This is the official draught of a speech given by by the Tanaiste

 (Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland), Eamon Gilmore, who is also the Foreign  Minister 

at the Royal Dublin Society

on Wednesday 1 May 6-8pm

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the organisers of this event, the Royal Dublin Society and Holocaust Education Trust Ireland, who have arranged for us to be gathered here this evening to hear about an important, though little known moment, in our history.  It is very fitting that this event is taking place under the auspices of the Gathering, our call as a nation to friends and family from all over the world to return and visit Ireland. 

This evening we are joined by a number of remarkable members of Ireland’s Gathering community, the members of the “Hide and Seek” children and their families.  I would like to extend to you the warmest of welcomes on your return to Ireland.  We are honoured to have you with us, and I look forward to having the opportunity to meet with you, and to hear more of your extraordinary story.  Unfortunately it was not possible for family members of Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld to attend this evening.  I would however like to pay tribute to this remarkable man, who did so much to save Jewish lives, preserve Jewish heritage and culture, and who played such a pivotal role in the events we will hear about.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is only correct that we begin by acknowledging that this country did not do all that it could have done  in responding to the appalling predicament of European Jews seventy years ago.  We failed in our responsibility to help the Jewish people and other victims of the Holocaust.  For this reason, we in Ireland are keenly aware of the need to remember and to learn the lessons of history.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, one hundred children came to Ireland, survivors of the darkness of the Holocaust, for respite and recovery from the horrors they had experienced.  These children survived the Holocaust, many having been entrusted to non Jews by their parents in the hope of saving their lives.  They were sheltered, at great risk to the children and themselves, by partisans, anti-fascists, religious communities, peasants and professionals. 

That these children found themselves here in Ireland just a short time later speaks to the great efforts of Rabbi Schonfeld and the Irish Jewish community, who dedicated themselves to providing the foundations for a better future for these children.  It is important that we learn more of how this group of children came to Ireland, the dedication of those who made their journey possible, the experiences of the children here, why, in the face of such need, that it was only possible for 100 to come, and what happened to the children after their time in Ireland.

While their time in Ireland was brief, the children, and their experiences here, are part of our own story.  We are grateful to those who brought them here and who supported them.  And we remember at the same time that there were relatively few such gestures of sympathy and solidarity with victims of the Holocaust.  There was much more we could, and should, have done.  I look forward to hearing more this evening about the experiences of the “hide and seek” children.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Holocaust, the terrible events of which eventually brought the “Hide and Seek” children to Ireland, has cast an indelible shadow on history.  It must never be forgotten.

I would like to pay tribute to the work of Holocaust Education Trust Ireland, which has, under the dedicated leadership of Lynn Jackson and Peter Cassells, made an enormous contribution to educating and informing people in Ireland about the Holocaust, so as to combat anti-Semitism and all forms of racism and intolerance in our country.

I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of Ireland’s Holocaust survivors, two of whom, Tomi Reichental and Suzi Diamond, join us here this evening. They have dedicated huge time and emotional energy to sharing their personal experiences of the Holocaust with young people in schools throughout Ireland.  I would also like to extend my congratulations to Tomi on his recent receipt of the Order of Merit from the German Government to mark his efforts in educating young people about the Holocaust.

Ireland has recently become a full member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.  In joining this organisation we have committed ourselves to ensuring that we continue to remember and acknowledge the horror of the Holocaust, so that future generations can understand its causes and reflect upon its consequences.

The Holocaust must remain for us all a constant reminder of the need to work together in the name of human rights, tolerance and respect, and for the need to combat anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.

Ladies and gentlemen, in closing I would like to return to the theme of the Gathering, and in particular its call for us to reach out to our community around the world.  The Irish Jewish community has been blessed by excellent leadership from, amongst others, figures including Rabbi Isaac Herzog and Robert Briscoe.  As a community it has contributed to the development of our nation far beyond what its numbers might suggest.  It is a community integral to Ireland’s identity, and one which holds a valued and respected place within our nation.

At this time of the Gathering we must also recall and reflect on the experience of Irish Jewish emigrants who have spread from these shores around the world, and the contributions they have made in their new homes in the UK, America, Israel, and beyond.  The hide and seek children, about whom we will hear more this evening, are members of that community, but there are many more, whose story we as a nation must also look to learn and to acknowledge.

Thank you.