The museum removed the cap which had been on display for decades for ‘ethical reasons’ as it had visible signs of blood and organic brain matter that stained the original user’s headwear. Blood and organic matter residue are visible on the back of the cap at the point where the fatal bullet entered Collins’s head.
Dr Whitty said the decision to remove the cap from public exhibition was taken when it was relocated from the museum in Kildare Street to the new exhibition located in Collins Barracks. She said the decision was in line with modern museum ethics and was made out of consideration for the sensitivities of General Collins’ descendants.’
Now, upon hearing this, you’d naturally assume that someone must have complained about this, right? Surely, if we’re going to be removing a hugely important part of Ireland’s history, one of Collins’ descendants must have come out and argued for that? Well, actually, no, one descendent immediately described it as a case of ‘political correctness gone wrong’.
Collins’ 83-year-old grandnephew, Robert Pierce has called on the museum to reinstate the cap, and said that it should ‘always be on display’. Speaking to Newstalk, Pierce said:
‘People have to face up to that fact that it’s a very violent death to a man who was serving his country, as he saw it, to the best of his abilities. And far from saying that it should be removed, I feel it’s important that these things remain on display and that they show the horror of war, Civil War particularly, which is the most dreadful type of war. The reality is that this was a violent end by one Irish man on another Irish man, and that’s wrong, and the cap signifies that’.
He was shot at the back of his head, and people have got to realise that this is the reality of a civil war, and that this type of violence is all wrong. It is not ethical to hide reality, in my view’.
So, in other words, the museum took it upon themselves to make this decision, without even consulting the people who were supposedly at risk of being offended. They assumed people would be sensitive about it, and sought to remove it on others’ behalf. It’s hard to think of a better example of ‘political-correctness gone wrong’ (though to be frank I can’t think of an instance of political-correctness gone right).
It does beg the question though, what kind of person who studies history, and presumably you’d have an interest in the past if you worked at a museum, thinks a bit of blood in a historical context would be offensive to anyone? How weak and wussified has our culture become?
Even if one is squeamish about the conflicts of history, we all know that history is a bloody business, from the 1916 Rising, to the War of Independence, and the Civil War, and even the centuries of revolutions that went before that. Irish history, like world history, was made and moulded by the sacrifice of men like General Collins, and it’s a simple fact that blood often came with that sacrifice. We can love it, we can hate it, we can lament or celebrate it, but that’s the truth of the matter.
There’s a reason that Amhran na bFiann, ‘The Soldier’s Song’, is our country’s anthem, our State’s founders didn’t want to forget these conflicts, but commemorate them. By shielding ourselves from that fact, we fail to fully understand these men, the battles they fought, and the struggles they went through. As absurd as this whole debacle is, it calls to mind last summer when (Irish Prime Minister) half-Indian Leo Varadkar led the charge against a statue of 1916 patriot Sean Russell, slandering him as a ‘Nazi collaborator’.
The statue in question, like the Big Fella’s cap had stood on display for over a decade, and offended nobody, until Leo Varadkar chose to drum up the needless offence on behalf of others and it became the target of vandalism by people who were suddenly woefully upset about it despite not caring one iota a week prior. Are you starting to notice a pattern?
The destruction of relics of our nation’ history over personal offence is never acceptable, but it’s especially bad when nobody can actually be found who has a grievance in the first place.
Collins’ blood-stained cap, and artefacts like it, are a part of the tapestry of Ireland’s history. It is a grim truth that our War of Independence and our subsequent Civil War in this country led to terrible sufferings for many people, as wars always do, and blood was shed. But Pierce is absolutely right, it is not ethical to hide that reality, warts and all.
The bloodstains and scars of Irish heroes are the scars of the Irish nation itself, and we should bear them proudly. We would not be the people we are today without them.
Michael Walsh, whose father fought in both the Black and Tan War (1919-1921) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923), is livid. ‘The museums of Moville in Donegal are the homeland of my father’s memories and this is the holy place where they should be honoured and remain. To me, and to the people of Ireland regardless of political conviction, such artefacts and documents are holy relics and as such as untouchable.’
As the Irish Examiner’s article on the subject read:
Categories: Current Events