THE organisers of the annual Michael Collins commemoration at Beal na Bláth have welcomed confirmation by President Michael D Higgins that he will give the oration at this year’s ceremony.
President Higgins will become the first serving president to deliver the oration which takes place this year on Sunday, August 21st – the day before the 94th anniversary of Collins’ murder in a republican ambush.
Béal na Bláth annual commemoration committee chairman Dermot Collins said that the organisers were delighted and honoured when President Higgins accepted their invitation to give the oration.
‘We were delighted because Mary Robinson gave the oration after she left the Aras, so this will be the first time a sitting president will give the oration. President Higgins has a great knowledge of Irish history and is an original thinker so we are really looking forward to hearing what he has to say on Michael Collins and his legacy,’ said Mr Collins.
‘And it’s a particular honour for us that President Higgins is giving the oration this year – the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising when Collins was aide de camp to Joseph Plunkett in the GPO.’
President Higgins’s acceptance of the invite to speak at Beal na Blath follows in the footsteps of Enda Kenny who became the first serving Taoiseach to give the oration when he spoke there in 2012.
Since then, broadcasters – the late Bill O’Herlihy and George Hook – delivered the oration in 2013 and 2104 before the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald gave the oration at last year’s event.
Mr Collins said it was particularly pleasing for the committee that President Higgins accepted the invitation, given his own family’s involvement in the War of Independence and the Civil War.
‘His father and two of his uncles fought in the War of Independence and while his father took the republican side in the Civil War, at least one of his uncles took the Free State side,’ he said. ‘Given his own family experience of the Civil War where families were divided, it will be interesting to hear what he has to say about the tragedy of the Civil War and the importance of reconciliation.’
According to military records, President Higgins’s late father, John, a native of Co Clare, fought with the Charleville Company of the No 2 Cork Brigade of the IRA during the War of Independence.
In his Military Service Pension application, the late Lt Higgins revealed he was involved in attacks on Ballylanders Barracks, a raid on a mail train in Charleville station and an ambush in Ballyhea. After the Treaty, Lt Higgins took the republican side while his brother, Peter – who fought with the IRA in East Clare – took the Free State side and became a sergeant in the National Army.
Lt Higgins was involved in engagements with Free State troops at Frollock Cross and Boolard Cross before he was captured and interned in the Curragh from January until December 1923.