Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has been left red-faced – after bizarrely claiming that Rebel hero Michael Collins had brought Soviet communist leader Vladimir Lenin to Ireland.
The Fine Gael boss had to backtrack furiously after making the remarks at a ceremony in Cork to mark the 90th anniversary of Collins’ death.
Kenny had made history as the first Irish PM to address the annual commemoration at Beal na mBlath, the site where Collins was shot.
But his visit has been shrouded in controversy after he referred to Collins as: “the outstanding organiser who brought Lenin himself to Ireland to see how the National Loan worked.”
Kenny’s office has now admitted that the Irish leader got his facts wrong in his speech.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister told the Irish Independent: “The script contained an inaccurate reference.
“It mistakenly stated that Lenin came to Ireland but should have stated that it brought Lenin’s attention to Ireland to see how the National Loan worked.”
The spokesman also admitted however that the PM’s government department is unable to supply any historical records which showed that Lenin demonstrated any interest in the Irish National Loan before his own death in 1924.
The department has yet to reveal if the mistake was made by PM Kenny himself or his speechwriter.
Noted historian Tim Pat Coogan, credited as the author of the definitive Michael Collins biography, told the paper that he would have to question how the Lenin reference got into Kenny’s speech.
Coogan said: “I’m not aware that Lenin ever visited Ireland, let alone under the tutelage of Michael Collins.
“Any such meeting between Collins and Lenin would have been extremely controversial, given the Catholic Church’s hostility to Soviet communism.
“Those were the days when bishops were bishops and Lenin was a communist. How would that have gone down with the churchyard collections?
“It could also have been used by the British government to discredit the IRA’s campaign during the War of Independence as a drive to turn Ireland into a communist state.”
The report states that, as Minister for Finance, Collins was responsible for advertising the National Loan, asking sympathisers for money and issuing personal receipts to people who contributed.
The scheme was used to fund the IRA’s war against the British administration and raised around $600,000 in Ireland - an enormous sum at the time.
Experts believes Kenny may have got his stories mixed-up as the Provisional Irish Government gave a $25,000 loan to Lenin’s cash-strapped Russian regime in 1920 and got the Russian crown jewels as security.
Author Coogan added: “The Russian loan was organised by Pat McCartan, who was working as an envoy in the US.
“It wasn’t a Collins manoeuvre. They contacted us and they wanted loans, and Eamon de Valera wanted something for it.”
The report says the Russian crown jewels were handed over in the US to republican Harry Boland who gave them to his mother for safekeeping at her Dublin home.
She kept them after he was killed in the civil war and eventually handed them over to De Valera’s government in 1938. The jewels were finally handed back to the Russian government in 1950 in return for the repayment of the $25,000 loan.