Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny will become the first Irish leader to address the annual Michael Collins commemoration at Beal Na mBlath outside Cork today. Collins was just 31 when he was killed there in an ambush in August 1922. This year marks the 90th anniversary.
He died soon after the Irish Civil War erupted when he and his fellow leader Eamon De Valera split over the creation of the Irish Free State and the partition of Ireland.
Thousands are expected to attend and “Sliabh na mBan” the Rolls Royce armored car that bore Collins body back to Cork City will be driven to the site for the first time in 90 years.
Kenny will speak as a previously unseen contemporary account of the killing that changed the face of Ireland has come to light.
An internal IRA document that languished in the papers of Moss Twomey, a former IRA Chief of Staff, has been discovered by a historian Dr. Brian Hanley.
The document shows that the killing happened by chance as the IRA party that had been waiting for Collins had mostly withdrawn believing he was not coming.
Hanley will state in a new book that the account also proves that an astonishing lack of protection around Collins was the real cause of his death.
As Chief of Staff of the Irish army fighting a civil war in the aftermath of partition, he should have been much better protected.
It is believed to be the first immediate account of the ambush at Béal na mBláth.
It also disproves speculation that Collins was shot by one of his own officers.
Collins died on August 22, 1922 when his convoy was attacked by the IRA on a lonely stretch of road between the town of Bandon and Cork City. Beal na mBlath means “The Mouth of the Flowers.”
Earlier the Collins men had inadvertently tipped of their enemies when they asked directions from a local IRA sympathizer which set up the ambush on the return on the same route.
The Collins party was delayed and only five IRA men were left when Collins returned. It is believed that local IRA man Sonny O’Neill fired the fatal shot that killed Collins after twenty minutes of a gun battle.
To this day it is unknown why Collins did not just order the convoy to drive on rather than stop and fight. It is also unknown why he did not take shelter in the armored car that was part of his convoy but choose to shoot back from behind an ordinary touring car.
At the time of his death, he was engaged to Kitty Kiernan. A 1996 Hollywood film starring Liam Neeson as Michael Collins was a major hit.
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