'A history-making time for our city': New exhibition launched in city museum 

'A history-making time for our city': New exhibition launched in city museum 

Michael Collins descendants around his bust at civic reception for the family of Michael Collins for the opening of the new exhibition ‘By a Treaty Divided – The Civil War in Cork’ in the Cork Public Museum. Pictures: Darragh Kane

A new Cork exhibition features letters between Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan, letters between Kitty Kiernan and Harry Boland, photographs, correspondence, and many other items never seen before by the public.

The exhibition, By a Treaty Divided - The Civil War in Cork, was launched in Cork Public Museum on Saturday morning by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Deirdre Forde.

The launch followed a civic reception in the museum to commemorate the centenary of the death of Michael Collins, a ceremony which was attended by members of the Collins family, City Councillors and Oireachtas members.

The Lord Mayor said she was delighted and proud to honour a man who fought tirelessly to bring peace to the island of Ireland.

“Collins was not a willing participant in the Civil War, as he saw both sides as comrades in the fight for independence,” Cllr Forde said.

“At the time of his death, he was in Cork in an effort to see how he could bring it to an end, meeting Florrie O’Donoghue in Macroom, a neutral broker.” 

Fidelma Collins, Grand Niece and Eleanor Moore, Great Grand Niece of Michael Collins looking at the bust of Michael Collins at civic reception for the family of Michael Collins for the opening of the new exhibition ‘By a Treaty Divided – The Civil War in Cork’ in the Cork Public Museum. 
Fidelma Collins, Grand Niece and Eleanor Moore, Great Grand Niece of Michael Collins looking at the bust of Michael Collins at civic reception for the family of Michael Collins for the opening of the new exhibition ‘By a Treaty Divided – The Civil War in Cork’ in the Cork Public Museum. 

Cllr Forde praised the museum staff for their “exceptional” work in preparing the new exhibition, and she thanked the Collins family for attending.

Fidelma Collins, Michael Collins’s grand-niece, speaking on behalf of the Collins family, told The Echo the ceremony was a great honour.

“I know a lot of civic receptions are held in City Hall, but I think it’s quite poignant that we are in the museum where a new Treaty exhibition is being launched today,” Ms Collins said.

“There’s a huge turnout by the Collins family, and what’s wonderful is there are so many children here, so we are going to pass the baton on, not just to the next generation, but the generation after.” 

Curator Daniel Breen said the exhibition detailed the period from July 1921, when the Truce was declared, to the end of the Civil War in May 1922.

“This exhibition tells the story of what happened in Cork during this period, highlighting the divisions brought about by the Treaty,” Mr Breen said.

“We have physical objects and documents, as well as privately owned photographs and images never displayed in public before, to tell Cork’s story.

“Significant objects include the suit jacket and waistcoat worn by Sean Hales TD on the day he was shot dead in December 1922 and the Conlon Collection that details the history of the Cumann na mBan during this period,” Mr Breen said.

'A history-making time' 

Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he would urge anyone interested in Cork and its history to visit the museum’s new exhibition.

Great great grand niece of Michael Collins Rachel O’Sullivan laying a wreath at civic reception for the family of Michael Collins for the opening of the new exhibition ‘By a Treaty Divided – The Civil War in Cork’ in the Cork Public Museum. 
Great great grand niece of Michael Collins Rachel O’Sullivan laying a wreath at civic reception for the family of Michael Collins for the opening of the new exhibition ‘By a Treaty Divided – The Civil War in Cork’ in the Cork Public Museum. 

“Obviously, it’s opening to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Michael Collins’s death, but I think it’s a very balanced, accurate depiction of what happened at that time, which was an absolutely extraordinary period,” Mr Coveney said.

“Not only the tragedy of the death of Collins, but of course, the build up to that, the pro- and anti- Treaty debates, the huge crowds have turned up on the South Mall to listen to politicians advocates for and against.

“It really was a history-making time for our city and, of course, it was just after the burning of Cork city, with Collins, as minister for finance, funding the rebuilding of the city,” he said.

Deputising for the mayor of County Cork, Fianna Fáil county councillor Michael Looney said the ceremony and the exhibition were wonderful.

“Civil War politics is gone in this country, and that is a great thing,” he said.

Fianna Fáil Cork city councillor Tony Fitzgerald said it was an honour to be at the civic reception and to commemorate Michael Collins, and he said the museum’s new exhibition did much to illuminate the tragedy of the Civil War.

“Today is about mutual respect and paying tribute to all who fought for freedom for our country, which we cherish and appreciate in modern Ireland,” Cllr Fitzgerald said.

Cllr Ted Tynan of the Workers’ Party said he was there out of respect for the Collins family.

“He was a giant of a man, and while I know Fine Gael claims him today, I would question that, and I think if Collins had lived we might have a very different Ireland today,” Mr Tynan said.

Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy said Cork in the aftermath of the Civil War had seen an intense period of rebuilding, especially in the wake of the Burning of Cork.

“Sometimes in the history of Cork, we tend to silo-ise that history, we talk about the Burning of Cork, the deaths of Tomás Mac Curtain and Terence MacSwiney, which were really important, there’s also the Civil War aspect and the fallout of that, but someone had to pick up the pieces, and we don’t always talk about the people who picked up the pieces,” Cllr McCarthy said.

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