Sun the 16th of Oct was the 115th anniversary of the birth of Michael Collins. And marking this date was the first ever meeting of the Collins 22 Society, which as Enda Kenny said aims to “have the man honoured”. And a fine aim that is, after all Collins is one of Ireland’s heroes.
the dominant military figure was Collins, who also served as adjutant general, director of intelligence and president of the IRB. A young Corkman who had risen to prominence after the Easter Rising, Collins was a sturdy, powerful-looking man of keen intelligence and inexhaustible energy.
Of course the Northern Ireland “Troubles” has meant that for years anything seen as overly promoting or remembering Ireland’s nationalist past has been seen in as pro-IRA. And while the success of the Irish football team has lessoned the whole IRA/republican association with the tricolour, the associations between history and the past are often too close. Plus, Sinn Féin and the IRA have done very well out of Ireland’s 700 year struggle for freedom, as though there was one continuous line running down through history culminating in them.
And because Collins was a military leader, an organiser of guerilla warfare, to celebrate him has been seen as a celebration of death and bloodshed. Of violence, and of republicanism in its most negative form.
But Collins signed The Treaty. This means he is not such a Big Damn Hero to the IRA as this was a betrayal of the republic, of freedom. And then he went and got himself killed in an ambush in the Civil War. Meaning that ultimately, Dev and his side were responsible and so Fianna Fail could never really embrace Collins as a hero.
But recently he has made a comeback First we had the Liam Neeson film which, despite Julia Robert’s accent, was good. And now this Collins 22 Society. So why is it that I’m thinking this is more of a PR exercise for Fine Gael rather than anything else? A cynical ploy to use a past leader, known for inspiring people, to associate Michael Collins with their party because they have no one worth calling a leader?
Me, cynical? Never.