Collins descendants welcome Micheál Martin’s acceptance to speak at Béal na Bláth

Martin will be first Fianna Fáil Taoiseach to speak at commemoration when he joins Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in delivering address

A grandnephew of Michael Collins has welcomed Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s acceptance of an invite to speak at Béal na Bláth as up to 200 descendants of Collins prepare to meet in Cork to remember their ancestor on the eve of his death in an IRA ambush 100 years ago.

Aidan O’Sullivan is a grandson of Collins’ older sister, Mary and together with his eight siblings, will attend Béal na Bláth on Sunday when Micheál Martin will become the first Fianna Fáil Taoiseach to speak at the commemoration when he joins Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in delivering an address.

“I’m delighted to see Micheál Martin there and I’m delighted to see Leo Varadkar there as well — it’s a terrible shame that Michael Collins died at the hands of a fellow Irishman but to have the two party leaders speaking together, it’s a sign of real reconciliation 100 years on from the Civil War.

“I know a lot of has been written about Michael Collins about what he would and could have done if he had lived but I think at the same time it’s true to say that from when he left school in West Cork to when he returned to West Cork on that fateful day, he packed a lot of achievement into his life.


Mr O’Sullivan said that descendants of Michael Collins are coming from as far away as the United States, Canada, Australia, Africa, and Britain as well as many from Cork for a number of events over the weekend to commemorate his granduncle who died at the age of just 31.

“We have two events on Saturday — one at Collins Barracks which will be attended by about 100 descendants and then a second at the Rochestown Park Hotel where around 200 of us will gather — it’s the first time all the Cork relatives will gather together because we never did anything before.

“For years, Michael Collins was written out of history — it’s only since the 1990s really that his role in the fight for Irish freedom and independence has been properly recognised — Tim Pat Coogan’s book, which is quite accurate, helped hugely in that regard.

“Of course, Neil Jordan’s movie with Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts came out in the 1990s as well and I remember asking my late aunt, Brenda what she thought of the movie — she said that they never used the language that was used in the movie, but the violence was a lot worse.”

Along with members of the extended family from United States, Canada, Great Britain, France and Bhutan, Mr O’Sullivan will travel with his siblings Marie, Kevin, Claire, Una, Fionnuala, Maeve, Declan, and Brendan on Sunday to hear Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar give their addresses while on Sunday evening they will attend the screening of two new documentaries on Collins.

They will be screened at Cork’s Imperial Hotel where Collins spent his last night alive on August 21st 1922. Room 115 where he slept has been refurbished in the style of 1920s and on Monday, Mr O’Sullivan and Collins’s grandniece, Fidelma Collins will unveil a new portrait of Collins in the hotel.

Mary Collins met her brother for the last time in the room on the evening of August 21st.

Michael Collins was the youngest of eight children. Collins’s father was 75 when he was born and died when Michael was just six; his mother when he was 16.

“She was his eldest sister by about nine to 10 years. Michael was treated very much by her as the baby brother in the family,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

“They liked to look after him when he was in Cork. She was worried about him, she was very much involved in directing Michael in his younger years before he moved to London in 1907.”

At this stage of the Civil War Collins was commander-in-chief of the National Army and drove him and those around him very hard.

“He was working very hard to try and meet with people to settle the problems that were happening between the various factions in Cork at the time,” she said.

“She was worried about him. He may have had a cold at that time. She was encouraging to take life easy.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times