Kenny first sitting Taoiseach to address Béal na mBláth

Tue, Aug 7, 2012, 01:00

FINE GAEL leader Enda Kenny will become the first serving Taoiseach to address the annual Béal na mBláth commemoration in west Cork this month.

This year’s commemoration will also mark something of a first in another respect as the Rolls-Royce armoured car, Sliabh na mBan, which was part of Michael Collins’s convoy on the day he was killed in 1922, will return to Béal na mBláth.

Acquired by the Free State Army from the British on their departure in 1922, the armoured car, then named Slievenamon, saw action in the Civil War and was used to evacuate Collins’s body from Béal na mBláth to Shanakiel Hospital in Cork.

The local committee which organises the annual event decided that the Taoiseach would be the most appropriate person to deliver the speech on the 90th anniversary of Collins’s death at the site during the Civil War.

The event is synonymous with Fine Gael, although the organisers broke with tradition two years ago when they invited the late Brian Lenihan of Fianna Fáil, then minister for finance, to speak.

Dermot Collins, chairman of the Béal na mBláth Committee, said the group were delighted that Mr Kenny had accepted their invitation to give this year’s oration.

“We’re delighted that Mr Kenny has agreed to give this year’s oration – although others who served as taoisigh such as John A Costello, Liam Cosgrave and Garret FitzGerald have all given the oration, they did so before or after they were taoiseach.

“This is the first time we have a serving Taoiseach giving the oration and we’ve been given great encouragement and support by Mr Kenny and the Taoiseach’s office for this year’s event, which we expect to be one of the biggest in recent years.”

To mark the 90th anniversary of the death of Collins, who was killed in an ambush during a tour of his native west Cork on August 22nd, 1922, the Béal na mBláth Committee is publishing a book recalling some of the commemorations over the years.

Running to more than 200 pages, the book, which will be launched in Cork City Hall on Friday night by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney, includes photographs from the event over the years as well as excerpts from the orations given by an expanding range of speakers.

Mr Lenihan was not the first non-Fine Gael speaker to give the address. In more recent years the committee has extended invitations to a broader range of speakers including former president Mary Robinson and film director David Puttnam.

Speaking at the unveiling of the refurbished Sliabh na mBan at the Curragh Camp in Co Kildare last November, Mr Kenny described the car as a “silent witness” to the “loss of one of our greatest patriots and leaders”.

This year’s commemoration takes place on Sunday, August 19th.