Michael Collins’ efforts to gain independence for Ireland drew admiration from as far away as India, Africa, and Latin America, President Michael D Higgins told attendees at the annual Béal na Bláth commemoration in Co Cork.
President Higgins claimed Ireland won admiration as a “beacon” for other struggling peoples. He said that in a guerilla campaign led in the early 1940s against the administration of the British Mandate of Palestine, Yitzhak Shamir took the nom de guerre ‘Michael’ in homage to Collins.
“On visits to Africa and Latin America as President of Ireland, I have received countless expressions of admiration for the Irish people, conveying the memory not just of Ireland’s independence struggle, but also of its later role, as a member of the League of Nations and then the United Nations, in defending decolonisation and the freedom of oppressed nations.”
President Higgins said Collins was a man of compassion in the “terrible Civil War”. He said the memory of Collins would forever be enmeshed with that of the tragic and bloody war which he described as being a “dreadful tragedy” for so many Irish families.
In his oration, the President said Collins would have had a flexible approach to decommissioning, markedly different from that of his colleagues.
President Higgins stressed that when the time comes to commemorate the events of the early 1920s we will need to display courage and honesty as we seek to speak the truth of that period, and in recognising that, during the War of Independence, and particularly the Civil War, no single side had the monopoly of either atrocity or virtue.
He emphasised that Collins’ contribution in the flux of military, political, social, and cultural crises, was of an immense kind.
President Higgins said he believed Collins would have wanted our people to have reached sufficiency in all of the essentials: Health, housing, education, childcare, culture, and above all in the ability to live together.
Following the oration, President Higgins travelled to Kilmurry village to officially open a museum which houses an exhibition commemorating Cork’s role in the fight for Irish freedom.
On Easter Sunday 1916, Volunteers mobilised at Sheare’s St in Cork and took the train to Crookstown. From there they marched to Béal na Bláth and joined more Volunteers. The combined columns marched to Kilmurry en route to their final rendezvous in Carriganima where they were scheduled to meet Volunteers from Kerry with munitions from the ship Aud.
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