Let me begin with a welcome and a thank you on behalf of the Thomas Francis Meagher Foundation. A thank you to all those who have helped put this event together, and a welcome to our VIP guests – yourselves.
You might be wondering why you’re here. Not for a day out - although we hope you enjoy the day. Not just for a memory and a story to tell your friends and family – although we hope you will. Not just to receive a flag on behalf of your school – although we hope you will fly it with pride in a prominent place. Your presence today actually has a much more important purpose.
As well as being here to receive a flag, you are also being given an important responsibility and a significant opportunity – the responsibility to communicate the flag’s message, not just by telling people what it is, but to have the opportunity of putting that message into practice.
Thomas F. Meagher described his vision when designing the flag:
‘The white in the centre signified a lasting truce between Orange and Green. I trust that beneath its folds the hands of the Irish Catholic and the Irish Protestant may be clasped in generous and heroic brotherhood.’
In today’s Ireland, we enjoy a brother- and sister-hood, not just between those of different Christian persuasions, but between people of all faiths and none. That relationship has often been turbulent, even violent – and that conflict has to stop. If our generation has achieved progress in so doing, it is only a start. The reason we are here today is that we hope we have laid a foundation on which you can build, and create a Nation in which your children and your children’s children can live in peace, prosperity and mutual respect. By living the flag’s message, you have the ability to set an example not just at home, but across the world – to the faraway places through which many of you will travel. When you do, take the meaning of the flag with you in your heart. In the words of the song, ‘Go tell it on the Mountain, over the hills and far away’. And God bless you on your journey.