Irish Examiner



TOMORROW marks the 82nd anniversary of a pivotal moment in the history of modern Ireland: the Béal na mBláth ambush in which Michael Collins died.

Collins’ relevance to an Ireland much changed since 1922 is remarkable. Given today’s mania for the calibration of almost everything into top 10 listings, Collins regularly finds himself in the position of chart-topper: political hero; significant public figure of the 20th century; cultural icon; inspiration for young people.

Despite the divisions that the Civil War wreaked on all aspects of Irish life, and the waning appetite for patriotism in the land of the Celtic Tiger, it is significant that Collins should hold such an exalted position in the hearts and minds of the nation today.

Tomorrow, his annual commemoration takes place at Béal na mBláth.

While the event has associations with the political party that lays most concrete claims to Collins’s political legacy - Fine Gael - it has also come to transcend politics, and that is not such a bad thing.

For many people, Béal na mBláth has become a place of secular pilgrimage. The atmosphere there in recent years has been celebratory - families and tourists standing side by side with Fine Gael veterans, all paying their respects. It’s a great pity that it hasn’t become a truly national event.

Collins remains significant enough to merit national commemoration. Perhaps a future Government might consider dedicating August 22 as a national holiday when Collins and all those who gave their lives during the War of Independence and Civil War may be commemorated.

Collins and his colleagues gave hope to the people. Would that there was such a figure in Ireland today.

For those who wish somehow to renew faith in citizenship and patriotism, or who just want to remember a truly great man, a trip to West Cork tomorrow wouldn’t be wasted.

Gerry O’Connell
Hon Sec, Collins 22 Society
Delaney’s Cross
Co Tipperary

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