“No time for hiding behind romanticised views of the past” Humphreys
Cavan Monaghan TD, Deputy Heather Humphreys, gave the main address at the 99th anniversary of the death of Michael Collins.
In an eloquent speech the Minister for Rural and Community Development and Minister for Social Protection said: “We should not be bound by the past, we can learn from it.”
Her address also had a thinly veiled attack on Sinn Féin. The acting Justice Minister spoke of politicians who “attempt to weaponise history and in some cases re-write it entirely to suit their own political narrative”.
Minister Humphreys said that the Michael Collins Commemoration 2021was “very different to what has gone before” but reflective of the times and the country's ability to adapt: “Irrespective of the format, it is a great honour for me to deliver the Béal na mBláth Annual Commemoration for 2021 and I thank the committee for their invitation,” she said.
The Minister spoke of the journey she has made in politics: “When I first entered politics as a novice County Councillor back in 2003, if you had told me that I would be here today giving the oration on the 99th anniversary of the death of Michael Collins, I would not have believed it.”
She reflected on how events of a century ago can dramatically change over time: “In 1912, Michael Collins was a 21 year old, working in London, in the midst of his formative years. He had become involved in the Irish Republican Brotherhood and just 4 years later, he would take up arms in the 1916 Rising.
“At the same time, in 1912, a young man, aged just 19, a farmer who lived in Drum, Co. Monaghan, by the name of Robert James Stewart, signed the Ulster Covenant. I am sure never in his wildest dreams would Robert have thought that a little over a 100 years later his only grand-daughter would be speaking at a commemoration for the man who led Ireland’s struggle for independence,” Minister Humphreys outlined in her address.
The reference to Sinn Féin came as she spoke of the subject of the Commemoration: “Michael Collins had no time for hiding behind romanticised views of the past, and neither should we.
“During a heated Treaty debate, he noted how some other politicians used history as a weapon, cloaking their arguments in claims about what dead generations would have wanted, or future generations might someday want,” she said.
Minister Humphres drew parallels to contemporary politics: “It is a lesson that some political parties on this island still have to learn, parties with an emotional reverence for the atrocities of the past. They attempt to weaponise history and in some cases re-write it entirely to suit their own political narrative.”
She indicated the party she referenced by saying: “In 2016, one party, in particular, tried to stand apart from the State and conduct their own parallel events.”
Michael Collins was shot and killed on August 22, 1922, by anti-Treaty volunteers who ambushed his army convoy at Béal na Bláth as he returned to Cork city from meeting Free State commanders in his native west Cork.
Annual commemorations have taken place at Béal na Bláth since the 1930s on the anniversary of the death of Collins.