Commemoration Committee member hails Taoiseach’s address at Béal na Bláth

Dermot Collins awarded Cork Person of the Month for his efforts to remember Michael Collins’s legacy

A long-serving member of the group that organises the Michael Collins Commemoration at Béal na Bláth has spoken of his satisfaction at seeing a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach speak at this year’s event as he was presented with a Cork Person of the Month award for his efforts to remember Collins’s legacy.

Dermot Collins, who has served on the Béal na Bláth Commemoration Committee for more than 25 years, said he was hugely heartened this year when Micheál Martin was given such a warm welcome by the 12,000 people attending the centenary event to mark Michael Collins’s death in the Civil War.

“I was delighted to see a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach address the commemoration in the year that it was. We were always working to make it an event open to all and we had many speakers over the years: we had former president Mary Robinson and people from the SDLP like Bríd Rodgers and Mark Durkan.

“And we also had figures from other walks of life such as Bill O’Herlihy and George Hook and Peter Quinn and David Puttnam, but I suppose what set in train this year’s event was when the late Brian Lenihan, a Fianna Fáil minister, accepted an invitation to speak in 2010 – that really was a milestone.


“I remember reading an interview with Brian Lenihan years later when he was asked by commentator, the late Noel Whelan, what were the highlights of his career, and he said being asked to speak at Béal na Bláth – that was a real sign of the reconciliation and healing we were hoping for.

“And this year to see Micheál Martin stand side by side by Leo Varadkar – the two leaders of the two main parties that arose from the Civil War – that was particularly gratifying, and Micheál received a great reception as he acknowledged that Collins was one of the greatest Irish men that ever lived.”

A native of Kinsale, Dermot inherited his admiration for Michael Collins from his late father, Jerry, and he recalled going to Béal na Bláth with is father and his mother, Babs, as a youngster 70 years ago, planting the seeds of an involvement which has now earned him a Cork Person of the Month award.

“I used to be fascinated going to Béal na Bláth with my father and mother as a 12-year-old and my father telling who was there from the Collins family. When I was growing up, I was told that we, as a family, were not that far out relations, but I don’t believe that to be case,” he said.

Dermot stepped down as chair of the Béal na Bláth Commemoration Committee in 2017 after 15 years in the role, while he had earlier spent five years as secretary and now an ordinary committee member again.

Dermot paid tribute to his fellow committee members, including new chair Cllr Garret Kelleher, who played a critical role in ensuring the success of this year’s event. He also acknowledged the great support given by the Collins family and the local community in Béal na Bláth.

Mr Kelleher said it was people like Dermot and other committee members over the years that helped build the event into the huge national occasion it has become.

Cork Person of the Year awards organiser Manus O’Callaghan said Dermot was a worthy winner of the October award.

“Congratulations to Dermot Collins and his fellow Béal na Bláth committee members, who have been keeping the Michael Collins story to the fore for future generations. It is important that we always honour this great West Cork man as one of the truly great heroes of Irish history.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times