12 November 2017
By Mary Bermingham
Today the annual Seán Moylan Commeration took place in Kiskeam, Co Cork. The small village is located in North Co Cork, just minutes from Ballydesmond, which is near to the Co Kerry border.
This years keynote speaker was the well-known GAA player Seán Óg Ó hAilpin.
Speech by Seán Óg Ó hAilpin at the Seán Moylan Commemoration, Kiskeam, Co. Cork
Clann Ui Mhaoláin, Munitir Cois Ceime, aionna speisialta agus agus dhaoine uaisle, tá an onoir tugtha domsa i mbliana oráid a thabhairt cois uaighe Seán Ui Mhaoláin. Gabhaim buiochas leis an Coiste Comoradh as ucht an chuireadh chun labhairt. Tá eachtai speisialta bainte amach agam i mo shaol ach ni doigh liom go dtiocfaidh se an-chongarach don lá inniu. Aris is pribhleid faoi leith domsa a bheith anseo agus ni dheanfaidh me dearmad air.
To the members of the Moylan family, many distinguished guests in our presence and to the people of Kiskeam & North Cork, words can’t describe how honoured I am to be here today a bheith mar aoi-chainteoir ag an comoradh Seán Ui Mhaoláin. We celebrate the 60th anniversary of Seán Moylan’s passing away this year and it is a testament to the great man himself and to the people who gather at this event year after year. Go mairfidh an ocáid seo go deo.
Today is a nostalgic day for many people. It certainly is for me. I first came across the name of Sean Moylan in the mid 80’s when growing up in Sydney, Australia. Before Cork became my home since 1988 I lived in Sydney for 11 years. I enjoyed my childhood years in Australia living the Aussie dream. I was as Aussie as you got. I couldn’t of had a more contrasting background. As Micheál Ó Muicheartaigh summed it up in his own unforgettable way, ‘his father from Fermanagh and his mother from Fiji, neither a hurling stronghold’. My father is a very proud Irishman. He would often reminisce about Ireland in Sydney but I found it hard to believe him. I never saw any resemblance of Ireland in the Western Suburbs of Sydney and at that stage Ireland to me might as well been in a different galaxy. However there were 2 events that suggested maybe such a place existed. From the age of 4 myself and my brother Teu would recall being woken up in the early hours because of the time difference on the 1st Sunday of every September to listen to the All Ireland Hurling Final. The same ritual would happen 2 weeks after that for the All Ireland Football Final. We hadn’t a clue what was going on but were always intrigued by dad’s enthusiasm listening to a half broken radio. The other event was on the 17th of March every year where we would be dressed up in the green, white & orange and head into Sydney City Centre for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Dad after a few drinks would sing songs on the way home on the train. It is here that I started to hear about ‘Just give me your hand Tabhair dom do lámh’, ‘O grá machreee I long to see The Boys of the Old Brigade’, ‘there’s a uniform that’s hanging in what’s known as father’s room’ and ‘I joined the Flying Column in 1916 In Cork with Sean Moylan in Tipperary with Dan Breen’. This soon became an annual ritual for us on the way home from every St. Patrick’s Day where we would try and sing along with dad.
35 bliain ar aghaidh, le ceann crionna ar cholainn fásta anois agus le cabhair o thaigdhe thar na cupla seachtaini anuas, tá me an-bhroduil go raibh an Mhaolánach mar chuid de mo shaol faoi aois ce nach raibh eolas ar bith agam air. Cerbh e an fear seo. He served the new state with distinction and dedication o Cogadh Na Saoirse go dti go bhfuair se bás in 1957. He was a true patriot who put the welfare and the common good of all first. From the beginning he believed completely in Pádraig Pearse’s belief that ‘Ireland unfree should never be at peace’ and believed that freedom and independence could only be achieved by armed struggle. Bhi se og nuair a bhi se mar chaptaen den Newmarket Company agus cupla bliain ina dhiaidh san mar OC den Cork No. 2 Brigade i 1921. He was extremely active in securing arms and ammunition from the RIC & British Army despite considerable odds against them knowing that capture would result in a long prison sentence and at worst execution by the British Forces. This is a brief background of his early involvement in the fight for freedom resulting in the Treaty of 1921. He opposed the Treaty and was elected Sinn Fein T.D. in May 1921. Bhi se tofa aris mar T.D. i 1922. Bhris an Chogadh Cathartha i 1923. Bhi se gniomhach aris i 1926 nuair a bhi se mar bhall den phairti nua Fianna Fáil a bunaiodh ag an am. Bhuaigh se a chead suiocháin le Fianna Fáil i 1932. Is feidir le rá on bpointe seo go raibh meon aigne difriuil aige. In áit forsai mileata a usáid, dhirigh se go huile is go hiomlán ar pholaitiocht agus chonaic se e mar bhealach don tir siocháin a bhaint amach.
Seán’s courageous feats and heroics on the battlefield during the War of Independence is stuff of legends. Teann an seanfhocal ‘is deacair sean-nos a bhriseadh’ meaning ‘old habits die hard’ and it is this part of his story that is equally impressive transitioning himself from a war time leader to a political leader. In hurling terms it is rare that a player can master both sides of the ground as a back and a forward. Having fought in the trenches for years he was convinced that democratic politics offered a way forward and threw himself wholeheartedly into political activity.
He was certainly a man ahead of his time. Even though he was given only limited education, in those early years he realised the importance and indeed the necessity of a good and full education. This was key in preparing the people for the demands of promoting and conducting local and national business for the common good. He recognised that the future, prosperity and progress rested with people who could govern and have a vision of the future. We as Irish people today are indebted to Moylan and others who put the sake of the people first and foremost. The common goal was the inclusion of many and not a country or State that was just for the few or privileged. On that note táimid an-bhuioch do.
He also had a major interest in the language and sport, particularly the promotion of Gaelic Games at club and county level. He was a formidable Gaelic Footballer and could swing a hurley with good effect it is reported. He was a big advocate of the Latin phrase ‘mens sana in corpora sano’ meaning ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’ and encouraged the youth to participate in sport.
Tá an Stáit beagnach 100 bliana d’aois. Dá mba rud e go raibh se beo sa lá atá inniu ann cad a cheapfadh an Maolánach. Silim go mbeadh se an-bhroduil as eachtai atá bainte amach ag an tir on am a bhfuair se bás. In 1973 the country joined the EEC now known as the EU. We continue to produce literature, art & music talent. Education, an area close to his heart and where he served as a Minister with distinction, he would take heart from the universities & IT’s the country now boasts. This would have been a continuation of the great work he did in establishing post primary schools in the 50’s as Minister. Foreign Direct Investment because of a skilled & educated workforce we continue to produce. Another one of his ministerial posts was Agriculture. He would be extremely proud of the strong agriculture image we have with leading food & drink brands exported around the world. He was a great believer in community enterprise & innovation and again we have shown ourselves to be most resourceful in this regard with the Tidy Towns Competition, Young Scientist of the Year Award, the promotion and development of Tourism. I firmly believe that Gaelic Games is the heart beat of this nation. It unites communities like no other organisation in this country. Where else would you get people from the Glens of Antrims, to the boglands of the midlands, to the lush plains of the Golden Vale in Munster that share a same passion and speak a same language. It is in essence who we are as Irish people and it is the still the same movement now as it was a century ago when Seán joined the GAA in 1904. Táim cinnte go mbeadh se thar a bheith rimeadach.
From that of course there are challenges he would see today. The declining trend of Rural Ireland before our very own eyes and in particular the closing down of badly needed local services. I’m sure he would of relished tackling that head on. The worrying trend of drug and alcohol misuse amongst the youth today. There are elements of today’s society that has gone soft and it is more about taking than giving rather than the other way around. Deireann siad ‘In am an gháthair a bhraitear an chabhair’ which means ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’. Tá ceannaireacht ag teastáil nios mo anois ná riamh. Leirigh se ceannasaiocht den chead scoth i rith a shaol polaitiuil o na 30’i go dti na 50’i. Dá mbeadh an Mhaolánach timpeall sa lá atá inniu ann samhalfása go mbeadh na fadhbanna atá luaitear reitithe faoina cheannasai.
Deirtear ‘when we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves’. Nach bhfuil se seo fior. Tá saol an Mhaolánach ionsparádach. I am truly inspired by his life story. The story of devotion to the country he loved. Having the vision and foresight at a time when the nation was in its infancy that through the means of education and sport we as a country would propel forward. Seán Moylan in ways was the trailblazer, a leader who paved the way for us today. With my playing days long behind me I feel a great sense of duty to lead and mentor the young generation, the same way I was lead by the remarkable teachers and coaches I had growing up. I now help out numerous teams at various levels. Yes it can be challenging and yes to it can be hard but I realise that it is not about me and it is about them. To witness the up & coming generation experience the same enjoyment that I got out of playing sport, cuireann se gliondar i mo chroi. It is in this very moment I appreciate the values & ideals that Seán Moylan encouraged and only hope that the best leaders are always waiting in the future. Lastly I finish off where it all started for me all those years ago in Sydney. The primary school I attended at the time had a motto and I can’t think of a more fitting way to describe the life and times of a true champion that was Seán Moylan. The motto simply reads ‘Deeds not Words’.