We need to be proud of our Irish identity – Cowen

The time has come to reject the mundane and be proud of our Irish identity, according to Tánaiste Brian Cowen, who was speaking at the official opening of the Hyde Conference in Ballaghaderreen on Friday last.   Minister Cowen began by outlining the various roles held by Douglas Hyde, including scholar, Professor of Modern Irish at UCD, founder of Conradh na Gaeilge.  He noted that the work of Douglas Hyde and Eoghan McNeill helped to ‘reawaken in Irish people at an imperialist age, the importance of one’s Irishness in the context of an all-empowering empire.’ ‘I think that therefore the association of Roscommon with Douglas Hyde is something that the people of Roscommon are particularly proud of,’ said Mr. Cowen, and he lamented the fact that for many, the image of Hyde is associated with a moustachioed octogeneration at his inauguration. He said that Hyde’s position as President represented a nation paying homage to Hyde for a life’s work that had gone before.  ‘DeValera saw in Hyde an embodiment of what the movement was about. It was about people finding a place in a world where they could make a difference, the dignity of the people could be restored.’ The question of who we as a nation are is as important today as it was in the 19th century, said Mr. Cowen. ‘The worst type of revisionists are the people that place Irishness in the past, (who say) that the peasant language is something to be put in an increasingly secularised tabernacle.’ ‘Our culture is an organic thing, taking into account the present,’ continued the Tánaiste. He railled against the ‘tyranny of immediacy’ in the modern age. ‘It is something that we need to throw out. These people like Hyde and others had a sense of perspective of the importance of what we needed to retain in a time of change. In the modern Ireland we have lost that sense of perspective and we need to get it back.’ As Finance Minister he also said that too much focus is put on the available monetary resources. ‘We have a culture, it if had been dependant on monetary support, would never have existed in the first place.’ Concluding, he said that we can reject the tyranny of immediacy and uniformity. ‘We can stand up and say we are different.’ He said that Hyde’s foresight in saving our own language from death merited for him the gratitude of our generation. ‘Without language we would be half a nation.’ ‘Let us not conform to the mundane, collective blandness of present-day life. Let us be Irish and be proud of it.’