Kenny ponders history as he meets Collins’s descendants

Taoiseach hails ‘hero of our nation’ and Fine Gael founder as he offers advice to Varadkar

The celebrities were out in force for Enda Kenny’s final trip to the US as Taoiseach as he wrapped up his two-day visit to Chicago.

Hollywood actor Colin Farrell dropped into an Irish-American reception in the Drake Hotel and was seen chatting to the Taoiseach ladies queued up to get their photograph taken with the star – Farrell that is, not Kenny.

Bono gave the Taoiseach – "the chieftain of our country" – a shout-out during the second night of the band's Joshua Tree tour in the city and later presented Kenny with a vinyl collection of Joshua Tree records, signed, "To the Boss, Bono."

There were rumours that Liam Neeson was about. Perhaps the star of Michael Collins would reprise his role as the Big Fellow when Kenny was scheduled to meet Collins's descendants?


Alas no. Instead Kenny met privately with the relatives of the founder of the modern Fine Gael on Tuesday. They presented him with artefacts belonging to the independence leader, including the hat Collins was wearing when he was assassinated, his grand-nephew Dennis Collins said.

The hat was smuggled out of Ireland in the 1930s and sent to his grandfather, Patrick, the brother of Michael Collins, for safe keeping. The gesture was ceremonial – the family is due to travel to Ireland next year to officially present the items to the State.

The Taoiseach spoke about Michael Collins in one of his final speeches in Chicago, attended, among others, by Senator Billy Lawless and Chris Kennedy, son of Robert Kennedy.

Describing Michael Collins as “the hero of our nation”, Kenny recounted how Patrick Collins had moved to Chicago at the turn of the century and encouraged his younger brother to join him, even securing him a job in the National Bank.

“How different our history might have been if Michael had accepted that invitation but fate did not have it thus. Instead Michael Collins was not content to see things as they are and that’s why he dreamed of things that never were,” he said.

“More than that he made his dreams a reality, winning Ireland its independence and setting us on the road to the country that we are now.”


Kenny described how he had worked under a portrait of Michael Collins in his office as Taoiseach over the last six years.

Asked if he had any advice for his successor he cited a text the late Seamus Heaney sent to his wife shortly before he died. "Noli timere – do not be afraid."

As for future plans, he declined to comment, save for confirming that he would remain a TD until the Dáil dissolves and would meet Leo Varadkar on his return to Ireland. He said the Government had “no time to waste”.

“They should not be afraid of the challenges that lay ahead and every action that should be taken should be taken in the interests fully and solely or the Irish people.”

As he departed for Belgium to attend the centenary of the Battle of Messines, he picked out a memory from his time in office – standing alongside British prime minister David Cameron under the Irish peace tower in Flanders.

“I think given our history and our tradition of fighting everybody else’s wars peace should never be taken for granted . . . As you go forward you have to learn from the past. If you don’t understand what history means then you are always entering into an unknown.”