Monday, August 23, 2010

"The Spirit of Michael Collins"


Yesterday, in a ceremony that annually memorializes the anniversary of the death of Irish patriot and statesman Michael Collins at the site where he was shot down in August 1922, the Civil War politics that have dominated and haunted the Irish state for the better part of 90 years may have been finally laid to rest.

From RTE:
Lenihan addresses Collins commemoration

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has become the first Fianna Fáil Cabinet member to deliver an address at the annual commemoration of the death of Michael Collins in west Cork this afternoon.

Traditionally a Fine Gael event, he told the gathering that the spirit of Collins is the spirit of our nation and it must continue to inspire all in public life, irrespective of party or tradition.

He described the invitation to speak at Beal na Blá as both generous and unexpected saying that if today's commemoration can be seen as a further public act of historical reconciliation, at one of Irish history's sacred places, then he will be proud to have played his part.

And he pondered what might have been if Collins had lived - would the party he, Brian Lenihan, belongs to have been pre-empted by the party Collins would have created?

He also referred to Collins role as Minister for Finance between 1919 and 1922 saying here was a man at constant risk of arrest and death, running a ruthless guerrilla war and masterminding the highly efficient intelligence system which secured its success. Yet he still had the time to build the foundations of a system of financial control.

Mr Lenihan added that while there is no substantive connection between the economic and financial position the country faces today, and the challenge faced by Collins, he is comforted by the essential resilience of the country, of the political and administrative system and above all, of the Irish people...
From The Press Association
Let Collins inspire us - Lenihan

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has called on all in public life to let the spirit of Michael Collins inspire them through Ireland's economic crisis.

The Fianna Fail minister made history when he became the first figure in the party to deliver the keynote oration at the annual commemoration at Beal na mBlath.

The sun shone in west Cork as the crowd applauded Mr Lenihan, who said he was honoured and privileged to speak at the traditionally Fine Gael ceremony. "If today's commemoration can be seen as a further public act of historical reconciliation, at one of Irish history's sacred places, then I will be proud to have played my part," he said.
From The Irish Examiner:
Lenihan in historic Béal na mBláth address

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan this afternoon addressed crowds at the annual commemoration of the death of Michael Collins at Béal na mBláth in west Cork.

He is the first Fianna Fáil Minister to deliver a speech at what has been traditionally a Fine Gael event.

Speaking at Beal na mBláth this afternoon, Minister Lenihan praised what he described as the "generous and unexpected" invitation for him to address the ceremony.

He said while Fine Gael has of course been the political custodian of the memory of Michael Collins, the spirit of Collins is "the spirit of our nation, and it must continue to inspire all of us in public life, irrespective of party or tradition".

He said that if today's commemoration can be seen as a further public act of historical reconciliation between the two largest political parties in the State, at one of Irish history's sacred places, then he will be proud to have played his part...
From The Irish Times:
Civil War wounds healed by St Brian of Béal na mBláth

WHO’D HAVE thought this was an incursion into enemy territory? As he stepped down from the podium, an adoring crowd surged forward, clapping and cheering at the first senior Fianna Fáil figure to deliver the keynote oration at Béal na mBláth.

Older women thrust their hands through the railings to shake his hand (or just tug at his trouser legs). “You’re looking smashing, Minister!”, an elegant lady cooed. “Well done, altogether.”

Another woman tried to manhandle a photographer out of her way. “We want to see the Minister! We want to see him!” she insisted.

One dyed-in-the-wool Fine Gaeler in his 80s jostled forward to get the Minister’s autograph, dropping his crutches in the process. “He’s been cured!” shouted a woman alongside him, to roars of laughter.

As the Minister lingered in the sunshine to sign countless autographs and pose for innumerable family photographs, there was no mistaking the warm affection of the crowd. His speech had been marked by spontaneous and sustained ripples of applause, and a sense that this was a symbolic burying of old hatchets.

It was a world away from the dark mutterings in the weeks beforehand. Fine Gael senator Liam Twomey had warned that Lenihan – whose predecessors “murdered” Collins – wasn’t welcome. Young Fine Gaelers, too, said they would boycott the occasion in protest at the Minister’s appearance.

In the end, they seemed woefully out of touch with the spirit of the day.

Helen Collins, Collins’s grandniece, said: “Michael belongs to all the people of Ireland and beyond.”


[...]

In a post-Civil War world where differences have been well and truly laid to rest, it may be inevitable the issue of a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael merger will feature on the landscape. If it did rear its head yesterday, it did so discreetly.

For Tom O’Shea of Kilkenny, a staunch Fine Gaeler who’s been coming to Béal na mBláth for decades, that’s for another day. Yesterday was about laying old ghosts to rest. “I used to bring my father here, who sent dispatches to Collins during the War of Independence. There used to be lots of old IRA men here too. The divisions in those days were still quite raw . . . But I really welcome what’s happened today. The talk of a boycott was uncalled for. It’s 2010. It’s time for us all to move on.”
From The Irish Independent:
'Spirit of Collins inspires us all'

THE spirit of Michael Collins is the spirit of the nation, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan declared yesterday.

Making history as the first figure from Fianna Fail to deliver the oration at the annual commemoration at Beal na mBlath, Mr Lenihan said Collins must continue to inspire all in public life through the current economic crisis.

A far larger crowd than usual -- up to 3,000 -- applauded Mr Lenihan, who said he was honoured and privileged to speak at a ceremony so closely linked to Fine Gael.

"And if today's commemoration can be seen as a further public act of historical reconciliation at one of Irish history's sacred places, then I will be proud to have played my part in that regard," he said.

Many members of the Collins family, including three grand-nieces of General Collins -- former Fine Gael justice minister Nora Owen, former MEP Mary Banotti and Helen Collins -- were among the crowd who gathered at the spot where he was ambushed at the height of the Civil War in 1922.

[...]

The minister gave a nod to the greats on both sides of the Civil War divide.

"Even if we can never know how the relationship between Collins and de Valera might have evolved, surely now we have the maturity to see that in their very different styles, both made huge contributions to the creation and development of our State," he said.

Mr Lenihan was even able to venture what was viewed as a veiled criticism of Fianna Fail and de Valera's treatment of the Big Fella when he acknowledged that: "De Valera himself felt a sense of challenge from the ghost of Collins."

[...]

He continued: "In meeting challenges, in seizing opportunities, the Irish people have always shown courage, determination and creativity -- just as Michael Collins and his comrades and colleagues did in the campaign for independence and the establishment of our State.

"The spirit of Collins is the spirit of the nation and it must continue to inspire all of us in public life, irrespective of party or tradition."

[...]

Following the oration, Helen Collins said that Beal na mBlath was never meant to be a place of bitterness and stressed that Collins and his legacy belonged to all the Irish people.

"Beal na mBlath is not a place of division, recrimination and loss. It is a place of idealism," she declared...


Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
In Memory of "The Big Fella", Michael Collins (d. 22 August 1922) [UPDATED]

85th Anniversary of the Death of "The Big Fella", Michael Collins

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