Over 5,000 people are expected to attend next weekend's commemoration marking the 100th anniversary of the ambush and shooting dead of General Michael Collins at Béal na Bláth in west Cork.

The centenary ceremony will be marked by a historic joint address by the Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Fine Gael leader Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

It will be the first time a Fianna Fáil party leader has addressed the commemoration of the ambush in which the pro-Treaty General Collins was shot dead by an unknown assassin in the early months of the Civil War.

A major crowd and traffic plan involving the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána, Cork County Council as well as the emergency services is in place.

Those planning to attend the 3pm ceremony are being urged to car share or use shuttle buses to get to and from the site which lies between Crookstown and Bandon.

Michael Collins

Chairman of the Michael Collins Memorial Committee, Cork City Councillor Garret Kelleher, said members are very pleased with the level of interest shown in the marking of "such a significant anniversary".

"We look forward to welcoming our two guest speakers, who as the modern day leaders of the parties which emerged from the Civil War have shown the maturity and leadership to set aside historic differences of opinion and work together.

"We hope the event is enjoyable for everyone who chooses to travel to Béal na Bláth, or watches it on television," he added.

Dozens of events - from historical walking tours and exhibitions to a new film on the life of a young Michael Collins - get underway in west Cork from today ahead of next weekend's official event.

The village of Newcestown hopes to set a world record for the biggest number of people named Michael Collins in the same place at the same time to mark the anniversary.

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The world premiere of a film on the life of a young Michael Collins will take place on Tuesday with both showings completely sold out.

The 11 minute film 'Tales From Home' was shot and filmed locally by the children and staff of Lisavaird National School where Collins attended as a child.

The school register containing his name is on permanent display at the school.

Principal Kieran O'Donovan said the centenary of his death gave the school the chance to establish a connection between its students and local history.

A still from the Michael Collins film made by children at Lisavaird National School

The film includes re-enactions of stories from the general's childhood - among them the story behind the only known photograph of a young Collins at his home in Woodfield.

"The teaching of history in terms of the War of Independence can be fragile, especially when you talk about the Civil War," Mr O'Donovan said.

"We tried to stay away from that and portray the innocent side of things - that he was a boy from Lisavaird before he was the Big Fella and let the children make that connection."

In Clonakilty, five diaries written by Collins during the critical period of 1918 to 1922 have, for the very first time, gone on public display at the Michael Collins House Museum in the town.

These were loaned to the National Archives by descendants of Collins, the late Liam and Betty Collins.

Grandniece Helen Collins said Michael Collins' older brother Johnny (her grandfather) passed the diaries to her father Liam Collins and the family is delighted they are available to the public to see.

"Our granduncle Michael Collins lived an extraordinary life. The diaries will give the public a much greater understanding of this exceptional and courageous man."

The Michael Collins House Museum in Clonakilty has his diaries on display

Among the first of the events to get underway tomorrow is a hill walk and outdoor theatre event from Woodfield to Carraig a Radhairc, hosted by the Sam's Cross Michael Collins Commemoration Committee.

Meanwhile, Cork County Council said restoration and upgrading works at the Béal na Bláth site will be finished in time for the commemoration.

These include narrowing of the road, resurfacing, additional parking spaces as well as maps and guides drawn up following consultation with experts in archaelogical historic landscapes and memorial historic landscapes involving the battlefield and ambush area.

The project was undertaken in a partnership between the Council, the Department of An Taoiseach, the Department of Defence and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media.

Cork County Mayor, Councillor Danny Collins, said the site is of national and historical significance and "the works will give visitors a chance to experience what the landscape was like in 1922 when the ambush took place".

He added: "It is also about creating a lasting legacy for future generations."

The centenary ceremony begins at 3pm on Sunday, 21 August and will also be broadcast live on RTÉ.