Micheál Martin addresses the crowd surrounded by Mike Enright, Timmy Dooley, Cathal Crowe, Michael McTigue and Brendan Daly. Photograph: Natasha Barton

AN IDENTITY CRISIS in Fianna Fáil has not been aided by the decision of the Taoiseach to address a commemoration marking the 100th anniversary of Michael Collins’ death, a prominent local party member has said.

On Sunday, Micheál Martin (FF) became the first Fianna Fáil Taoiseach and leader to speak at the annual commemoration to Michael Collins at Beal na Bláth which was attended by thousands of people in West Cork. He joined the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar (FG) in delivering an address.

It marked the first time that the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the parties associated with the opposing sides in the Civil War, addressed the event in Béal na Bláth.

Chairman of Fianna Fáil’s Clare Comhairle Dáil Cheantair, Michael Enright felt the Taoiseach further damaged the “identity crisis” that the party is grappling with. He said “it would be remiss of any lifelong party member” not to air their views regarding Martin’s address.

“Neil Jordan must be credited with the romanticism of Michael Collins in popular culture and I enjoyed the movie as much as everyone,” Enright stated.

Micheál Martin speaking at the commemoration is one step closer to an amalgamation between the civil war parties, the Newmarket-on-Fergus native warned. “In the last twelve months, the party has created committees and commissions to address the existential crisis the party faces and most voters have confirmed they cannot see the difference between the party of de Valera and the party of Collins. I believe Fianna Fáil should focus on relevance and strengthening its identity rather than moving one step closer to amalgamation. The leader has already gone to Beal na Bláth but he should change his advisors and fast”.

He told The Clare Echo, “I couldn’t imagine Alex Ferguson making a speech to Liverpool supporters at Bob Paisley’s statue in Anfield”. He said “a lot of people were taken aback” by the Taoiseach accepting the invite.

When asked if he felt a snub by the Taoiseach would impact the decision of the floating voter rather than the party die-hards, Enright stated, “I think a lot of people associate Fianna Fáil on the same platform. People looked for change in the last General Election and even though we were in opposition we were not seen as a change, people didn’t differentiate Fianna Fáil from Fine Gael and Sinn Féin benefited”.

As per the Ireland Thinks poll published in The Sunday Independent earlier this month, polls have Fianna Fáil on 17 percent, behind Sinn Féin on 35 percent and Fine Gael on 22 percent. According to the party’s Chair in Clare, its identity is eroding. “I think our identity and the direction we’re going in is not in our own hands, we are going in a different direction to what we want. The Lawless Commission was set up to look at Fianna Fáil’s identity following the General Election but we’ve yet to hear anything about what they are doing or plan to do”.

Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) was in favour of the party leader speaking at Béal na Bláth. “I think it was very positive and progressive for the Taoiseach to speak at Béal na Bláth, I love my history every bit as my politics. I have a great personal admiration for Michael Collins and the principles and ideals he stood for. I read a lot about the man and I studied the era, I wouldn’t have been supportive of the Treaty if I was time tunnelled back to the era, it led to a partition that hasn’t been good for this country”.

Deputy Crowe told The Clare Echo, “Since 2008, I’ve had memorial cards for both Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera, I was gifted one and the other has been in our family for years, I have them framed and in my office”.

He agreed that the film on Michael Collins was more favourable to Collins than de Valera. “I feel very strongly that Eamon de Valera was maligned by the Neil Jordan Michael Collins film which is a film spectacle, it’s good and I’ve enjoyed watching it but not where people should turn to for historical accuracy. Several generations perceive Eamon de Valera as a mean spirited austere guy who threw Collins to the wolves. I think that is inaccurate, I’ve studied the history and I don’t think it is accurate”.

Crowe said it was “wrong for people in politics to try perpetuate divisions” by criticising the stance taken by the Taoiseach over the weekend. “It was great to see Micheál Martin there, for me the Civil War ended a long time ago. I’m glad the Civil War ended in political terms in the summer of 2020 when the coalition began, it hasn’t always been a bed of roses, there are some fundamental points I disagree with Fine Gael and the Green Party on”.

Noting that the death of Collins took place 100 years ago, the Meelick native stated, “in our far more recent history we saw how Ian Paisley, Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams and David Trimble shared a platform in the 1990s when violence, murder and sectarian division was rife in the North”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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