Ireland must show ‘pragmatism’ of Michael Collins in adapting to challenges of Brexit

Former RTÉ northern editor Tommie Gorman delivers oration at Béal na mBláth in Co Cork on 101st anniversary of the death of Collins

Former RTÉ northern editor Tommie Gorman has said that Ireland must show the pragmatism that was a core quality of Michael Collins in adapting to the challenges posed for Northern Ireland and Anglo Irish relations by Brexit.

Mr Gorman delivered an oration at Béal na mBláth in Co Cork on Sunday afternoon on the 101st anniversary of the death of Michael Collins in the Civil War.

He said Michael Collins was a “pragmatist” who in conflict “had a ruthless streak to match his adversaries”.

“He was among those who negotiated and then championed the treaty, knowing it might cost him his life.”


Last month, at Barnsbury Street in Islington, London, where Collins was initiated into the IRB in 1909, a plaque honouring him was unveiled with the support of Islington Council. It is part of Islington’s Irish Trail that honours the history of the Irish community in the area. As a 16-year-old Collins went to London from Cork in 1906 and got a job as a post office clerk. It was a city where emigrants, Irish included, were not always welcomed.

“It was also where at times during our lifetime Irish men and women planted bombs whose victims included civilians. The erection of that Collins plaque last month illustrates the potential of British-Irish relations. Our past happened. It should not be denied or glossed over. But now is different and the future can be even better.”

Mr Gorman said that the UK and Ireland has much to gain from good relations between the two countries. “Given the ties of kinship between us and the practical benefits of cordial relations, being anti-British or anti-Irish makes no practical sense.”

Earlier this month Leo Varadkar indicated frustration about his government’s limited engagements with London. At the time of the Good Friday Agreement the British-Irish relationship at government level provided “positive example and leadership”.

Mr Gorman told attendees at the event that the Belfast Agreement was critically enabled by both Ireland and the UK being members of the EU. He said that opinion polls consistently indicate that we are a “pro-EU country”.

“Our views (on Europe) were influenced by our knowledge of our circumstances before we joined and what has happened to us since. Britain’s history before EC membership in 1973 and its story since differs from ours.”

Mr Gorman said that the Brexit debate reflected Britain’s discontent about its changing status and circumstances.

“And frustration with its ability to alter it. As a sovereign nation it exercised its right to put the issue to the people. Britain is adjusting to the consequences of Brexit as it begins a new phase outside the European Union and pursues a different relationship with it.

“We too are adapting to the circumstances where the neighbouring island is no longer in the EU. It presents very practical challenges. But our status as an English-speaking country, with guaranteed access to EU markets, now has enhanced weight when seeking foreign direct investment. The Brexit decision has been made and the challenge now is to deal with the consequences.”