation. That historic document is a clear statement of intent for an all-Ireland republic built on foundations of civil and religious liberty, social justice and equality for all citizens. It remains the guiding template for modern republicanism.

In April 1916
the Rising and the Proclamation of the Republic at the GPO rocked British imperialism to its core. It inspired liberation movements across the globe and over subsequent decades it successfully rolled back colonialism leading to the freedom of many nations and hundreds of millions of people.

Regrettably there was a counter revolution which succeeded in partitioning the island and witnessed the creation of two conservative states. The freedom won by those who gave their lives in 1916 and in other periods has been squandered by those who attained political power on their backs. Consequently, we still don’t have that Republic; we still lack equality, fundamental rights, unity and sovereignty.

But as Padraic Pearse said to those who sentenced him to death at his court martial on the eve of his execution; “You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom. If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom, then our children will win it by a better deed.”

The Centenary year is a unique opportunity for a step change in the struggle to achieve Irish freedom and positively transform Irish politics and society.
2016 is also an election year North and South and Sinn Féin will stand candidates on a progressive republican and anti-austerity platform across this island.

In the South, citizens will have an important opportunity to get rid of this bad Fine Gael/Labour Government whose tenure has been marked by destructive austerity policies which have deepened social inequality.

Sinn Féin is committed to delivering a fair recovery by working towards a progressive, republican government.

In the North we will continue to stand up for working families, vulnerable citizens and the development of the economy and public services.

The recent Fresh Start Agreement allows the political process and institutions to proceed on a new and stable basis.

Sinn Féin is committed to resolving the issues of the past, supporting victims of the conflict and promoting reconciliation and healing.

We will continue to campaign for the return of more political powers and economic levers from London to the island of Ireland.

But the greatest safeguard against Tory misrule in the north and the austerity politics of the conservative parties in the south is the peaceful ending of partition and the building of an agreed, united Ireland a real republic.

In this important year, working together, the people of Ireland can make important steps towards a genuine republic and a citizen-centred, rights based society.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

REVOLUTION 1916: Molly O'Reilly and the Rising

We are on the eve of a momentous year. This time a hundred years ago republican men and women were planning the overthrow of the British Empire in Ireland.

REVOLUTION 1916: Molly O Reilly and the Rising

For those of you who have never heard her name Molly O’Reilly was a young teenage girl who marched with the Citizen Army to the GPO on Easter Monday April 24th 1916. Molly was born around 1900 in Gardner Street in Dublin. At the age of 11 she joined Clann na nGaedheal the republican girl scouts movement. Two years later she was so appalled by the living conditions in the Dublin tenements that she volunteered to support the workers and their families during the Lock-out. At the age of 13 Molly helped organise a soup kitchen in Liberty Hall.

And it was there one week before the Easter Rising she raised the Irish flag (the gold harp on green) for James Connolly.

Molly was hugely influenced by Connolly and was an active member of the Citizen Army. In July 1914, after hundreds of rifles were landed by the Asgard at Howth, she brought dozens of the rifles to her home in Gardner Street where they stayed until they could be distributed throughout Dublin.

During Easter week and in the midst of heavy rifle and machine gun fire and the artillery shelling of Dublin City centre she fearlessly carried dispatches for the leaders out of and into the GPO.

Later during the Tan War she was a member of the Cumann na mBan and as a worker in the United Services Club in St. Stephens Green – a club for British soldiers – she gathered intelligence for Michael Collins.

Molly opposed the Treaty. During the Civil War she was held in prison by the Treaty side and went on hunger strike. As a result she and 50 other women were released in November 1923. Molly remained a stalwart of the republican struggle until her death in October 1950.

Molly O’Reilly was an exceptional woman; a courageous woman; a strong woman.

I give you this short account of her exceptional life experience because the Sinn Féin exhibition to celebrate the Easter Rising – REVOLUTION 1916 – which will open on Saturday February 27th 2016 - is largely centred around Molly’s story. The visitor will experience the Rising through Molly’s eyes.

The exhibition promises to be one of the highlights of the centenary celebrations. It will be held in the historic Ambassador Theatre on O Connell Street. It is part of the Rotunda complex which saw the founding of Sinn Féin in 1905 and the Irish Volunteers in 1913. Over seven thousand joined the Volunteers at that inaugural meeting and on the same night a special section set aside for women was also full.

The organisers of the exhibition are going to extraordinary lengths to make REVOLUTION 1916 an event not to be missed or forgotten.

It will host the Irish Volunteers Commemorative Organisation (I.V.C.O.) collection of artefacts covering 1916 and afterwards. It will also include an original 1916 Proclamation - one of only 50 known to exist. This week another of the original Proclamations sold in London for £300,000.

The exhibition will also have on display three Single Shot Mausers which were part of the consignment of 900 brought in as part of the Howth gunrunning episode. These were used during the Rising. One of the single shot Mausers is a "Black" one - a one off rifle - that was said to have been given to the veteran Fenian and 1916 signatory Tom Clarke. It was only recently identified and the brass trigger guard has 20 notches carved on it. It also has a British sappers serrated bayonet attached. Only 12 of these Mausers are known to still exist.

Other artefacts include Luger and C96 Mauser machine pistols, original uniforms of Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan and na Fianna Éireann.

There will be over 500 artefacts on display, many of which have never been seen before. Also included are other items from after 1916 including Michael Collin's revolver, the first I.R.A. Thompson machine guns brought to Ireland, and the Tricolour that flew over the G.P.O. in 1966 on the 50th anniversary of the Rising.

A significant part of the exhibition will involve lifting part of the floor of the Ambassador so that visitors can look down into the network of tunnels underneath. These were used by Michael Collins’s, ‘The Squad’ to carry out attacks on the British military. It is also believed by some that the leaders who abandoned the GPO as it burned on the evening of 28 April 1916 were trying to make their way to these tunnels.

Also on display are a wide range of artistic pieces from framed portraits to stylised garrisons, large charcoal prints to life size sculptures. Artist Robert Ballagh has created a set of iconic images of the 1981 Hunger Strikers which will be on exhibition for the first time to mark the 35th anniversary in 2016. And master mural artist Danny Devenny is completing two 1916 murals in the lobby of the Ambassador.

Each day at midday a uniformed P.H.Pearse will read aloud the Proclamation outside the Ambassador.

The exhibition is scheduled to run for at least 33 weeks.

International Women’s Day on March 6th will see the ‘Women of the Revolution’ honoured by an event at the GPO.

Other events will include a parade of the Irish Citizen Army that will take place from Liberty Hall to St. Stephen’s Green on March 26th.

Dawn Vigils will be held outside Kilmainham Gaol on the dates the leaders were executed and in Cork on 9th May and Pentonville on August 3rd 2016.

And on Sunday April 24th 2016 the Citizens’ Initiative will be holding a national march and rally to ‘Reclaim the Vision of 2016’.

So, a lot of hard work and planning is going into REVOLUTION 1916. Whatever else you are thinking of doing next year as your contribution to the centenary celebrations take the time to come to Dublin for a once in a life time opportunity to see a unique exhibition of artefacts of that period. See you there.