TWO LETTERS FROM 2012 by Donal Kennedy



“Most informed Irish men and women, whatever thir views of the 1922 Split, rightly honour the memory of Michael Collins, as they do the memories of Harry Boland and Cathal Brugha, who fell to the forces under Collins’s command in 1922. Those men are honoured because they served Ireland bravely for years against British rule. They split over the best, or the least worse course of obliterating that rule, in the circumstances following the signing of the Articles of Agreement in London in December 1921

Ninety years on, Ireland is not well served by throwing mud at the patriots on either side, but the Taoiseach, by describing Collins’s death as “an assassination” appears to be doing just that.

Collins died in battle, in uniform, holding a rifle he had been firing at an ambush party headed by Tom Hales, a patriot as sincere as himself.

Collins’s escort included an armoured car equipped with a Vickers machine gun. It’s not as if Collins was out for a casual stroll, or unarmed or not conducting a war.

It belittles the office of Taoiseach to seek to appropriate for his party a hero who belongs to the Irish nation, and to cast opprobrium on other national heroes such as Tom


Donal Kennedy



“Recently I discovered on YouTube a programme put out on BBC2 called  “Ireland’s Hated Hero.”

I was somewhat surprised that its subject was Eamon de Valera, for I can remember BBC’s  Radio Newsreel  report following Dev’s return to power in 1957 when Gerald Freeman referred to him as a “Freedom Fighter.” The term was newly coined, I believe, by TIME, a crusading  American anti-Communist magazine, for those Hungarians who rose up against Soviet domination the previous October, and was considered a compliment in the West.

I’ve been searching to establish exactly how “hated” de Valera was.

 I found that in the 42 years between 1917 and 1959 he had been a Member of Parliament for a Co. Clare Constituency in the province of Munster; having been returned on 16 consecutive occasions. He had, additionally, twice during those years been elected as an MP for Mayo in the province of Connacht. Following Partition in 1921, he had been elected as an  Member of the “Northern Ireland Parliament”  for Co.Down from 1921 to 1929 and South Down from 1933-1937, absenting himself from that Assembly as promised.

De Valera led democratically-elected Irish Governments on 10 occasions. The first followed Sinn Fein’s landslide victory in 1918 and the second its landslide victory of 1921. As leader of Fianna Fail he led 8 Governments. So he was in power for 24 of the 42 years following his first standing for Parliament. He never entered into coalition with anyone. During his tenure there were no “heaves” to replace him, and his colleagues were no “yes-men” nor ciphers, but independent-minded revolutionaries.

When he left Government he did two Laps of Honour as President, totalling 14 years, having defeated strong candidates.

So much for de Valera’s record within Ireland. On the world stage he was not unknown. He was elected President of the Council of Ministers of the League of Nations in 1932 and President of the League’s Assembly in 1938.

Over 20 years before the eldest of the Beatles was born, de Valera was packing crowds into stadia across the  US and was being given official receptions in many of those States and their cities.

A copy of  The Illustrated London of  News  from 1938 shows the scenes at Euston Station as Dev’s train arrived there. Tricolour- waving crowds greeted it and some of the fans jumped on the roof, running along it, like a rehearsal for a scene from  A Hard Day’s Night . 

Dev’s Fabulous Public Career ended in 1973, four years after the breakup of the Beatles 

Donal Kennedy.”

Just thinking –

In 1948 de Valera had his first break from Government leadership since 1932. He visited newly independent India, the world’s most populous democracy, where he was given a hero’s welcome.

Had Winston Churchill, relieved of the burden of office three years earlier, visited India, I wonder what sort of welcome he’d have been given. Perhaps the BBC might speculate on their most Most Beloved Hero?

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