The Crocus Project 2016/17

19-10-16 At the launch today by Holocaust Education Trust Ireland (HETI) of the 'Crocus Project' 2016/17, l to r, Jonah Miller, Anna Rosenkovitch, top , Amelia Quinn and Guy Baram, from Stratford National School. PIc Tommy Clancy - No Fee.

At the launch of the ‘Crocus Project’ 2016/17, l to r, Jonah Miller, Anna Rosenkovitch, top , Amelia Quinn and Guy Baram, from Stratford National School.
Pic Tommy Clancy.

On Wednesday 19th October The Crocus Project 2016/17 was launched. We were delighted to welcome 5th and 6th class students from Stratford National School, as well as Ambassadors and representatives from the eleven participating EU countries. The Crocus Project is funded by the Europe for Citizens programme.

Mr Gerry Kiely, Head of EU Commission Representation in Ireland, Mary Banotti, former MEP and founding member of HETI, and Suzi Diamond, Holocaust survivor, spoke to the students about this lovely project. The school children will be planting yellow crocus bulbs in memory of all the children who died in the Holocaust.

Below you will find Mr Gerry Kiely’s speech at the event.

Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, and young ladies and gentlemen – good morning. I’m delighted to welcome you to Europe House and to the launch of the Crocus Project 2016/2017. My name is Gerry Kiely and I’m the head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland.

I would like to congratulate the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland on this very worthwhile initiative. Like many of the best ideas, it seems to me that the effectiveness of the Crocus Project is its simplicity.

And it’s a project which seems to be going from strength to strength. I note that the target for this school year is to have 100,000 school children involved, compared to the 6,000 pupils who participated in the first year of the project in 2005. It is indeed an impressive expansion of the project that HETI can be proud of.

The Crocus Project is part funded by the Europe for Citizens Programme and it’s an involvement that we are proud of.

The Citizens Programme aims to promote Europe’s shared history and values, and foster a sense of ownership for how the Union develops.

Specifically, the Crocus Project is funded under the “European remembrance” strand of the Programme which prioritises the commemoration of major historical turning points in recent European history and drawing lessons from these.

2016 has been an important year of remembrance and commemoration in this country. Across Europe, 2016 also marks other anniversaries such as the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the Yugoslav Wars on 1991.

No doubt it’s also the anniversary of many events which didn’t involve blood shed but history books don’t tend to dwell on these too much.

Looking ahead to next year, we’ll see the commemoration events to mark the social and political revolutions of 1917. These revolutions brought down empires and in turn impacted on Europe’s political and historical landscape, and continue to do so. And of course, 2017, marks the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome which marked the beginning of the European Economic Community. One can only wonder whether those great men of vision, the founding fathers ever believed that the project they were creating would one day develop into what the EU is today.

While today’s Europe has a lot to be proud of we must never forget the motivation behind the founding of the EU: It was to end the horrors that Europeans had inflicted on each other time and time again.

Thanks in no small way to the creation of the EEC and the EU, for the first time in centuries there are three generations who have not experienced war in their country.

Last month, during his annual speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the state of the European Union, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said that he has ‘the impression that many seem to have forgotten what being European means.’

He called for solidarity among EU countries. He pointed out that the word “solidarity” is mentioned 16 times in the EU treaties.

Furthermore, President Juncker announced a new European Solidarity Corps. Young people across the European Union will be able to volunteer their help where it is needed most, to respond to crisis situations, like the refugee crisis or the recent earthquakes in Italy.

[To the school children] Maybe in the future, some of you can take part in the European Solidarity Corps.

Solidarity at a time of crisis is one of the priorities for 2016 under the second strand of the Europe for Citizens Programme on “Democratic engagement and civic participation”. Other priority themes are:

Understanding and Debating Euroscepticism

Combatting stigmatisation of “immigrants”

Debate on the future of Europe

I think we can all agree that all of these issues have never been more pertinent and in deed urgent.

European values, democracy and fundamental rights are the foundation of the European Union and its institutions. These values are not a given, we need to defend them every day – especially in difficult times. It is our moral duty to help those who are in need of shelter, who are fleeing from war, dictatorship and religious and political persecution.

It had been said many times over the years that the holocaust could never happen again. Hopefully this is true. However we cannot ignore that xenophobia, extremism, nationalism, racism and Anti-Semitism are to be found in many places in the EU and beyond today.

We cannot ignore the fact that discrimination and persecution due to ethnicity, religion, gender etc is a real and tragic fact of life in many parts of the world today.

We cannot ignore the fact that ethnic cleansing is common today both as a tool and objective of conflicts taking place in many parts of the world.

As EU citizens complain, wrongly, about EU bureaucracy and over interference in their everyday lives, they should perhaps sometimes consider the massive positives they and the past and future generations reap from the existence of the EU in the form of peace and prosperity. In these troubled and volatile times these priceless benefits should not be taken for granted.

The Crocus Project is an excellent means of reminding the next generation of the need to reject and confront all forms of intolerance and persecution at every level – from the school yard bully to the political populists promoting themselves at the expense of others – usually the less fortunate.

Congratulations once again to the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland. And best of luck to all the budding gardeners who will be out planting bulbs over the coming weeks!

Thank you.