By Séanna Walsh.
We are delighted to introduce and welcome Áras Uí Chonghaile to west Belfast. James Connolly, that giant of Irish political and socialist thinking, is coming home to the Falls Road.
The visitor centre is testament to what can be delivered when ambition and vision collide with determination and delivery. It is a living example of what progressive people can achieve working in partnership.
The Falls Road in Easter 2019 will welcome James Connolly back.
Áras Uí Chonghaile is a modern, inspirational visitor centre that will attract visitors and locals alike, epitomising the character and fabric of the Falls Road. A place of welcome for people with all politics and of none.
James Connolly was a man of formidable ideas and remarkable vision. More than 100 years after James Connolly was executed, his values, his ideas and the example he gave us in life, are as inspiring and relevant as ever.
An exceptional individual
Our mission in this visitor centre will be to ensure that a new generation of Irish people and those who visit us from across the world are introduced to Connolly and his politics.
Connolly was born of humble origins and knew poverty at first hand all of his life. Despite having left school at a very early age, he was driven to learn and to understand the world around him.
His appetite for knowledge was ferocious. Despite his origins, he went on to write some of the most incisive and original works of political philosophy and historical analysis ever written on these islands and indeed in the world.
Sometimes in a historical period an exceptional individual emerges who seems to grasp the key moral and political challenges of a generation.
Like Wolfe Tone and Michael Davitt, like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, like Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela, like Constance Markievicz and Maire Drumm, Connolly understood the yearning for true emancipation.
Freedom without real equality, freedom without social justice, is a hollow freedom. It was and is the freedom to starve, to be evicted and driven into poverty.
Connolly was implacably opposed to sectarianism and racism, for he knew that these were used by the establishment as tools to divide one set of workers from another. He was a feminist before the word had been created.
He had a lifelong commitment to social justice, to trade unionism and trade union values.
Connolly’s journeys – organising, mobilising and establishing trade unions took him across England and Scotland – saw him travel the USA for years until he returned to Belfast and Dublin.
He had an incisive understanding of Irish history and the role of class and economics in the shaping of our past and our present.
His personal commitment to freedom, not just Irish freedom, but to the freedom of others, marks James Connolly out as one of the greatest political and trade union leaders of the 20th Century. His words continue to inspire a new generation.
Séanna Walsh is centre manager of Áras Uí Chonghaile and a Belfast city councillor for Sinn Féin. Follow him on Twitter @WalshCllr.
Áras Uí Chonghaile will feature an exhibition and library dedicated to the life and legacy of James Connolly, including artefacts from the 1916 Easter Rising. The official opening will be held on Friday 19 April 2019.
The visitor centre is located at 374-376 Falls Road, Belfast. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the centre on Twitter @JamesConnollyVC.