Oration for Collins was 'pinnacle of his career'
Published 11/06/2011 | 05:00
BRIAN Lenihan believed the peak of his career came when he delivered the oration last summer at the annual commemoration of Michael Collins.
The finance minister was invited to speak at Beal na mBlath -- a distinction usually reserved for Fine Gael figures.
The invitation was viewed as a sign of Mr Lenihan's standing across the political spectrum and a measure of the wide respect for his courage and dignity in dealing with his illness.
Barrister and pundit Noel Whelan, a long-time friend, said he spoke with him last month.
"He agreed the pinnacle of his career was that sunny day last summer in Beal na mBlath," Mr Whelan said.
Mr Lenihan made history as the first figure from Fianna Fail to deliver the oration. In glorious sunshine, he gave a nod to the greats of both sides of the Civil War divide.
"Even if we can never know how the relationship between Collins and de Valera might have evolved surely now we have the maturity to see that, in their very different styles, both made huge contributions to the creation and development of our state," he declared.
Mr Lenihan even ventured what was viewed as a veiled criticism of Fianna Fail and Eamon de Valera' treatment of the Big Fella over the years when he acknowledged that: "de Valera himself felt a sense of challenge from the ghost of Collins."
A far larger than usual crowd of up to 3,000 applauded Mr Lenihan, who declared that he was honoured and privileged to speak at a ceremony so closely linked to Fine Gael.
"And if today's commemoration can be seen as a further public act of historical reconciliation, at one of Irish history's sacred places, then I will be proud to have played my part," he said.
This drew strong cheers from the crowd.
"The spirit of Collins is the spirit of the nation, and it must continue to inspire all of us in public life, irrespective of party or tradition," the minister said in his oration.
Mr Lenihan also referred to the present economic crisis, which, he said, was "deep and severe", but the country had "surmounted similar difficulties in the past
"In meeting challenges, in seizing opportunities, the Irish people have always shown courage, determination and creativity -- just as Michael Collins and his comrades and colleagues did in the campaign for independence and the establishment of our state," he said.
Mr Lenihan was facing into his own challenges on the economic, political and health fronts within weeks.
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