Home > Human Rights in the News > On This Day: The Progress of a Nation?

On This Day: The Progress of a Nation?

Today in the Second Stage debate on the Civil Partnership Bill 2009, Ruairi Quinn (you can watch his speech here) quoted part of Charles Stewart Parnell’s ‘ne plus ultra’ speech, made in Cork  on January 21 1885. Deputy Quinn was responding to the claim that the Bill, which does not provide for same sex marriage on a basis of equality with the institution of marriage made available to heterosexual couples, is part of an appropriately gradual movement towards equality. Rather, he said that the Government had bowed to conservative religious elements in Irish society, and accordingly had produced a ‘fundamentally bad bill’. These elements he accused, following Parnell, of halting the progress of the nation. 

It has been my experience in this republic and Chamber that change does not come but is driven by the passion and energy of citizens who want to be free. It is dragged through against the resistance of conservatives who believe that anything other than the order they have inherited cannot stand because any change would lead to the entire edifice falling down around their feet. This change has not come, nor has it matured or found its place in the sun because today is different from yesterday. What is different today is that a reluctant, so-called republican Government, which more properly earns the title of “publicans’ Government”, has been forced to bow to the inevitable but it has not bowed far enough.

We will have a full summary of today’s debate once the full transcript is available. For now, here is a reminder of Parnell’s speech:

But no man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation (great cheers). No man has a right to say to his country: ‘Thus far shalt thou go, and no further’; and we have never attempted to fix the ne plus ultra to the progress of Ireland’s nationhood, and we never shall (cheers).

But gentlemen, while we leave those things to time, circumstances, and the future, we must each one of us resolve in our own hearts that we shall at all times do everything which within us lies to obtain for Ireland the fullest measure of her rights (applause). In this way we shall avoid difficulties and contentions amongst each other. In this way we shall not give up anything which the future may put in favour of our country, and while we struggle today for that which may seem possible for us with our combination, we must struggle for it with the proud consciousness, and that we shall not do anything to hinder or prevent better men who may come after us from gaining better things than those for which we now contend (prolonged applause).

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