Family the lens through which to shape Ireland – Bishop Brendan Leahy in Arbour Hill commemoration address

09 May 2018

The creation of social policy at all levels should be done by looking through the lens of the family, Bishop Brendan Leahy stated today in his homily at the Arbour Hill 1916 commemoration.

In this, the year of the World Meeting of Family celebrations in Ireland, Bishop Leahy said that family was a central pillar in the lives of the leaders of the 1916 rising and can inspire us all in shaping the Ireland of the future.

Delivering his homily, Bishop Leahy also said that this year’s Arbour Hill commemoration for the families of the 1916 heroes has its own particular sensitivity and significance following the death of the last surviving child of a 1916 leader. Fr. Joe Mallin, whose father Michael was Chief of Staff of the Irish Citizen Army and had commanded the garrison of rebels in St Stephen’s Green and the Royal College of Surgeons, died six weeks ago aged 104 in Hong Kong where he spent most of his life as a Jesuit missionary priest.  In his homily, Bishop Leahy said that though this link had now been lost, successive generations are the flag bearers of the proud legacy left by the 1916 leaders.

“With the death of the last surviving child of the 1916 leaders, the flag of victory is now being handed over definitively to the next generations. And while we know the colours of freedom and equality are clearly to be seen on this flag, let’s notice, too, watermarked on this flag the image of family. 

“We know family was important for the 1916 leaders. They were not isolated heroic individuals. Family mattered very much to them. We know it from their last deeds, conversations or letters written, especially in Michael Mallin’s letter to his wife Agnes where we see the depth of emotional turmoil he experienced at the thought of the consequence of his death for his pregnant wife and four young children.

“Families were so present physically or emotionally in the last earthly days of Michael Malin and the other 1916 leaders…… I think it is not an exaggeration to say the 1916 leaders would want us to recall how family can inspire us all in helping shape Ireland.  Family was at the heart of it all for them and is likewise for us.  We can learn from the family how to give a soul to our institutions.

“We can learn from the family how to give a soul to our institutions.   Ireland has a vast array of government ministries, hospitals and schools, courts, banks and associations, and all kinds of social agencies and networks.  It is important to look through the family lens when we are creating social policy at all levels.  We should use family as th/e ultimate litmus test for social policy and ask both ‘how does this impact on family life?’ and ‘what might a family say to us on this topic or policy?’

“It has rightly been said if you don’t know where you are going, then any road will do. But the 1916 leaders clearly believed Ireland was going somewhere. They spoke of our State’s freedom, welfare, and exaltation among the nations.  For each of them, however, the journey of each Irish family would have been an important road to travel.”


  • Bishop Brendan Leahy is Bishop of Limerick