Letter : Collins myth bent to serve peace process

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The Independent Online
Sir: I agree with Ronan Bennett when he says that conservative British commentators are not really worried about the historical accuracy, or otherwise, of Neil Jordan's epic Michael Collins ("Hidden agenda", October 31). What they really find objectionable is that Jordan has dared to depict British rule in Ireland in a bad light.

But as someone who comes from the opposite end of the political scale I am worried about the historical accuracy of Jordan's film. Not because it shows car bombs before there were car bombs or because it does not fully investigate the Unionist perspective in early 20th-century Ireland, but because the film seeks to rewrite what it means to be an Irish nationalist.

The hero of Michael Collins is Michael Collins and the villain is Eamon de Valera. Collins is the hero because he is pragmatic and realistic and willing to compromise with British imperialism. De Valera is the villain, because he sticks to his guns, refuses to budge and will settle for nothing less than a complete British withdrawal from Ireland. In the past that would have made de Valera the hero and Collins the traitor. But Jordan has rewritten Irish history so that ditching your principles in the name of reconciliation is interpreted as the authentic expression of true Irish nationalism.

In short, Jordan's film is infused with the values of today's peace process. In Ireland today it is those who are prepared to compromise their principles in the name of peace and reconciliation who are held in high esteem, while those who stick to their guns are cast as the villains. Jordan has projected this value system into the past.


Edgware, Middlesex