Collins the greatest, but country unfair and impoverished

Broadcaster and sports pundit George Hook has said Ireland is a country that is unfair and impoverished ahead of his address at the annual Michael Collins commemoration this weekend.

The Newstalk radio show host insisted that Collins’s legacy still lives on today and that he was the greatest man that ever lived.

Pulling no punches, the long-time Fine Gael supporter said that colleagues had deemed him the “last person alive fighting the Civil War”.

Mr Hook said that he was “honoured” but also “scared shitless” about giving the main address at the Beal na Blath commemoration in West Cork this Sunday.

The radio anchor, a native of Albert Rd in Cork City, said there was “no middle ground” about the Civil War or Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil when he was growing up.

“This [Mr Collins] is the greatest Irishman who ever lived,” he said. “Cú Chulainn, Brian Boru, Robert Emmet, these boys are only in the ha’penny place. There would have been no independence without this man.

“And the nation was the poorer by his demise. We don’t know what he would have done, no more than what John F Kennedy would have done in a second term.

“What they’ve got this year is a fan really. I’m not going to stand up there and pretend I’m a politician or a historian.

“I grew up 20 years after independence. We were only 20 years a nation when I was born. I grew up when all this was real.”

“If you ignore history, you live to repeat it. How can we ignore this man [Collins] who was central to the entire development of the State, who was minister for finance, who was commander and chief of the army?

“He was fighting a war with de Valera, who was sitting in front of a warm fire in the US raising funds. I passionately believe Ireland would have been a different place had he lived.”

Sunday’s commemoration will mark the 92nd anniversary of Collins’s death at Beal na Blath, when his convoy was ambushed by anti-treaty forces.

The Right Hook presenter added: “He’s more relevant because the Ireland of today is not the island envisaged by the founding fathers.

“We are looking at a country that is unfair, that is ageist, that is racist, that still has people living in poverty and nobody in the country speaks its own language, despite having 12 years at school learning it.

“The people have to tell the people who run them what kind of country they want and they have to do it sooner rather than later.”

Mr Hook joins former president Mary Robinson, the late Brian Lenihan, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and sports pundit Bill O’Herlihy, who have all spoken there.

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