A professor at University College Cork has said former rebel leader Michael Collins was vain and probably died a virgin.

Speaking at the unveiling of a plaque in honor of Collins at the Munster Arms Hotel in Bandon on Friday, Emeritus professor of history at UCC John A Murphy said in his speech that the leader was "hardly a flawless hero," even if he was now "universally attractive to public opinion."

“He could be vain, ruthless, impatient of criticism, and increasingly autocratic. He was also conspiratorial, especially in his Northern Ireland policy, in early 1922. Yet there is no doubt he dominated both the civil and military sides of the independence struggle, that he masterminded the smashing of British intelligence, and swung the balance in favour of the Treaty settlement.”

The Irish Examiner reports that Prof Murphy called several writings and film depictions of Collins “unhistorical and distorted” and the “demonisation of Éamon de Valera as part of the Collins glorification process was unnecessary, unfair, and irrelevant."

“Moreover, Collins has sometimes been wrenched from his proper historical context and forced into contemporary relevance. Thus, he is depicted as a very modern ‘macho’ man, cast in a late 20th-century mold, especially in the area of sexual permissiveness.

“However, his alleged womanizing remains mere speculation and there is no evidence he succumbed to the blandishments of his groupies. He was exclusively devoted to his fiancée Kitty Kiernan. He was a practising Catholic after the manner of his day, even if occasionally anti-clerical in the Fenian tradition,” he said.

The unveiling came just two days after commemorative events in Clonakilty and Cork City to mark Collins' birthday. The last photograph of the rebel leader was taken outside the Munster Arms Hotel just before his death at Béal na mBláth in August 1922.