Published in Irish Freedom, June 1912.
We, the boys of Na Fianna Éireann, have started out on a great undertaking. We have pledged ourselves to “work for the Independence of Ireland”; to free our people from the foreign yoke; to raise our country from the ashes of captivity, and to crown her before the nations.
WE BELIEVE IN THE BOYS OF IRELAND.
We believe that nothing can withstand the power of faith, sincerity, and self-sacrifice, and we know that it rests with us to build up such an army of noble, sincere, and heroic Irishmen that no tyranny can hold enslaved. We believe, too, that the boys of Ireland to-day are made of as good and as brave stuff as the boys of Ireland in the past, and so we appeal to them confidently to join us.
The younger a boy is when he dedicates his life to his country, the more he will have to give her. There is so much for him to learn, too, that he will find that there is no time to be wasted if he wishes to train himself morally and physically to work for the Independence of Ireland.
OUR FOREIGN EDUCATION.
We, Irish boys, have none of the advantages that boys of other countries have, for we were born and brought up in a country that is enslaved, and where the schools have been a strong weapon in the hands a foreign power for the de-nationalisation of the Irish people.
In free self-governing countries the schools are organised to train the young men and women to be good citizens. They are taught in their own language. Everything is taught them from their own nation’s point of view, and they are trained to fill the posts that their country can provide them with. Their histories are written by their fellow-countrymen, and written from the national point of view, so that as they grow up they learn to know that the nation’s heroes are their heroes, her traditions their traditions, her ideals their ideals, her life their life. Their education may be good, or it may be bad, but one thing they do learn – the good with the bad – the fools with the wise – and that is to live their lives from their own nation’s point of view. Take France for instance; good or bad the inhabitants are French, the language they speak is French. The civilisation and culture by which they are surrounded is French. The very food they eat is distinctly French.
WHAT IS A NATIONALIST?
Everyone is a Nationalist – that is French – looking at the world from a French point of view, living his life as a Frenchman, not as a German or an Englishman, and every Frenchman who deserves the name is ready to die for his country should she need him.
This is just what we do not learn in Ireland. Under English rule English education has forced false ideals into our heads. We were brought up to regard Ireland as a remote and unimportant province of the British Empire. Irish children were taught to believe in the greatness of a foreign country; the nobleness of a foreign nation; the superiority of a foreign civilisation. They were taught to look on their country as a thing they must blush for, to feel ashamed of their own countrymen, to feel themselves the buffoons of Europe, the laughing stock of the world. They were taught to regard as the true Irishman that creation of English wit and brains that reels through her books and plays, the “comic Irishman.” Drunken, quarrelsome and boastful, treacherous, dishonest, cunning and stupid; this is what England tells us that we are, this is the character that she gives to our heroes, and as such does she advertise the Irish nation to the world.
THE REAL HISTORY OF IRELAND.
What Irish boys and girls are never taught in their English-run schools is the real history of Ireland; the real life story of those Irishmen who are famous in an Irish history of Ireland, the heroes and martyrs who one after another have through 700 long years gladly worked, fought, and died that a cause, a great cause, should never be called a lost cause.
England is very crafty and wise. She has realised that if you intend to subjugate a nation, the only policy is to subjugate the minds of her boys and girls, so she used the schools, and to complete her work she also organised pro-English boys’ brigades and boy scouts.
It was to combat the demoralising influence of the English schools and boys’ organisations that “Na Fianna Éireann” was started.
We too have learnt that the destiny of a nation lies in the hearts and hands of her young people. As their hearts cry Liberty or cringe slavery, so will their country be enslaved or free.
Therefore we have set ourselves the task of training ourselves to follow in the footsteps of the great Irishmen in the past, of subjecting ourselves to discipline that we in our turn may be able to command and to discipline others. We have set ourselves the task of building up Na Fianna Éireann to be the training ground of the nation, a centre which shall embrace and unite in brotherhood all the young Irish people of Ireland, irrespective of creed, of class, or of party politics. We believe that there are only two real parties in Ireland, Irish or English, and we are of Ireland’s party. We hold that the only test necessary to know an Irishman by is the same test that has always been applied to citizens all the world over – would you give your life for your country? We teach that there is but one life worth living, an Irish life; one fight worth fighting, Ireland’s fight; and one death worth dying, a hero’s death.
We show that an Irish life is within everyone’s grasp. We give opportunities of joining in the movement to save our language from dying. We show how each can help to build up the agriculture, the trade, and the industries of their country. And most important of all, we put Irish ideals before them, by teaching the true history of their country; why Emmet and Tone were butchered, why the “’48 men” were sent to live lives of slavery in far countries, why Allen, Larkin, and O’Brien were hung in the streets of Manchester – why, in fact, Irishmen of all times have sacrificed their properties, their happiness, their lives – have given all and without a murmur to the National Cause, and have known, too, that it was worthwhile. Irish boys only have to learn this and they, too, will know that it is worthwhile.
We do not believe in moral force unless it goes hand in hand with its sterner sister physical force, so we are training our bodies as well as our minds to the service of our country.
The old Fianna of Ireland, as commanded by the boy hero Fionn Mac Cumaill, is our pattern. We are striving to build up a brotherhood of young Irishmen who, like their forebears, the Fianna of old, are strong of limb, and fleet of foot, chivalrous, keen of intellect, cultured. No Fian ever turned his back on a foe – no Fian ever told a lie. Times have changed and the world has grown modern, but there are no principles higher than the old Fianna principles, no ideals truer than the old Fianna ideals.
We do not know if ever we shall be called on to fight for our country, but we know that it is the duty of every citizen to be ready to do so, and we intend to be ready. Therefore we mean to learn all that is necessary to enable us to free our country, and to become afterwards capable and noble rulers of a free nation.
We learn physical culture and drill, marching and all martial games and sports, the routine of camping, and the art of scouting. Every sport that is likely to make hardy, healthy men of us, men whose bodies can endure the hardships of long marches or the rigours and hardships of a winter’s campaign. Men whose minds can see when and where and how to strike, and when to wait. Men whose souls are honest, open, and sincere, proud and free. Men with a great purpose in life, and grit to carry it through.
We never doubt that in the end right will triumph; in the end liberty and justice will prevail. The barriers are beginning to fall, and as the years go on they will fall faster and faster. Strong hands, clear minds, and brave souls will give liberty to Ireland.