Lenihan guards content of Collins tribute speech
THE final drafts of the oration Brian Lenihan will deliver at Beal na mBlath on Sunday were being fine-tuned by the Finance Minister and his officials last night.
The minister will probably approve the 3,000-word address this evening although he could still be rejigging it tomorrow morning.
The contents of the speech are a closely guarded secret in the Department of Finance where even the themes covered in Beal na mBlath speech are on a need-to-know basis.
"No one will know what is in the speech before the committee who invited the minister are told," said one of Mr Lenihan's closest advisers. "And the minister is taking charge of it himself."
Tension has been growing in anticipation of the first Fianna Fail figure addressing the commemoration for Michael Collins where he was shot 88 years ago to the day.
Young Fine Gael has signalled its intention to boycott the annual commemoration in protest at Mr Lenihan being invited to address an event so intimately linked to Fine Gael. However, the most senior figures in Fine Gael and Michael Collins's living relatives support the decision to invite Mr Lenihan to speak.
Jim O'Keeffe, the Fine Gael TD for Cork West who asked Mr Lenihan to address the commemoration, said: "I suppose some controversy was inevitable but Mr Lenihan's oration will be welcome."
Although he is attending the wedding of his daughter in Italy tomorrow, Mr O'Keeffe said he had been asked to invite Mr Lenihan by the local committee.
Michael Collins's grand-niece, former Fine Gael Minister for Justice Nora Owen, is also supporting the invitation to Mr Lenihan to speak at the commemoration. "I have no problems with it," she told the Irish Independent. "I think Brian Lenihan is a Minister for Finance at a really difficult time, as was Michael Collins at the foundation of the State."
The oration is expected to cover the coincidences of both Mr Lenihan and Michael Collins being Finance Ministers.
And Mr Lenihan will almost certainly address his own family history where his grandfather served the pro-Treaty argument in the civil war.
Some traditional Fine Gaelers believe asking a Fianna Fail minister to deliver a commemoration of Michael Collins was an insult, but according to party sources, they are among a small but vocal minority.
"The party believes it is time to move on and bury civil war politics forever," said a veteran Fine Gael strategist.
"But there will always be a few who don't want to let go of the past."