| 0.4°C Dublin

I believe my brother did justice to legacy of Michael Collins

The speech by the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan at Beal na mBlath yesterday marks a new phase in the politics of Ireland.

The minister studiously constructed his speech in a manner so that nobody could misinterpret his motives and those of the committee that invited him.

If it were not for the wounded egos of Young Fine Gael and Senator Liam Twomey then the public may have been treated to a more challenging and thought provoking contribution from the Finance Minister.

On the day it was probably best that caution prevailed. The crowd of two thousand people or so that attended the event did so because of a sense that something genuinely historic was happening.

The numbers were about double those that attended the same event last year, but this year mother nature looked kindly on the event whereas last year rain was the reason for the lower numbers.

The statement by Brian Lenihan to invoke the spirit of Collins to be the spirit of Irish public life was a timely one, given the challenges that those in public life face in these times.

The crisis in the economy also comes at a time when people are even more cynical about politics and politicians due to controversies over the expenses system operated at Leinster House.

There is a real need for politicians to reach to another level. The mood of the country is one of despair, as unemployment remains high and credit, the life blood of small business, is in short supply.

To date the public have been treated to a party political response to the economic crisis at Leinster House with mutual recrimination, blame-laying and the usual rhetoric being the order of the day.

In the concluding sections of his last two Budgets, Brian Lenihan has made both an appeal to patriotism and a call to the public to start believing in ourselves, given the level of belief that exists at an international level that Ireland is responding in a robust manner to the crisis we face.

The Newsweek award given to the Taoiseach Brian Cowen for his response to the economic crisis is yet another example of how the rest of the world looks at Ireland.


At Beal na mBlath, Brian Lenihan tried to inject a sense of hope that the country will in fact beat the current crisis and come out of recession, a sense of optimism that must be promoted by everyone if we are to overcome the current mood of fatilism that in some respects is holding back the potential for full recovery. In historical terms, Brian Lenihan did justice to the legacy of Michael Collins and enhanced his historical reputation further with his reference to the fact that Collins not only mounted an intelligence war against the British in Ireland but also simultaneously built a credible bond issue that raised vital cash and legitimacy for the Irish republican cause in the midst of a violent war of independence.

The great tragedy of Collins' death is the potential that he could have achieved had he lived on. Those inheritors of the anti-treaty side and those who fought Collins always, privately at least, acknowledged his courage and greatness.

The importance of yesterday's speech is that now those who march in the anti-treaty tradition are now prepared to be open in acknowledging the contribution and greatness of Collins. The historic nature of yesterday is that it finally buries a sort of perverted history that enveloped Ireland which effectively overly politicised the Collins legacy and rendered it beyond proper recognition and proper historical analysis.

Conor Lenihan TD is Minister for Science, Technology & Innovation and a Dail deputy for Dublin South West