Collins stayed a republican `at heart'

 

MICHAEL Collins remained a republican at heart although not a doctrinaire one, Fianna Fail's head of research, Dr Martin Mansergh, said at the weekend. He said Collins's vision of Ireland had much in common with those of de Valera and Lemass, sharing the former's ideal of a simple frugal rural society and the latter's desire for development.

Speaking at a conference at UCC entitled "Michael Collins and the Making of the Irish State," Dr Mansergh said Collins believed that "the 1916 leaders declared a Republic, but not as a fact, more as a wonderful gesture."

He still believed in 1920 that the same effort which would bring Dominion Home Rule would bring a republic, Dr Mansergh told the conference, which was organised by Prof Dermot Keogh and Mr Gabriel Doherty of UCC's Department of History.

Even after he had signed the Treaty, he was quoted as saying. "I have signed an oath of allegiance to the Irish Republic and that oath I will keep, Treaty or no Treaty," Dr Mansergh said.

He said Collins was opposed to punishment beatings for "any of fence, under any circumstances, even a reprisal", believing it had a "more degrading effect" upon those administering it than on the recipients.

Pointing out the similarities to de Valera's vision of "the Ireland we dreamed of with its simple, frugal comforts", Dr Mansergh noted that Collins was also concerned about the effects of English economic penetration.

"He wanted to see agriculture improved, existing industries developed, means of transport extended, hydro power used and mineral resources tapped."

The conference also heard contrasting opinions on the completeness of Neil Jordan's film on Collins, with Prof Joe Lee of UCC claiming that it failed to paint a full picture of the man.

"Neeson's [depiction of Collins] is not a false one. But it is an incomplete one. The bulk of Collins's time was not spent in action scenes. It was spent as a manager and as an administrator," he said.

However, Prof Ronan Fanning of UCD said the film was correct to portray Collins as the principal architect of British withdrawal from southern Ireland.