Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 17 March 2022
Journeys to a Free State: Deputations and Expectations
The pro Treaty rally hosted by Michael Collins on Cork’s Grand Parade on Sunday 12 March was deemed a success. The following day, Monday 13 March, before taking the afternoon train back to Dublin, Michael took the time with Diarmuid Fawsitt from the Provisional Government’s Ministry of Economics to visit and take a tour of the Ford factory.
The Cork Examiner describes a 9am start. Michael was met with an enthusiastic reception along the route to the factory. Even the quay workers paused to cheer his presence. At the Ford works, the party were received by the factory’s managing Director Edward Grace. He showed Michael the extent of the works including the machinery, the moulding shops and casting shops. In the casting room Michael cast four motor-car cylinders. On the short journey returning to the city centre, Michael was recognised and was acknowledged by labourers working on roads in south docklands.
At Turner’s Hotel on Oliver Plunkett Street Michael Collins received several deputations. The proceedings were in private, but the names of the groups were published in the Cork Examiner. Not only was the lobbying of support for the Treaty, but there was also a job of work to do to resolve economic and social challenges, which faced cities such as Cork. The city had 8,000 people unemployed with a large proportion of whom were artisans, mechanics and unskilled labourers.
A deputation of the Legion of Irish Ex-Servicemen waited on Michael Collins. The position of the ex-service men under the Irish government was gone into, the matters touched upon relating to award granted the dependents of the men killed in the First World War and the question of civil employment.
A deputation on behalf of the Unpurchased Tenants Association urged Michael to complete the land purchase programme and directed attention to the action of certain landlords in threatening bankruptcy proceedings against the tenants. They also urged a temporary reduction pending the completion of land purchase.
Mr George Nason, President of the Cork and District Labour Council, brought matters to the notice of Michael Collins affecting the interests of the trades and the workers generally, with special reference to the unemployment problem.
A deputation on behalf of the Evicted Tenant’s Association was also received in the course of the day by Michael.
John Kelleher (Lyons and Company), John Biggane (Munster Arcade), John Cashman (Cashman & Sons), Michael J Mahony (John Daly & Co), Patrick Crowley (Moore and Co.), William Roche (Roches Stores), and John Rearden, Solicitor, appeared as a deputation about the question of rebuilding the premises destroyed in the Burning of Cork, and to clear up certain remarks regarding the advancing of money for the purpose or rebuilding. Some building owners and architects were ready to start their plans.
The latter remarks were a reference to a meeting of representatives of Cork Corporation and Michael Collins on 22 February 1922. At this meeting Michael noted that the Provisional Government would be in a position to arrange to grant to the extent of finance of £250,000 over a period of time. It was suggested that a sum that a sum of £50,000 would be made available in late Spring 1922 to five or six firms that were ready to pursue contracts. On the 4 March, a Cork Corporation sub committee of nine members was appointed to formulate a scheme for the administration of the available grants and discussion began on the vouching of the claims and the distribution of funding. Diarmuid Fawsitt represented the Provisional Government. By early April 1922, a sum of £10,000 was placed at the disposal of the committee. The money was to be placed to the credit of the City Treasurer.
Michael Collins was interviewed shortly before his departure from Cork on 13 March by the Cork Examiner and asked for his impressions of the Cork meeting. He called the rally a great success, which he deemed the further highlighting of support for the Treaty. He noted “The demonstration was unexpected in its dimensions and enthusiasm. The people came out of their own free will to express their feelings, and then came out without canvassing and without organisation. Of course, I knew that Cork was for us. I knew I was as good an interpreter of the desires of the people of Cork, as anyone, and I am glad my interpretation was confirmed…and everywhere I have gone there has only been approval and assent of the action of the plenipotentiaries”.
Michael continued to speak about how the crowd was not daunted by the gun shots fired at the rally; “The thing that was most marvellous was the coolness displayed by the women – old and young – when a few young men fired shots. I do not blame the men who pulled the triggers. I do blame the people who organised those young irresponsibles, for those people, expected to get a stampede. They know how easy it is to create confusion at a meeting where 50,000 people are assembled, and they got those unfortunate puppets to fire those shots in the full knowledge that if there had been a stampede women and little children would have been trampled under foot. But there was no stampede, everyone stood still, calm, and confident, and the. magnificent altitude of the people prevailed against the intentions of the disruptionists…The will of the people must prevail in spite of these things”.
1141a. Michael Collins at St Francis Church, Broad Lane, Cork, on Sunday, 12 March 1922, before the rally at the Grand Parade; (left to right) Diarmuid Fawsitt, economic advisor during the Treaty negotiations; Commandant Cooney, Michael Collins, T.D. Padraig O’Keeffe T.D., Fr Leo Sheehan, Very Rev. Fr Edmund Walsh and General Seán Mac Eoin (picture: Cork City Library).