The tragic death of Michael Collins elevated his stature and reputation as a national hero, Professor Risteard Mulcahy told the Military History Society of Ireland last Friday night.
"Collins' reputation was enhanced by his early and tragic death," he said in his talk 'Mulcahy and Collins -- A Fortuitous Leadership'.
"Collins died at the height of his fame . . . and so he is perceived by many as a lost saviour to his country." On the other hand: "Richard Mulcahy was still alive and living in the mundane political world of post-Treaty Ireland with its problems and recession and reconstruction, made worse by the political divisions and the vandalism of the Civil War.
"His reputation, which during the War of Independence was closely linked with that of Collins, slowly atrophied as he faced the problems of the Truce and the Civil War."
According to Professor Mulcahy, the history of the period has been distorted by the "almost exclusive" emphasis on Collins, which overshadows the legacy of Mulcahy who was head of the Irish army for almost the entire Civil War. "Mulcahy was an ardent admirer of Collins, he encouraged him in every way and protected him from his critics," he said.
Both shared the same civil service training and had enormous energy and organisational skills. However, Mulcahy had a very different personality from Collins.
"Modest, self-effacing and eschewing the limelight, he was totally devoted to establishing an effective general headquarters staff and ensuring that the army was organised on formal and ethical lines," he added.