Fascinating launch speech by Michael Noonan - in full
Launch of €10 Silver Proof and €20 Gold Proof Collector Coins – 90th Anniversary of the Death of Michael Collins
Ladies and gentleman, it gives me great pleasure to launch the €10 Silver Proof and €20 Gold Proof Collector coins to mark the 90th anniversary of the death of Michael Collins.
I will begin by thanking the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter, and the Army authorities for their kindness in allowing us the use of Collins Barracks for the launch of these Proof Collector coins. The venue is very fitting given these barracks are named after the man we are honouring with the release of these coins.
I should also say a special word of welcome to the members of the Collins family, many of whom are here today.
These €10 Silver Proof and €20 Gold Proof Collector coins are to mark the 90th anniversary of the death of Michael Collins and feature a portrait of Michael Collins by renowned Irish artist Thomas Ryan, who is with us here today. As is traditional, the national side of the coin depicts the 14 string Irish harp modeled on the Brian Boru harp in Trinity College.
I am assured by numismatists that demand for these coins, both individually and together, will be very strong. The Central Bank has set the issue limit on the €10 Silver Proof Coin at 8,000 pieces, the issue limit on the €20 Gold Proof Coin at 12,000 pieces, and the two coin set at a 6,000 issue limit.
Commemorations of Critical Events
The issuance of these coins should be seen as part of the forthcoming decade of commemorations of critical events in our history. I was particularly conscious of this decade of events on 6th December last when making my first Budget speech in Dáil Eireann, which coincided with the 90th anniversary of the signing of the Anglo Irish Treaty.
The upcoming commemorations offer an opportunity for us to recognise the great sacrifices that so many people made in the creation of this State. They also offer us the opportunity to think about the Ireland that we want to create for the next 100 years. I think the Government’s Constitutional convention has a very important role to play in this process. I hope the members of the Constitutional convention will reflect on the discussions that will surround the many upcoming commemorations.
During the many difficult decisions in my 18 months as Minister for Finance, I am particularly conscious of the difficulties faced by Michael Collins and Eoin MacNeill as the first two Ministers for Finance. Those of us today who sometimes feel that the task facing us may be insurmountable should remember the challenges faced by those who founded the institutions of this State.
The recent return of the State to the bond markets brought to mind the challenges faced by Michael Collins as Minister for Finance in the first Dáil when raising a national loan to fund the new State. John Considine of UCC has described the difficulties he encountered. Collins set about the logistical task of organising the loan in circumstances that were far from conducive to success. As 1919 progressed, the British authorities took ever greater steps to suppress nationalist activities. They stopped many newspaper advertisements of the loan. Raids were made on the locations where the provisional government was thought to be operating.
Announcements of public meetings to promote or sell the bonds resulted in the arrest of the organisers. People were arrested for possession of the bonds or the prospectus. This puts the difficulties faced by the NTMA into perspective!
To compound the problems Collins faced, the Dáil was declared an illegal organisation on September 12th 1919. Frank O'Connor captures Collins's application "It is characteristic of Collins that from the beginning he does not seem to have thought at all of the impossibilities latent in the scheme; to him it meant exactly what it said….”.
This characteristic is a very important one to keep in mind when facing our current difficulties. We must break down the massive problems that we face into smaller more manageable problems. I have spoken of this approach in last year’s budget. It can be daunting looking at measures to stimulate growth in the overall economy but when we break the economy into its key sectors it is far easier.
In this mind, I am reminded what my immediate predecessor, the late Brian Lenihan, said in his speech at Béal na Bláth in 2010: the spirit of Collins is the spirit of our nation, and it should continue to inspire all of us in public life irrespective of party or tradition. It was in that spirit that I asked the Central Bank to arrange for the issue of special commemorative €10 silver and €20 gold coins which are being launched today.
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank the designer of this collector coin, renowned Irish artist Tom Ryan, who we are delighted could join us here today. The Central Bank has a long association with Tom, who has designed a number of outstanding coins in the past.
I don’t think I can do any better than to quote Tom’s words from the Central Bank’s brochure: “If the actions of persons become legendary, the aspect of their identities becomes that of a popular image, it becomes an Icon.” Michael Collins has indeed taken on the status of an Icon – all the more fitting then that we launch these special collector silver and gold coins today to mark the 90th anniversary of his death.
I would like to conclude by thanking the Central Bank Collector Coin Unit for all of their work in producing these proof coins. Finally, I would like to thank the Army, particularly Lt. Colonel John O'Neill and his officers for organizing such a wonderful venue, occasion and lunch for the launching of these coins. I understand this is Lt. Colonel O'Neill's final duties before his retirement from the Army so I would like to thank him for his 35 years of service to his country and wish him the best in his retirement.
Thank you Ladies and Gentleman for your kind attention.