With the printing of our little book we mark one more step forward on the road we have mapped out for ourselves. We are giving to the world a record of a few of our ideas, a few of our schemes; above all we are striving to help and guide the army of young people who are daily taking the Declaration of Na Fianna Éireann and banding themselves together in a glorious brotherhood of youth and hope to win Independence and Freedom for their country. As President of the Fianna I am glad of this opportunity to pay tribute to those boys who have built up the Fianna with their brains and their self-sacrifice, their courage and their energy. I know what it has cost them, how hard the work has often been and how many discouraging failures have been faced, and how our success has grown up out of the ashes of dead hopes and buried illusions. But one hope and one dream we have always kept. The vision of Ireland free, and the hope that by our work we may bring the day of Freedom nearer.
This year has felt the spirit of Cathleen ni Houlahan moving once more through the land. This year we have heard again her imperious demand, her call to those who would serve her, to give her all, to give her themselves. We have seen the rallying to her service of the men and women of the country. We have heard the tramp of companies and squadrons, the martial music, the rattle of arms. The young people, too, have heard the call. Their sharp young ears had caught a whisper on the wind when they formed ‘Na Fianna Éireann’ five years ago. Many of the older generation shook their heads and doubted, and we heard the wise telling us on every side that the days of fighting for Ireland were gone for ever. But to-day we know that our inspiration was right, and when battalion after battalion is drilling and arming we may be glad and proud of the fact that this honour will always remain to the Fianna. That our Northern Regiment was the first regiment wearing Ireland’s uniform to climb Cave Hill and stand on Mac Art’s Fort, where Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen stood, and promise as he promised to work for the Independence of Ireland.
It will take the best and noblest of Ireland’s children to win Freedom, for the price of Freedom is suffering and pain. It is only when the suffering is deep enough and the pain almost beyond bearing that Freedom is won. Through the long black record of England’s tyranny and oppression, empire building and robbery, many names stand out of noble souls whose lives were given in a passionate protest against their country’s wrongs. France won free, but many suffered and died nobly before the conquering sacrifice of Joan of Arc turned the tide against the oppressor and the English were swept by a flood of national love and indignation out and across the sea.
Since that day America has gained her independence, and the subject races have watched and struggled and hoped.
Our older people remember the day when the three martyrs for Irish Liberty died at Manchester, and any one who can read this should remember and never forget how Madar Lal Dingra was proud to die for his country; and, later still, how Savarkar was sent in exile to wear his heart out dreaming of India and her wrongs on one of the Andaman Islands; and many nameless heroes lie on the South African veldt. I would have the young people for whom this book is compiled remember and respect those who throughout the world work and fight, live or die for their country’s freedom.
It is the flaming words from dying patriots’ lips that light the torch of Freedom to guide a nation’s steps. It is their self-sacrifice and suffering that keeps the spirit of a nation free, though the body may be chained.
The spirit of Ireland is free because Ireland’s children have never shirked to pay the price. The path of freedom may lead us to the same road that Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone trod. Treading in their footsteps, we will not fear, working as they worked we will not tire, and if we must die as they died we will not flinch.
It is to the young that a nation must look for help; for life itself—and this is our message to those who are young in Ireland to-day. Ireland wants you, Ireland is calling you. Join Na Fianna Éireann, the young army of Ireland, and help to place the crown of freedom on Her head.