TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has called on his government and the Irish people to “work harder than ever, to roll up our sleeves” and fulfil Michael Collins’ aspirations for Ireland.
Kenny was addressing the annual commemoration of Collins’ death at Béal na mBláth, the small village close to where Collins – the chairman of Ireland’s provisional government at the time – was travelling when he was assassinated on August 22, 1922.
“Like Collins, our founders thought big, dreamt big and delivered big,” the Taoiseach said, as he became the first sitting head of government to address the commemoration.
Referring to the hydroelectric power plant at Ardnacrusha – which was controversial at the time it was built – Kenny said: “Their dream, their vision and their determination created a long-term economic benefit – a less and an example of our times”.
The Taoiseach’s speech regularly recalled Collins’ status as Ireland’s first independent Minister for Finance, and revealed how he drew inspiration from Collins’ own political struggles in his government’s attempts to regain economic independence.
“I give you my word that I will not rest, nor will the government rest, until Ireland has reclaimed and restored its economic sovereignty,” he said.
Kenny added that if his government was to ask people to make “big changes and big sacrifices, we have a political duty – indeed a moral duty – to lead by example and reform the political system itself”.
Collins would “expect and demand no less of us”, he remarked.
Kenny also revealed that the themes of food security, nutrition and climate change would be central to Ireland’s presidency of the European Council when it takes over at the head of that body for the first half of 2013.
Referring to Ireland’s good relations with Britain – embodied, Kenny said, by mutual support for each country’s athletes at London 2012 – the Taoiseach said similar themes would be pursued by the UK when it holds the presidency of the G8 next year.
Another first at today’s commemoration was the attendance of the armoured car, Sliabh na mBan, in which Collins’ body was removed from the scene.
The Irish Army, of which Collins was also the first commander-in-chief, also attended and fired an artillery salute.