WE NEED A HERO

Regular readers of my blog will know that one of my all time heroes is Michael Collins. I have written about him before here. For my overseas readers, Michael Collins was the man who gained Ireland her freedom after 800 years of occupation by Britain.

Many of you will also be aware of the competition currently running on RTE to find Irelands Greatest. The contenders are Michael Collins, Bono (yep, I kid you not), Mary Robinson, John Hume and James Connolly. Each of these great Irish people is being featured in an hour long documentary outlining why they should be voted Ireland’s Greatest. I watched the Michael Collins one (a repeat of the original broadcast) on Sunday night.

I have read widely on Collins and so although I didn’t learn much I didn’t already know, the old news reel footage was wonderful and confirmed most of my opinions about him. Here was a man, a farmer’s son from West Cork, who went to London at 16 to work in the Post Office Bank. He returned to Dublin in time for the Easter Rising and went on over the next 6 years to achieve Ireland’s freedom from the most powerful empire on Earth.

He strode around my city and this country with confidence, vision and a seemingly huge amount of charm and charisma. He managed (in the days before mass media) to sell The Treaty he negotiated with Britain to the Irish people whom he addressed at mass rallies all over Ireland. He was a gifted communicator, a visionary, a soldier, an intelligence expert, a politician, a statesman and a celebrity. His work rate was huge. He was passionate, committed and determined. For me, there is no competition. He is Ireland’s Greatest.

On the same night as I watched the documentary on Collins, millions of people across the US were watching Jay Leno, who began his show by displaying a very unflattering photo of our Taoiseach asking his audience to guess who this man was. Was he a bar-tender, a politician or a night club comic? To huge roars of laughter, he announced that this man was in fact Ireland’s Prime Minister. He finished up by saying “at least we aren’t the only ones with drunken morons”. It was cringe making watching the clip back on YouTube the following day. And who can blame Jay Leno? Our leader, Brian Cowen has left himself wide open to such ridicule by his recent behaviour. But even before the hungover interview on Morning Ireland, Brian Cowen has managed to give the impression that he is weary of having to lead this country. He often comes across tetchy and irritated during interviews, as if it is a real nuisance to have to answer questions about the economy etc. He may have said it is an honour to lead this country, but you would never deduce that from his usual demeanour.

One wonders how Ireland could have gone from having a leader such as Collins to having a Taoiseach such as Cowen. I am angry that he has reduced our country to a laughing stock and a financial wreck. But trying to stay positive I am holding to the old adage that the darkest time is just before the dawn. Perhaps somewhere on this island, a new Collins is about to come into focus; someone who will lead Ireland forward to a new day. I really hope so!
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  1. Funny that Barbara. Just before you posted this I was musing to myself whether our politicians (a) realise just how bad things really are on our poor beautiful island just now and, (b), whether they REALLY know just how frustrated, angry and disgusted the ordinary people on the street are. I fear not!

  2. I have to agree with you Barbara about Michael Collins. He was truly a great leader. A man dedicated to the freedom and well being of our country. A true Irish hero.

    I am not surprised by the lack of quality in Ireland's leaders of today or of the past three decades. After all they are the inheritors of Dev's political party. Need I say more! The air of entitlement is beyond belief.

  3. Great post Barbara, and as a Corkman's daughter I have to say I'm a big fan of Collins too. A truly remarkable man, and although I think Daniel O'Connell may always be my very favourite, Collins runs a very close second.

    It is embarrassing watching Cowen blunder through his media appearances and treat the country with such disrespect. I worry that the behaviour of our politicians will deter the young, passionate leaders of the future from getting involved and changing Ireland for the better.

  4. Barbara

    This is a great post. What I find curious is the Irish tendency to identify the problem in a situation and then just put up with it. We wring our hands and give out – often very articulately – but don't *do* anything.

    This government is not popular, not fit to govern and should not be allowed to continue to pull the country further and further into difficulty.

    We need to band together – which, historically, we have never been able to do – and effect change.

    Am I preaching revolution? Do you know, I think I am.

    Hazel

  5. I'm with Hazel, bring on the revolution – we can't afford it but then again we can't afford not to. When will we ever learn ?

    D

  6. Great post Barbara – well written and researched. I wonder how Michael Collins would manage in our modern world? Like many great leaders of the time he was a man of heroic virtues and small vices. How would it play out on the small screen?
    I agree with your basic premise – we need a hero. I cannot find any on either side of the house. We need a man with the intellect and character of Obama. They seem to have tired of him the States. Maybe we can persuade him to return to his Irish roots……

  7. A terrific blog, Barbara. You shine a light on the problems of our country and we desperately need someone – man or woman – to lift us out of this morass that we find ourselves in and someone who will restore our confidence and faith in our country.

  8. Great piece Barbara – I agree we need change…but we have no real leaders as yet. For the first time in my life I have no clue as to who I would vote for if there was an election in the morning!
    Cathy R

  9. Great post and just to look at those two images makes me cringe at the current leader. It's a disgrace really, but as you say, hopefully someone mighty is waiting in the wings. Ever considered it yourself?!

  10. Hi Miriam and welcome to my Kitchen Table – yep I do think people are angry but individuals are also terrified by this recession which came so quickly and affected so many of us so directly that they are frozen like rabbits in headlights. hopefully that stupor is beginning to wear off now. We need change and we need it soon

    Ann and Ellen – he is probably the one person, alive or dead that I would love to have dinner with. He totally fascinates me. Michael Collins that is!

    Hazel and Deirdre – yep bring on the revolution. We just need a revolutionary leader now!

    Padraic, Nor and Cathy – so many people have been put off entering politics after years of corruption and scandal. But let us hold on to hope that somewhere…..

    HCM – moi? I guess I could give it a try in the mornings instead of trying to write!!! lol

  11. I winced when I read: “Michael Collins was the man who gained Ireland her freedom after 800 years of occupation by Britain”. That 800 years thing is rather simplistic from an historical perspective: for most of that time Ireland was comprised of various warring native factions and British rule only, arguably, became established after the Cromwellian Plantation in the 17th Century.

    And I'm sorry, but I'm not in thrall to a man who sent gangs out to murder men in their beds and whose legacy of violence to achieve political ends has brought so much misfortune to this country.

    It might be useful to read Kevin Myers in this regard:

    http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/kevin-myers/kevin-myers-most-countries-have-experienced-terrible-events-but-only-we-make-a-fetish-of-them-2357041.html

  12. I'm of Irish descent and grew up with pictures of Michael Collins on the wall and was astounded when my historian friends hadn't a clue who he was! He was a great man and IMO should't be put in the same category as Bono!

    Great post 🙂

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