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Taoiseach Mícheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to deliver joint orations at Béal na mBláth to mark centenary of Michael Collins death


Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach Mícheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, the Fine Gael leader, will jointly address the Michael Collins centenary commemoration in Béal na Bláth in Cork this August

Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach Mícheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, the Fine Gael leader, will jointly address the Michael Collins centenary commemoration in Béal na Bláth in Cork this August

Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach Mícheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, the Fine Gael leader, will jointly address the Michael Collins centenary commemoration in Béal na Bláth in Cork this August

Taoiseach Mícheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will deliver joint orations at Béal na mBláth to mark the August centenary of the death of Michael Collins.

The decision to have the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael - the two parties which trace their roots to the divisions in Ireland's bitter Civil War - deliver addresses at the west Cork ceremony is an effort to mark the historic significance of the occasion.

Both Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar have accepted invitations to speak at the event on Sunday August 21 to mark 100 years since the death of the IRA leader and the military strategist later regarded by Britain as one of its most dangerous foes.

The guerilla warfare tactics developed by General Collins are still studied in military academies today.

A major ceremony is now planned to mark the centenary of his death with the site currently being restored to how it appeared in 1922.

The Defence Forces will have special honour guards at the ceremony which will also feature the Rolls-Royce armoured car, Sliabh na mBan, which accompanied General Collins on his fateful tour of inspection in west Cork.

The Taoiseach said he was honoured to participate in the General Collins centenary.

"This is a sensitive year for commemorations as we remember the centenary of the onset of the Civil War," he said.

"Throughout our country, we have hundreds of places where the decisive moments and personalities of our revolution are marked. One such place is Béal na mBláth which has a resonance that will last for centuries capturing as it does the tragedy of a lost leader, the lost hopes and dreams of an individual who achieved so much in his short lifetime."

"The name instantly brings to mind the tragedy and loss of the towering figure of Michael Collins, and it is fitting that we come together to commemorate the centenary of his death."

Mr Varadkar said it was fitting Ireland remembers the historic nature of what happened.

“The Irish State of which we are all so proud was founded one hundred years ago. It makes 2022 one of the most important years in our decade of commemorations."

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"As we reflect on our history, it’s important to remember that there was nothing inevitable about the creation of the Irish Free State or its survival. Many other European States have come and gone since then."

"Only a handful have had a hundred years of democracy and the rule of law. During the course of the 20th century, the Baltic States gained their independence, lost it, and then gained it again. Thirty years ago, Ukraine became self-governing for the second time – and we do not need any reminders about the attempts being made to take that away again."

"Michael Collins was instrumental in shaping our State. To me, he is first among equals among its founders. He strove, always, to do what was best for the future of our nation and took enormous risks for peace.

"He was both brave and pragmatic. He understood that once gains were made and consolidated more could be achieved. It will be a profound honour to speak at the Michael Collins Commemoration in August and reflect on his legacy 100 years after his death."

General Michael Collins Commemoration Committee chairman, Garret Kelleher, said they wanted to make the 2022 event very special.

“We are delighted and honoured that two speakers of the calibre of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have accepted our invitation to speak at the centenary commemoration."

"We are very much looking forward to welcoming them, members of the extended Collins family and many visitors to Béal na mBláth in August for what we hope will be a commemoration that befits the occasion and pays due honour to one of Ireland’s greatest leaders.”

Ireland is now working to salvage key elements of the 'Decade of Centenaries' programme after the Covid-19 pandemic played havoc with numerous public events over the past two years.

The pandemic hit multiple public events planned for 2020 and 2021 – key centenary dates for the War of Independence - by limiting public attendance and forcing many ceremonies to be held online.

Now, major public ceremonies will proceed over the coming weeks to mark the outbreak of the Civil War which began with the shelling of the Four Courts in Dublin in June 1922 as well as the fatal ambush of General Michael Collins in west Cork on August 22 that year.

Major events are also planned for next year to mark the May 24 centenary of anti-Treaty forces being ordered to 'dump arms' and suspend all military operations, marking the end of the bitter conflict.

The centenary of the death of General Collins will represent the largest ceremony staged at Béal na mBláth for over 80 years.

Cork Co Council is now working with the Department of Defence, the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Culture to restore the Béal na mBláth ambush site to its 1920s status - and the centenary event will feature the famous 'Sliabh na mBan' Rolls-Royce armoured car that was accompanying General Collins convoy that day.

Mayor of Cork Councillor Gillian Coughlan said the works at Béal na mBláth are very exciting.

The site will be restored to reveal its heritage value in the most sensitive and appropriate manner, serving as a legacy thereafter of the centenary itself.

A design for the project has been developed by key experts in archaeological historic landscapes, memorial historic landscapes, historical analysis of the battlefield and ambush area, and drawing from an historic landscape assessment.

It will also feature traffic calming measures, additional car parking and road renewals.

“Thanks to our partners, Cork County Council, in consultation with the local Béal na mBláth Commemoration Committee, will develop a project that is both sensitive and features minimal intervention but will increase the memorial's legibility and that of its context," she said.

"Through quality design, the Beal na mBláth project will reveal and re-establish this historic route through our heritage landscape. The site's historical authenticity and integrity will be maintained while ensuring this national monument remains a legacy for future generations.”

A key element of the project is to allow visitors to experience the landscape and get an accurate feel for what it was like in 1922.

Mr Martin will also open a landmark four-day national conference on the Civil War in Cork.

The conference, which will be staged at University College Cork (UCC) from June 15-18, will feature over 130 experts to reflect on the bitter conflict that coloured Irish politics for decades to come.

Organisers said the conference will not feature a single, agreed narrative on the conflict or a sense of ‘closure’.

Instead, it will attempt to gather on-going academic research into the civil war and ‘meaningful engagements with a difficult and traumatic time’.

Speakers will deliver 20-minute papers addressing all aspects of the war including international comparisons, global contexts, military conflict, civilian trauma, gender roles, labour militancy, state violence, military strategy, propaganda, memory, ideology, agrarian
unrest, prison experiences, the Military Archives, and the Beyond 2022 Project.

Amongst those taking part will be Prof Anne Dolan (TCD), Prof Robert Gerwarth (UCD), Prof Helen Graham (University of London) and Dr Bill Kissane (London School of Economics).

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