Spirit of Collins is spirit of our nation, says Lenihan


Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan called on all in public life to let the spirit of Michael Collins inspire them through the current economic crisis.

The Fianna Fáil minister made history when he became the first figure in the party to deliver the keynote oration at the annual commemoration at Béal na mBláth.

The sun shone in west Cork as the crowd applauded Mr Lenihan, who revealed he was honoured and privileged to speak at the traditionally Fine Gael ceremony.

“If today’s commemoration can be seen as a further public act of historical reconciliation, at one of Irish history’s sacred places, then I will be proud to have played my part,” he said.

Mr Lenihan admitted while the economic crisis was deep and severe, the country has surmounted similar difficulties in the past.

“In meeting challenges and seizing opportunities, the Irish people have shown their courage, determination and creativity - just as Michael Collins and his comrades and colleagues did in the campaign for independence and in the establishment of our State,” he said.

“The spirit of Collins is the spirit of our nation, and it must continue to inspire all of us in public life, irrespective of party or tradition.”

Members of the Collins’ family, including his great grand niece Helen, were among a 2,000 strong crowd who gathered at the spot where the general was ambushed at the height of the Civil War in 1922.

Mr Lenihan, who is battling cancer, said the full magnitude of Collins’s achievements was appreciated and valued by Irishmen and women right across the political spectrum.

“Collins was a man of energy and action,” Mr Lenihan continued.

“An astute politician; a man of extraordinary organisational and administrative ability; a pragmatist who believed he could over time bring Ireland total independence; a driven, ambitious man who was born to be a leader.”

Mr Lenihan paid tribute to Collins in his role as minister for finance between 1919 and 1922.

He maintained Collins’ still had the time to build the foundations of a system of financial control when he was at constant risk of arrest and death, running a ruthless guerrilla war and masterminding the highly efficient intelligence system which secured its success.

“There is no substantive connection between the economic and financial position we confront today and the totally different challenge faced by Collins and his contemporaries,” continued Mr Lenihan.

“But as I look at those pictures of my predecessors on the wall in my meeting room I recognise that many of them, from Collins through to Ray McSharry, had in their time to deal with immense, if different, difficulties.

“I am comforted by what their stories tell me about the essential resilience of our country, of our political and administrative system, and above all of the Irish people.”