By Robert Kindregan
Paddy Cullivan hopes to solve the 100-year mystery surrounding Michael Collins death in Béal na Bláth with his one-man show at Mullingar Arts Centre this Friday (March 18).
This year (August 22) will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of the revolutionary figure. His death, or “murder” as proposed by Cullivan, is one of the great mysteries in the history of the state.
A self-described “historical entertainer”, Cullivan and his show takes a deep dive into theories surrounding the death of the ex-Director of Intelligence for the Irish Republican Army.
The show is a combination of 300 images, two songs, a bit of humour and plenty of history. There have been four prior showings at sold-out venues in Dublin and Cork before the curtains open in Mullingar.
While still in its infantry stage, the idea began as an online show during Covid and was so well received it turned to the stage. Cullivan says the show reflects the talents and experiences he’s accumulated across different fields over the years.
“I grew up between Galway and Dublin, then went to art college so that’s where the history and art came from. Then I formed a band and I ended up in the Late Late Show band, you know the Camembert Quartet.
“I was doing the music stuff for a while and then I also wrote the latest Callan’s Kicks and acted in it too for RTÉ, so there’s a little comedy side-line going on in the show too!
“I kind of mixed all my talents together here for the show and I call it historical entertainment.”
Michael Collins was the key figure in establishing the Irish Free State when he signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London, 1921. This resulted in the Irish Civil War in which Collins was commander-in-chief of the National Army.
A pioneer in intelligence and guerrilla warfare, much of Collin’s life remains shrouded in mystery. His death following an ambush in Béal na Bláth during the Civil War is no exception to his mysterious ways.
With a running length of 90 minutes, there’s plenty of time to explore the life of the elusive Michael Collins life and death, a man who Paddy describes as “the James Bond of Ireland”.
“I’m very much of the idea that I want to solve this [the death of Michael Collins] as soon as possible. I would much rather us celebrate his amazing life but if we keep saying ‘don’t look here’ or ‘don’t look there’ then we’ll still be talking about this in 100 or 1,000 years’ time.
“Let’s be honest here, he’s probably the most important Irish man that ever lived, certainly he ended up the most powerful.
“Him being head of the IRB [Irish Republican Brotherhood] and his career in London as a spy. He’s a fascinating figure. He’s like the James Bond of Ireland and it’s just tragic what happened to him. It’s very much what I would call our JFK.”
A lack of evidence and proper documentation has resulted in many wild theories. The lack of an inquest, inquiry and autopsy following the death of the ex-Minister of Finance has been a bewilderment to Cullivan who asks himself: “How could this happen?”
“When everybody is talking about his death, and they say their so certain about the trajectory of the bullet or that this was the bullet that was used and that sort of thing. We don’t actually know any of those things.
“We don’t have ballistics, death certificate or forensics so everybody’s making up theories about it. As certain as a lot of people think it is, it’s a lot of he said she said and conflicting stories.”
Tickets can be purchased in advance on the Mullingar Arts Centre website, www.mullingarartscentre.ie