Taoiseach rules out State inquiry into killing of Michael Collins

Martin says revolutionary leader should be commemorated as statesman next year

The identity of the shooter of Michael Collins remains a mystery. File photograph: Hulton Archive

The Taoiseach has said that revolutionary leader Michael Collins should be commemorated as a statesman when the centenary of his death is marked next year.

However, Micheál Martin ruled out a State inquiry into who shot the Irish republican leader to death, saying it would be the wrong way to approach the issue.

Mr Collins was killed on August 22nd, 1922, near Béal na Bláth in Co Cork during the Civil War. The identity of the shooter remains a mystery almost 100 years later.

Mr Martin said on Sunday that he signed off on a plan to put resources into Béal na Bláth to create a proper memorial for Collins. “I met the Collins family recently. I was very taken by what Helen, the grandniece of Michael Collins, said,” the Fianna Fáil leader said. “They much prefer Woodfield, the birthplace of Michael Collins, than Béal na Bláth because to them Béal na Bláth is a death site. It’s a grave.


“It has never been appealing to their family, whereas actually I got it when I was at Woodfield. The location is idyllic, where he was born and reared you can almost see him running around those fields.

“But I think we should commemorate the centenary of the death of Michael Collins in the manner we would commemorate the loss of a statesman.”

‘Outstanding’ leader

Mr Martin said Mr Collins was “an outstanding” Irish leader during the War of Independence.

“All of that generation had extraordinary commitment to the country,” he added. “I was struck, when I read the [Michael Collins] diaries that we were presented with, that commitment shines through, and indeed it shines through all of the records and archives that have been made available.

“I think we should honour the leaders of that period without fear or favour and do it in a proper way.”

Asked whether a historical inquiry into Mr Collins’s death would be a step too far, Mr Martin said it is the wrong way to go through the past. “I much prefer the work of academics, good, solid, informed histories,” he added. “That, to me, is the more informed way to go about it, to look back on history.

“Let’s not approach history with the perspectives of today or with your own prejudices.

“You should approach history objectively and try to tell the story as it was through the prism of those who were there at the time, and what their impulses were and what their emotions were. History is complex.

“There are many variables, there’s never one simplistic narrative.

“I think the Collins family have an idea, they are certainly of the view that reconciliation is the key objective and they would have had that view a long, long time ago in respect of families in west Cork on the other side.

“There’ll be many stories written but the idea of setting up a State inquiry would be anathema to me. I think that’s the wrong way to approach it.” – PA