CORK County Council has admitted there is some uncertainty about whether Michael Collins ever lived in the new museum building that will bear his name.
Local historians are claiming that a plaque outside the museum at No 7, Emmet Square, Clonakilty, incorrectly states that Michael Collins lived there from 1903 to 1905.
A spokesperson for the local authority admitted that ‘conclusive evidence is not available’ to confirm if No 7 is indeed the house where Michael Collins lived with his sister, Margaret, and her husband, Patrick O’Driscoll.
‘Should this change,’ the spokesperson said, ‘it would be very important from a historical perspective and, if required, Cork County Council would have no hesitation in relocating the plaque.’
He said Cork County Council was aware that Michael Collins ‘might have lived elsewhere on the Square’, but when No 7 became available for purchase, Cork County Council seized the opportunity, ‘firstly to ensure the long term future and restoration of the property and secondly to tell the story of the struggle for independence in Ireland from 1798 to 1922.’
In telling that story, he said, the museum – which is expected to open to the public in mid-October – will focus on three local patriots – namely, Tadgh an Astna, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa and Michael Collins.
At the time the Council bought the building, there was already a plaque on the wall at No 7 stating that the freedom fighter had lived there, but local historians – Tomas Tuipéar, Vincent Allen and Michael O’Mahony – now say that is not the case.
To prove their point, they have produced a copy of the property valuation from the Valuation Office in Dublin and it clearly indicates that Patrick O’Driscoll – the brother-in-law of Michael Collins – lived at No 13 Emmet Square, and not No 7.
Tomas Tuipéar told The Southern Star that the numbers of the houses on Emmet Square – which was formerly known as Shannon Square – changed in 1896, and that was recorded in the Town Valuation, and he provided The Southern Star with a photograph of the ledger.
Mr Tuipéar said their historical research also uncovered the fact that the West Cork People newspaper was not printed at No 13 Emmet Square by Patrick O’Driscoll, as previously claimed, but in Cork city.
‘I have no doubt that the museum is ideally situated as a visitor centre,’ said Mr Tuipéar, ‘but the facts are the facts. Michael Collins lived at No 13 Emmet Square, not No 7. That does not alter the fact that it was an inspired thing to buy that house in Emmet Square and to restore it to its former glory because it will leave a lasting legacy for the town and for Michael Collins.’
Mr Tuipéar maintained: ‘It is important to get the narrative right.’ And he suggested that the situation could be rectified by changing the plaque to say the freedom fighter lived at No 13 from 1903 to 1905 and at Clogheen, just outside of Clonakilty town centre, from 1905 to 1906.’