Photos by Donal Foley
The outbreak of the Irish Civil War and the deaths of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith are among the main events to be commemorated in the 2022 decade of centenaries programme. The Government has announced a State commemoration will be held in remembrance “of all those who lost their lives” during the Civil War, which followed a split over whether to accept or reject the Anglo-Irish Treaty establishing the Irish Free State, after the War of Independence with Britain. Last weekend saw the 100th anniversary of the death of Michael Collins commemorated throughout the country. And Kilkenny was no different.
Kilkenny County Council in association with Kilkenny Historical Re-enactment Group staged their own commemoration in the wonderful setting of Kilkenny Castle.
GREAT TO BE INVOLVED
John Joe Cullen from the Kilkenny Historical re-enactment Group said he was happy to be part of the team commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of Michael Collins.
“For years, Civil War politics has been alive and well in the country and no matter what your allegiance, it is important to be able to come together on this occasion to remember an Irish hero,” said Mr Cullen.
“I think it sends out a very positive message when you have the leader of Fianna Fáil and Fianna Gael joining together at Béal na mBláth to honour an Irish hero”, continued Mr Cullen.
“Locally, we have a similar situation where Fianna Fail’s Pat Fitzpatrick, chair of the County Council and Fianna Gaels David Fitzgerald, (Mayor) share the stage for the commemoration”, added John Joe.
The County Council backed project didn’t disappoint. The event kicked off at 4p.m with a wonderful display of Irish dancing provided by Lauren Scallan and Kate Flanagan from Kilkenny Academy of Irish Dance
COUNCIL CHAIRMAN SPEAKS OF HEROISM AND TRAGEDY
Speaking at the event Councillor Pat Fitzpatrick spoke of Ireland’s history as a canvas of great heroism and much tragedy. “We must never engage in historical revisionism, and it is important for our younger generations to understand what our forefathers suffered in their struggles for our independence” said the Council chairman.
Mr Fitzpatrick continued by say that “Michael Collins played a leading role in the military and political movement which finally brought an end to the British occupation in the 26 counties. Unfortunately, partition was the sacrifice which facilitated this momentous achievement.” Speaking of the 1916 rising Pat Fitzpatrick said “Collins was greatly influenced by the commitment and bravery of the 1916 Easter rising – having been a young activist in the GPO.”
The Kilkenny re-enactment group pulled out all the stops with a re-enactment of the attack at Béal na Bláth in 1922. Using the landscape of the hill at Kilkenny Castle, the group captured the re-enactment to perfection, with a car (1918 Chambers) and motorbike ( BSA 500CC) from the era adding authenticity to the occasion.
Set to the background music of The Foggy Dew and Johnny McEvoy’s rendition of ‘Michael’, the all- male cast entertained the crowd with a very realistic performance. Costumes, guns, bicycles and carts used in the re-enactment were so authentic, which led to the production being real. Sound effects and music played a huge part in the re-enactment and credit for this must go to Ray Brophy who is instrumental in the success of much, if not all re-enactments created by the historical group.
REMEMBERING KIERAN CROTTY
The idea of the re-enactment was the brainchild of Mayor David Fitzgerald, who said that he was delighted with the response of all councillors when he first proposed the event in the Council chambers. “It was wonderful to see the Council give the project their full backing” added Mr Fitzgerald.
The mayor went on to say that thirty two years ago another Mayor of Kilkenny, Kieran Crotty, took the bold step to organise a conference to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Collins birth. At that conference for the first time, a cross party committee of civil war adversaries came together to hold an event to honour a man who shaped all our lives. This was the first event of its kind in Ireland.
Mayor Fitzgerald asked that as a nation we look forward to different commemorations without the need to glorify or celebrate.
“A little over 10 years ago, I too as Mayor led the first national commemoration ceremony outside Dublin after the government choose Kilkenny as the regional centre with the ceremony held on the Castle grounds. I remember clearly, the significance of that event and the realisation that we faced into a decade of commemorations that addressed still controversial events and challenged many peoples deeply held beliefs”, said the Mayor.
Councillor Fitzgerald continued: “The manner in which the Irish people have remembered these events and the lives shaped and lost over this turbulent decade underlines our maturing as a nation and our willingness to commemorate without the need to glorify and celebrate. Today’s cross party commemoration here and in Béal na Bláth is yet another milestone on our journey as a nation.”
Concluding his speech, Kilkenny’s first citizen said, “As we look back at 100 years of Irish Independence, let us now look forward and accept that challenge that Collins set us that we as the children of an independent Ireland and Republic, where the people are sovereign, renew our resolve to face the challenges of the next 100 years, of our generation and the generations to follow.”
A wreath to commemorate the death of Michael Collins was laid in front of the Irish Flag on behalf of the Council by Cllr Fitzgerald and Cllr Fitzpatrick, and was followed by a minute’s silence.
Charlie Parsons played The Last Post and Reveille while piper Eugene Boland played The National Anthem.
Mayor Fitzgerald thanked all involved, paying a special word of thanks to the re-enactment group for adding such realism to the day and also to the staff at Kilkenny Castle for their support in hosting the event.