European Education Ministers Seminar - '' Teaching remembrance through cultural heritage '' - Cracow and Auschwitz-Birkenau - Poland - 4-6 May 2005

(To be checked against delivered speech)

Speech by Mary Hanafin, Irish Minister for Education and Science

on behalf of the Standing Conference of European Ministers of Education of the 48 signatory States of the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe- following the "March of the Living" from Auschwitz to Birkenau concentration camps 5 May 2005.

A Chairde uilig, Excellencies, ladies, gentlemen and young friends, as Minister for Education in Ireland, I am very honoured to have been invited to speak on this solemn occasion on behalf of the European Ministers of Education of the Council of Europe.

Remembrance is a blend of sensitivity and reason. Victims are honoured, and a sense of responsibility is aroused in all generations, through significant and unforgettable events.

So it is with this "March of the Living" which this year has had nearly 20,000 participants, people who came from every corner of the earth in testimony to the everlasting presence of an irreparable wrong. Survivors are intermingled with young people and thus bear witness to the bond that unites them, to a solidarity that endures through the ages of life and for all time.

To the witnesses of the cruellest hours, we, Ministers of Education of the 48 signatory States of the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe, give our assurance that they will never again be alone or abandoned.

Here in Birkenau, and Auschwitz and so many other places in Europe, we are overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children cry out to us from the depths of the horror they knew. We must heed their cry. We must never forget, nor ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.

As the Nobel Laureate Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, wrote No poem or play or song Can Fully right a wrong Inflicted and endured.

Our task is to remember. We wish to remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail as it did for the millions of innocent victims.

The evil that turns humanity against humanity, cheapening its life, degrading it, bent on its destruction, still lurks in the world. Evil does not rest and we must never forget. As another Irish scholar, Edmund Burke, said ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’.

It is by remembering the unspeakable horror that happened here that we remain alert to the possibility that what happened could be attempted again. As educators, as teachers, it is through remembering, educating and understanding that we can learn from the past to respect human dignity and to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

To future generations we proclaim the undertaking of the Council of Europe that they will never know such horror.

The Council of Europe has constantly concerned and involved itself with many initiatives and actions for the recognition of the Holocaust and for the prevention of crimes against humanity.

We all join together in acknowledging the "March of the Living" as a symbol of this long-term action and an invitation to carry on our efforts as Ministers to ensure that such things never happen again.

Ar son na glúinte atá le teacht, seasaimid le chéile.