A major upgrade of the site and monument at Béal na Bláth in Co Cork is to be undertaken as west Cork prepares to commemorate the centenary of the death of Michael Collins.
Béal na Bláth, between Bandon and Crookstown in Co Cork, is considered the most important Civil War commemoration site in the country.
Seven months after negotiating the Treaty in London and the country in a state of civil war, Michael Collins, on a trip home, was ambushed and shot dead at the site by Anti-Treaty troops on 22 August, 1922.
Thousands of people visit the site annually and many attend the commemoration held every August.
But growing concerns about the state of the site and monument has seen Cork County Council draw up major plans to upgrade it.
The local authority says this follows extensive consultation with archaeologists, architects, engineers and officials from Cork County Council as well as a number of external experts and representatives from government departments including the Department of An Taoiseach and the Department of Defence.
Cork County Council Heritage Officer Conor Nelligan said in drawing up the plans the team looked at the history of the site, the events that led up to the day itself, and what the site looked like 100 years ago.
“One of the key proposals is the narrowing of the road which is restoring it to what it was like one hundred years ago, which is very important for people to get that sense of it. It is about making it safer for people, it’s about providing more information for people as well.
“Cork County Council wants to enhance it for the benefit of people not just for the centenary event itself but throughout the year because it is rare that you come to this site without there being people here paying their respects to Michael Collins.”
Among those consulted about the proposed plans were the Michael Collins Commemoration Committee.
Chairman, Fine Gael Councillor Garret Kelleher said the committee was delighted with the commitment that has been made by the Council and by Government.
“Our priority is to ensure that the legacy and the memory of Michael Collins continues to be honoured appropriately.”
Councillor Kelleher said planning is well under way for the centenary in August and an official announcement on who will make the annual oration on the day will be made in the near future.
Michael Collins’ grandniece Fidelma Collins said the family were delighted with the plans which will make the monument more accessible to people with the plinth being lowered, the railings removed and a ramp being put in place.
“A lot of people do like to come up and pay their respects and have their photograph taken with the monument behind them so I think the family will be very happy that it is going to be more accessible and really pleased that Cork County Council have taken this opportunity to invest in the site and upgrade it.”
Work is due to begin in the early spring and will take up to four months.
The Mayor of County Cork, Fianna Fáil’s Gillian Coughlan confirmed that the project has gone to tender, and that there is a financial commitment from both the OPW and from the Commemorations Committee to Cork County Council towards the cost of the upgrade.
“It doesn’t look like a site where a historic event took place. If you went to any other country where an historic event of the magnitude of the assassination of Michael Collins took place occurred, you would see much more to commemorate it.
“I think the interpretation and enhancement of the site is very important for history and for us as a State.”