Wednesday, 9 June 1971
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Clinton: and Mr. L. Burke asked the Minister for Defence if, in view of the widespread desire among people of all political persuasions for a fitting tribute to the late Michael Collins on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his death, he will now arrange to have the Army officially represented at the ceremonies to be held in his honour at Béal na Bláth in 1972.
Minister for Defence (Mr. Cronin): As indicated on many occasions in reply to previous questions, it is the policy, in order to avoid difficulties which would arise in selecting individual anniversaries in the commemoration of which the State might participate, that a special day, Easter Sunday, should be set apart on which the State should celebrate the securing of Independence and honour all who took part  in the struggle to achieve it. The only variation of this policy is the annual State Commemoration at Arbour Hill for those who died in 1916.
As regards the question of commemorating the 50th anniversary of those who died in the Civil War period, I would refer the Deputies to the reply by the Taoiseach to Question No. 3 on the 20th April, 1971, and his replies to supplementary questions arising therefrom.
Mr. M. O'Leary: Would the Minister agree that the Government's action in putting Michael Collins down as one of the people who took part in the Civil War is an insult to the history of the period and that whatever one's view of the ultimate Treaty, Collins stands out as an exceptional figure of the period and that it can only be described as small-minded on the part of the Cabinet, led by the Taoiseach, that they have not honoured Collins at this time?
Mr. L. Burke: Would the Minister admit that we sent a delegation to South America and also to North America to honour Irishmen who founded navies out there and that still we have no recognition of the architect of Irish freedom?
Mr. O'Higgins: Can the Minister also indicate why it was possible in the days of a predecessor of his as Minister for Defence for the Army proudly and honourably at Béal na Bláth to honour their first Commander-in-Chief without any difficulty and  with the full agreement of all sensible, concerned people in this country?
Mr. Cronin: I have the greatest respect for all who died for Irish freedom and there are others who would be deserving of similar tribute, and I think the Taoiseach was right in his reply when he offered to facilitate the setting-up of an all-Party committee to see how those who died in the Civil War could be commemorated. This is still on and I can request the Parliamentary Secretary to expedite it.
Mr. O'Higgins: Does the Minister not realise that in 1948, 1949 and 1950 the Army were present at Béal na Bláth in accordance with the direction of the then Government and the then Minister for Defence?
Mr. O'Sullivan: Is the Minister aware of the dismay and the dissatisfaction felt by the people of this country at a statement made recently by the Taoiseach that Michael Collins was a Civil War figure?
Mr. O'Sullivan: Is he aware that Commandant General Tom Barry, who fought on a different side during the Civil War, came forward and delivered the oration at the unveiling of a monument to Michael Collins at Sam's Cross and that Liam Deasy delivered the oration——
Mr. O'Sullivan: I am telling you, too, that I assure both of you that the stature of Michael Collins is rising as the years go by and that when you will be lost and forgotten his name will be remembered.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): Does the Minister not think it a little unreasonable that Michael Collins should be honoured only as a Civil  War figure when he is not alone recognised as a national figure but as an international figure, and that his life has been written by historians of international repute? How can the Government treat him as one of many when the world treats him as a man above men?
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