Why Michael Collins Signed the Treaty – In His Own Words

Minister for Finance Michael Collins
(colorization courtesy Rob Cross)

This month marks 99 years since the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921 was debated by Ireland’s nascent Dáil. A debate with far-reaching consequences indeed: which determined the young nation’s path of development, ever since.

Critical turning points change us forever. Some spend the rest of their lives periodically puzzling over them, reliving them, striving to understand what happened there: what had the options been, really? Had we made the right decision? Can these lessons aid decision-making in future? Such rites of passage, for an individual, a community, or for a nation, loom large in the consciousness.

This space is once more given over to Michael Collins: who certainly knew more about that particular debate than most anyone. Yet, despite the fame of his name, and his prominent role in those events, his own words are little enough heeded in the historical debate, which still continues today:

All the streams – economic, political, spiritual, cultural and militant, – met together in the struggle of 1916 – 1921, which has ended in a peace in which the Treaty of Limerick is wiped out by the departure of the British armed forces, and the establishment of an Irish Army in its place … The Union is wiped out by the establishment of a free native parliament, which will be erected on a Constitution expressing the will of the Irish people … With the termination of the Union goes national enslavement if we will it. Complete national freedom is ours and nobody but ourselves can prevent us achieving it.
– Michael Collins 1922

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The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”


by S M Sigerson

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The assassination of General Sean Hales, TD

General Sean Hales TD 1922General Sean Hales was the ranking Free State officer in the district encompassing Béal na mBláth. He was also a close friend of Michael Collins, since their youth in West Cork. His suspicious death followed closely upon that of Collins, and was directly linked with it. The story of his murder is routinely glossed over, even when cited as the pretext for subsequent killings of other great War of Independence heroes; his erstwhile brothers in arms, such a short time before.

(The following is an excerpt from “The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Beal na mBlath?”  www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714)

Hales immediately set about trying to organize an official investigation into the shooting of Commander-in-Chief Collins: seeking to have all members of the convoy returned to Bandon, so that a court of inquiry could be held. To obtain the necessary authorizations, he made several trips to Dublin, where he met with representatives of the Cabinet and army headquarters. They refused to cooperate.

He would not be dissuaded, but travelled to Dublin again to press his suit for a full investigation. His driver and constant companion Jim Woulfe told Feehan that Hales never accepted Dalton’s story. A letter from Woulfe to Feehan states, ” … His chief topic of conversation was Michael Collins. He told me that he would leave no stone unturned until he got an inquiry or inquest held on Michael’s death. … At this time he was about three times in Dublin but all to no avail. The ‘big brass’ in Dublin would not listen to him. He told me so himself.”

Hales took his appeal to the highest Free State civil and military authorities. This means that the lack of inquiry was no oversight, but was defended in the teeth of continued demand. It also directly implicates WT Cosgrave, Richard Mulcahy, Kevin O’Higgins and other key figures. Certainly these are the people Hales would have been speaking to.

photo of Sean Hales statue Bandon, County Cork

Sean Hales statue Bandon, County Cork

Travelling again on this matter, Hales went to Portobello Barracks, where, as a general of the army, he normally stayed while in the capital. On his arrival, he was informed that the Barracks had no accommodation for him. This forced him to move to a hotel: on the doorstop of which he was assassinated the next day.

Witnesses saw two British soldiers at the scene, with their guns drawn. These same soldiers testified that Hales was shot by two unidentified assailants, whom no one else had seen. The British soldiers’ version became the official story, accepted at the inquest.

The IRA have consistently denied responsibility. Notably Moss Twomey, one of the top anti-Treaty commanders for Dublin at the time, “always maintained that no orders whatever were given to shoot Hales and it was not the IRA’s doing.” 

Hales’ death was seized upon by the Free State’s new Cosgrave-Blyth government (created upon the sudden deaths in quick succession of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins): as a pretext for a wave of shocking summary executions. The men condemned by these newly-elevated functionaries were heroes of the War of Independence: Liam Mellows a leading socialist tactician, Rory O’Connor a prominent regional commander, later spokesman for the Four Courts Anti-Treaty garrison, Joe McKelvey, and Richard Barrett. The very revolutionaries responsible for the creation of the new, Dublin government; here proved so quick to put them to death without a hearing.

photo collage of Liam Mellowes, Rory OConnor Joe McKelvey Richard Barrett

Liam Mellowes, Rory OConnor, Joe McKelvey, & Richard Barrett


Who can read this record, without wondering whom indeed did that particular Government really represent? 

In some circles, voices are sometimes still head to blame Collins for these atrocities; which in fact took place over his dead body. Few (including apparently few historians) read this fine print of history, inextricably .linking their deaths with his, and with that of General Sean Hales.

Read more
“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”

by S M Sigerson
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“Free State or Chaos” – Michael Collins on the Treaty

The “Irish Free State” (1922-1949) , created by the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, remains controversial to this day. While it officially ended the War of Independence / Tan War, it was not yet a fully independent republic, but remained within the British Commonwealth of nations. Still it meant far greater autonomy and self-determination than Ireland had seen for centuries. The Free State’s detractors would ultimately prove its proponents right: by using it as a stepping stone toward more and more complete national independence from Britain; albeit this remains a work in progress at this writing.

Michael Collins, although he died before the Free State’s official establishment, is in some quarters blamed for errors by Free State leaders who came after him. Yet while pejorative comments about his role still pepper discussions on this topic, Collins’ own arguments are often poorly understood by such critics.

For this reason, the following 1922 speech by Collins is provided below: as essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand this history; whatever their political outlook.

(Transcribed from his speech at Waterford on 26 March 1922):

“The Treaty and the establishment of the Free State mean peace, freedom and security. The alternative is chaos, disunion and anarchy.

“If it is your will the Free State will be established. We shall have complete control. Our country will be our own. We shall have our own Army. We can build a Mercantile Marine. We shall have control of every public department. We can promote trade internal and external. We shall be free to deal with unemployment. To get the land into the hands of our people to cultivate. To deal with housing. To have our education under our own control.

“What do our Opponents offer you? What have they to offer you?

“Up to the time of the evacuation their policy was represented by an unsigned document fashioned on the lines of the Treaty. Most of the Clauses were identical with the Articles of the Treaty. On behalf of the Irish People they voluntarily agreed to the British occupation of the six Ports, to the same arrangements in regard to NE Ulster, to similar adjustments of the financial arrangements between the two countries.

“But the Policy has now been changed. With the departure of the enemy secured by the Treaty, Mr. DeValera and his followers have grown bolder. We hear no more about Document 2. “The Republic” which was surrendered by Mr. DeValera in July is restored as the policy of Mr. DeValera and his followers in February and March.

“You know our policy and you know our programme. It may not be perfect, but it is straightforward.

“If you prefer Mr. DeValera’s Policy which he tells you is now a republic, can he give it to you?

“He was unable to secure it for you last July , and he surrendered it in favor of what is known as Document 2 or 3. He is no more able to get you a republic now, than he was able last July, unless we are able to do now what we failed to do last July.

“Unless we are prepared and are able to beat out of Ireland the British forces which would be sent there if we attempted to set up a republic, and unless we are prepared, and are able, to beat those in NE Ulster who do not share our national views supported as they would be by British forces, unless we can do these things the realization of the full republican ideal for all Ireland is at present impossible.

“Policies are useless unless they can be carried out.

“Mr DeValera can give you something. He can perpetuate disunion, he can give you the loss of all that you have won – he can give you anarchy – full measure of that anarchy of which his tactics have already given you an unpleasant sample. We are already hearing less about his policy and more about his threats. Threats against you, the people of Ireland.

“Such freedom as we have won was beyond our wildest dreams six years ago. We did not dream that by means of one struggle we should have reached up to so high a step on the ladder of freedom.

“Will you take that freedom? If we are wise we will take it, and will thank God for it, and will reap the rich fruits, we can gather under it: prosperity, spiritual freedom, power to become again the distinctive Irish people of the Irish nation; to speak our own language, to grow rich again in our own Gaelic culture…

“No one can speak for the next generation, and no one can tie the hands of the next generation.

“Where reason has failed to convince the Irish people, pepper and revolver shots, incitements and threats will not avail.

“If Mr DeValera can by reason and argument induce the people of Ireland to entrust the nation’s fortunes to him and his party, to carry out on behalf of the Irish nation whatever is his policy, there is still no need for civil war.

“What Mr DeValera would do in that event I don’t know. Let us assume he would establish a republic, the country having been evacuated of British troops by means of the Treaty.

“In that event the duty of the army, no matter what were their individual views, would be to support Mr DeValera’s government, and I would exhort the people to support that government, as a government, even if I were in political opposition; and the army and the civil authorities should obey that government, no matter what its political creed may be.

“If the people by a majority decide in favor of our opponents, although I believe that decision would be a fatal and disastrous decision, yet it would have been made, and I for one would still stand in with the people in whatever conditions arose as a result of that decision. Mr DeValera must know, and it is his duty as their leader to enlighten any of his inexperienced followers who do not know, that while it was perfectly justifiable for anybody of Irishmen, no matter how small, to rise up and make a stand against their country’s enemy, it is not justifiable for a minority to oppose the wishes of the majority of their own countrymen, except by constitutional means.

Photo of Michael Collins addressing a vast crowd at College Green, Dublin, 1922

“And to the soldiers of the nation, while they may hold their individual political views, there is only one course, – obedience to the constituted authority. Unless this is driven home to the minds of the people, there is no future before the Irish nation, except anarchy, chaos and ultimate destruction.

“Whatever Mr DeValera’s meaning, the effect of his language is mischievous.

“A leader must not be unmindful of the implications of his words, especially when speaking to people just emerging from a great national struggle with their outlook and their emotions not in a normal state.

“If Mr DeValera really wishes to convince the public that he did not mean to indulge in violent threats and in the language of incitement, and wants to wipe out the impression caused by his speeches, he must take instant action. His explanation as published will not do.

“He must press home the foregoing truths to all his supporters, and he must publicly dissociate himself from the utterances of the former Ministers of Defence and Home Affairs, and from such mutinous views as those expressed by Commandant Roderick O’Connor.

“We would not be hearing those blood and thunder speeches, we would not be seeing the revolver, if argument could have prevailed. Our age-long enemy when “constitutional ways” failed, also used the revolver to try and suppress us, and threats to frighten us into submission to his will – to exercise our “free choice” in the way he wished.

“Is peace never to be allowed to our poor people?

“But the Irish people were not intimidated by the threats or by the tanks and machine guns of the old enemy. Neither will they be intimidated by the threats and feeble weapons in the hands of the new enemies of the Irish nation.

“Our opponents are keeping passions alive, directing them from their legitimate use against the enemy who was standing in the way of our freedom – directing them now that the enemy has gone, for illegitimate use against the people of their own nation to deprive them of that freedom.

“And I say, deliberately, that in doing so Mr DeValera and his followers are proving themselves to be the greatest enemies that Ireland has ever had.

“Mr DeValera told you on St Patrick’s Day that it was the saddest one he had spent in five years, and I can well believe it. Is his conscience troubling him? Does he see in his mind’s eye those terrible doings in Belfast? Dream of the worse things that may yet happen? See our poor Catholic and nationalist countrymen at the mercy of a relentless majority; who, taking advantage of our weakness from disunion, are making a last desperate effort to keep the British forces in Ireland, and to get them to return in order to maintain their ascendancy.

“Up in the northeast three months ago they were in a chastened mood. There was nothing left for them but to mend their ways. To consider, how they could join in without too great an appearance of surrender – with the rest of their countrymen. No other alternative was left to them.

“But they have received new allies where they least expected them! The “North” and the “South” have at last joined together. The wreckers are united. It is an unholy brotherhood.

“Had Mr DeValera any better scheme for unity than the proposals of the Treaty? Does he remember the clauses of his abandoned Document No. 2? How does he intend to bring them in, if he could achieve what he says is his policy, the establishment of a republic? And, if not, how could he deal with the situation?

“If we were presenting a united front to England and to northeast Ulster, I defy anyone to deny that at this moment we would not be seeing the northeast Ulster “parliament” legalizing tyranny, instituting flogging, establishing for our helpless fellow countrymen up there the very reign of terror, under the very same so-called Law and Order Act, from which we have just emerged.

“We can yet stop that horror if we will close our ranks and can speak to England and the northeast as one people.

“Is there any use in asking our opponents to think of Ireland, of what she may become, free and splendid, or once more tortured and degraded; to forget himself, his party, to give language a rest for a little; to think of the facts which principles and ideals stand for.”

Read more
“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”

by S M Sigerson
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What is an assassination?

Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, following the close of US’ Civil War  (public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Was the death of Commander-in-Chief Michael Collins an assassination?
Can military actions by Collins and the Irish Volunteers during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-1921) be termed “assassinations” themselves?
Did British authorities commit political assassinations in their domains?
These questions are part of a sometimes-heated debate; by no means merely historical, but with high political stakes, in Ireland and elsewhere, now.

 

He’s a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jain,
a Bhuddist, and a Baptist, and a Jew.
And he knows he shouldn’t kill,
And he knows he always will…  – Buffy Ste Marie “Universal Soldier”

All societies have their rules of operation; usually including express sanctions intended to inhibit killing unjustly, excessively, or indiscriminately. When first set forth, even “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” represented a major moral leap forward.

In modern times, international debate rages as to which wars are just or unjust. Following World War II, the concept of war crimes focused unprecedented scrutiny on the actions of both leaders and combatants in military conflicts. It meant that such actions could be judged and sanctioned according to global standards of martial conduct.

Ireland’s Revolutionary Era, which gave birth to its democratic Republic, was part of the same ideological maelstrom. During World War I, Irish thinkers pointed up the irony of Britain’s claim to be defending “small nations”; while it still held Ireland by force.

Controversies of this kind continue around the world today. The press and other public platforms often disagree as to which side to call white-hat “good guys” “freedom fighters” “security forces” etc and which to label black hat “bad guys” “terrorists” “warlords”, in hostilities which dot the globe as we speak.

The word “assassination” in English particularly denotes killing which is secretive, and targets a politically prominent person. That is to say, for political reasons.

The word originally came to English from French, where it simply means “murder” and has no other context. The same word & definition occur in Spanish and other Romance languages. The Irish equivalent “feallmharu” means secretive but not expressly political violence. Many languages have no word which means political murder per se.

Even he who commands thousands of swords must fear one who commands dozens of daggers.– Voltaire

We owe the word “guerilla” to popular resistance which opposed  Napoleon in northern Spain: literally “little war” in Spanish. They entered the dictionary by giving pause to an emperor whose forces vastly outnumbered and outgunned them. The word and the techniques have proved decisive in numerous theatres since, wherever poorly-armed locals defended their homes against overwhelming odds.

The right of individuals and nations to self-defense is one of the cornerstones of law everywhere.  Although unconventional in methods, the Irish Volunteers (aka Irish Republican Army) during the Anglo-Irish War aimed with remarkable fidelity and success at enemy combattants and spies, as acts of war against a violent foreign occupation force. 

Together, Collins, Arthur Griffith, and colleagues in the Dail’s shadow government-in-hiding understood that such a war could be carried on successfully in Ireland, only with great care to maintain an orderly campaign; which struck effective blows against British rule, while minimizing negative effects on the general population.

They realized also that the underdogs in that war hadn’t a chance, without the decisive weight of public opinion, at home and abroad, on their side. A tall order, while powerful British voices flooded the media with denials that this was a fight for national independence at all, dubbing the movement a mere murder gang”.

“Our Government and our Army were not going to allow any man to be shot without the fullest possible proof.” 
– Frank Thornton, IRA GHQ 1919-1921
https://collinsassassination.wordpress.com/2019/09/21/michael-collins-squad-no-man-shot-without-full-proof-of-his-guilt/

In the link above, Frank Thornton of Collins’ GHQ Intelligence command, details the painstaking care which went into these actions. There’s little question but that it was this kind of discipline which won the field for the embattled Irish.

I am a war man in the day of war. But I am a peace man in the day of peace.
– Michael Collins 1922

While he continued after the Truce to cooperate with local IRA in the northeast, in their defense against unionist violence, there is no evidence that Collins participated in the killing of any public or private individual, unless military targets, in wartime

On the other side, the British establishment of the time viewed those they called subjects as meriting imprisonment or death, for any resistance to or questioning of the Crown’s right to rule in and out of season. Its routine executions of non-combattants and strictly political figures are legion, across the Empire, throughout history.

For decades, historians were non-committal regarding the violent death of newly-independent Ireland’s Commander-of-Chief in 1922. Since the appearance of the book “The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Beal na mBlath?http://www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714 commentators have come more and more generally to look on it as an assassination.

Read more
“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
by S M Sigerson   
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The Mutiny in the Free State Army

 

photo of Joe OReilly

Joe OReilly, Collins’ closest friend and personal assistant

In January 1923, just a few months after the Assassination of Michael Collins  goo.gl/a0tgOr  a number of Collins’ top officers and closest associates called a meeting. At the height of Ireland’s Civil War, they shared growing concern about the National Army’s direction since Collins’ death.

photo of Free State Army troops 1923

Free State Army troops 1923

 

In June they presented the following Document to Genl Richard Mulcahy, who had become Commander-in-Chief (“C-inC”) at Collins’ death:

  1. Previous to the negotiations with the British which ended in the signing of the Treaty we all had one outlook and common aim, viz., “The setting up and maintaining of a Republican form of Government in this country”. In this ideal we followed the late C. in C. and accepted the Treaty in exactly the same spirit as he did. We firmly believed with him that the Treaty was only a stepping stone to a Republic. The late C. in C (Mick Collins) told us that he had taken an oath of allegiance to the Republic and that oath he would keep Treaty or no Treaty – this is our position exactly.

photo of Richard Mulcahy

Genl Richard Mulcahy, C-in-C following Collins’ assassination

2. The actions of the present G.H.Q. Staff since the C. in Cs. death their open and secret hostility towards us, his Officers has convinced us that they have not the same outlook as he had. We require a definite “Yes” or “No” from the present C. in C. if this be so.

photo of Liam Tobin

Liam Tobin

3. Does the C. in C. understand the temper of the old I.R.A. who are now in the National Army? He does not! Your Army is not a National Army. it is composed of 40% old I.R.A. 50% Ex-Britishers and 10% Ex-civilians. The majority of the civilians were and are hostile to the National Ideals. In the Army you have men who were active British Secret Service agents, previous to the Truce and who have never yet ceased their activities.

4. We ask that a Committee of Inquiry be set up at once to investigate the advisability of retaining or dispensing with the services of any Officer gazetted or otherwise. The findings of this Committee to be accepted and acted on by the staff. We require equal representation on this Committee.

5. We wish to bring to your notice the following facts on which we will have we hope a full and frank discussion

photo of Genl Sean MacEoin

Genl Sean MacEoin

1. The Composition of the Dublin Command
2. The recent appointment of the D.M.P. Commissioner
3. The staffs peace overtures to the Irregulars
4. The setting up of an S.S. Dept.

5. It is time that this state of affairs ended, we intend to end it. Unless satisfactory arrangements are come to between us our Organization will take whatever steps they consider necessary to bring about an honest, cleaner and more genuine effort to secure the Republic.

6.  It is not our intention to cause any rupture which would give satisfaction to the enemies of Ireland. We ask the
C. in C. to meet our efforts in the same spirit which he would have regarded them in 1920 and 1921.

Cabinet Counterrevolution? Ernest Blythe, WT Cosgrave & the death of Michael Collins

Defence Forces insignia

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“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
by S M Sigerson
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Michael Collins’ “Squad”: “No man shot without full proof of his guilt”

 

Photo of "The Squad" ca 1920

                                Members of “The Squad” ca. 1920

Discussions about the history of Ireland tend to be fraught with political debate.  Sometimes with moral debate; sometimes with politics masquerading as moral debate.  While killings before 1922 by the British Empire in Ireland are rarely questioned, any corresponding blows struck by Irish forces seem to awaken an agonized conscience, from quite unexpected quarters.  “The Squad” is one of the hottest topics of this kind: Michael Collins’ elite unit for executing secretive “spies and informers” of a violent foreign occupation force.

Along with Liam Tobin and Tom Cullen, Frank Thornton was the third in Collins’ innermost team of associates at GHQ.  While the shooters themselves may have understood the reasons for any particular “job” in only a general sense, Thornton avers that each order had to be confirmed by a Joint meeting of the Dáil Cabinet.

The following excerpt from his 60-page Witness Statement (No. 0615), Bureau of Military History, bids fair to allay any ambiguity about how the Squad’s targets were chosen: .

“The British at this time, realising that the terrorism of the Black an’Tans’ burning and looting was not going to succeed unless they could actually put their finger on our Headquarters Staff and eliminate us in that way. With that end in view they aimed to set up a full time Secret Service outside of the army, working on proper continental Lines with a Central Headquarters and other houses forming minor centres scattered all throughout the city in which they operated…

“I had the honour to be in charge of that particular job of compiling all that information and got the very unenvious job of presenting my full report to a Joint meeting of the Dáll Cabinet and Army Council, at which meeting I had to prove that each and every man on my list was an accredited Secret Serviceman of the British Government. This, as everybody can realise, was not an easy task, but proves one thing: that is, that our Government and our Army were not going to allow any man to be shot without the fullest possible proof being produced of his guilt. Our men have been referred to as the “murder gang” from time to time by our enemy, but I can assure you that whether in the Brigades throughout the country or here in Dublin, no man was ever shot during the Tan War except in an open fight and a fair fight, unless he had first received the benefit of a full court-martial. Very often as you know it was not possible to have the man present at his own court martial, but what I mean to convey is that the proof had to be absolutely a full 100% watertight before any action could be taken.”

You can read more of Thornton’s fascinating inside story of Michael Collins’ GHQ operations throughout the War of Independence here:
Frank Thornton’s Witness Statement in full – Bureau of Military History

photo of Frank Thornton ca 1922

        Frank Thornton ca 1922

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
by S M Sigerson   
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Michael Collins and “Lawrence of Arabia”

photos of Michael Collins and T E Lawrence

Michael Collins and T E Lawrence (courtesy of @GeneralMichael4)

The great international conferences which led up to the Treaty of Versailles, were attended by many petitioners from “small nations”; including an Irish republican contingent. They lobbied vigorously for Ireland’s right to independence; particularly asking the American President Wilson to put pressure on London.

T E Lawrence also attended. His auto-biographical book “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” concerning his experiences in the Arab Revolt, was later the basis for the award-winning feature film “Lawrence of Arabia”. He and Collins met, and their friendly acquaintance posed interesting possibilities for the British Empire.
(The following is an excerpt from “The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?” goo.gl/a0tgOr
):

Not entirely unlike Collins, Lawrence was also a legendary leader of indigenous insurgents. He also had accomplished amazing things, at a remarkably young age. He had been Britain’s man in the Middle East. And he was not happy.

Lawrence had been commissioned to organize disgruntled Arabs, with promises of civil rights and national independence. In a long and bloody campaign, he had led men to their deaths on the strength of those promises, and on his word. Then the Crown pulled the rug out from under him. They had no intention of abiding by engagements made to a lot of restless natives. The promised united Arab Middle East, never materialized. Instead, this populous, culturally and politically strategic region was divided into the problematic fragments, which have cost the world so much in constant turmoil, ever since.

Lawrence had been used, and he took exception to it. In a public presentation at Buckingham Palace, he mounted the royal dais to, figuratively speaking, fling his decorations back at the king. The gesture was quite shocking at the time. He resigned his commission and went into early retirement, turning his back on the army.

Lawrence was also, on one side of his family, partly Irish. For some time, Collins had been trying to persuade him to help the Irish cause. Imagine the implications! Here were two of the most able military strategists in Europe. Each of them individually had proved his capacity to organize an army, from the ground up, fit to overthrow the world’s top guns. Collins had already bested every British general they could throw at him. Lawrence in Arabia and Collins in Ireland!? By God, they’d have the Empire encircled! This was an alliance to mar imperialists’ rest.

Due to Collins’ untimely end, the world will never know what they might have acheived together. T P Coogan, although often dismissive of “conspiracy theorists” refered to Lawrence’ own death as “mysterious,” to an extent which “generated controversy.”

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The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”

The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth? by S M Sigerson - Cover Image

by S M Sigerson

Paperback or Kindle edition here:
www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

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COVER IMAGE The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Lawrence

T E Lawrence’ book
“The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”
www.goodreads.com/book/show/57936.Seven_Pillars_of_Wisdom

1949: The Republic of Ireland as we know it becomes official

April 1949 Irish independence headlines

 

18 April 1949, Ireland took the step into a new era: ending the “Irish Free State” as a Dominion within the British Commonwealth (the semi-independence compromise which had ended the Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921 (aka War of Independence / Tan War). Dublin’s new international status went far to vindicate Michael Collins’ position on the controversial 1921 Treaty.

In 1922, just as Ireland rightly revelled in its astounding military and political victory over British occupation, Eamonn DeValera had led the shattering of Ireland’s fledgling independent legislature. He had called on his faction within the Dail to follow him in leaving the new Dublin establishment en masse.

Their issue? They declared that it was traitrous for Irish nationalists to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, as a stepping stone toward complete self-determination.

That disastrous split earned DeValera the notorious tag “architect of the Civil War”: that horrific debacle which transformed Ireland’s brilliant triumph into tragedy, slaughtering many of the War of Independence’ greatest leaders and activists. It profoundly undermined the young nation’s unity, integrity, and social justice; leaving “Ireland broken for generations.”

1949 Dublin celebrates Republic of Ireland declaration

Yet 1949 at last saw the formal, complete withdrawal from the British Empire of Irish soil (excepting the six counties of Northern Ireland.)  Interestingly enough, no single political party of the time can claim credit. It was Dublin’s very first Inter-Party Government, headed by John A. Costello, which acheived that bold stroke on the pages of history.

This largely proved the validity of Michael Collins’ arguments, that the 1921 Treaty be used as a stepping stone in the on-going struggle for complete national independence.

Meanwhile that firebrand of freedom, Mr DeValera, although having dominated the Dublin establishment for the preceding 16 years (1932-1948,) had not brought Ireland one millimeter closer either to breaking ties with England; nor to ending the partition of Northern Ireland; (another of the key points over which he had incited the Civil War.)

Soon after the 1949 declaration, DeValera discreetly retreated from Irish soil; to embark on a worldwide tour lecturing about partition. (Perhaps not unlike his previous retreat from Ireland for the duration of the War of Independence; also for an extended speaking tour overseas.)

And how is it that in 1922, Mr DeValera had just happened to be at the very same obscure, back-country crossroads, within hours of Michael Collins’ being shot down there?

Read more
“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth? by S M Sigerson - Cover Image

by S M Sigerson
Paperback or Kindle edition here:
www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

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Michael Collins, He For She: his early support for women’s rights

 

 

photo of Maryann O'Brien Collins and family co 1900

(left to right) Michael’s mother Maryann O’Brien Collins, his sister Mary Collins-Powell, and his grandmother Johanna McCarthy O’Brien co 1900

Among the great volume of commentary on Michael Collins, of all shades and quality, his intimate personal relationships, especially with women, have been a favorite focus for the lamentable number whose appetite for lurid gossip exceeds meticulous adherence to facts.

In honor of International Women’s Day, this excellent overview of Collins’ close connections with strong women and the women’s movement of his time is by P Prowler.

The product of a household headed by a hard-working single mother (after his aged father’s death when Michael was no more than seven,) Collins needed no lectures on women’s leadership potential.  His own highly competent, nurturing mother managed the family farm, labourers, construction crews; while doing much to encourage and support seven of her children in pursuing successful careers away from the farm. All while earning praise as “a hostess in ten thousand.”  Four sisters, much older than he, all doted on “The Big Fella,” as they affectionately dubbed the baby of the family,

The formative role of these many strong, competent, loving women in his childhood and youth produced a man who deeply respected women and thrived on female company of all ages. It also sometimes manifested in sensitive, nurturing care toward those he was responsible for. His qualifications of this kind were exemplified in his appointment as aide-de-camp to 1916 Rising organizer Joseph Plunkett, whose chronic health problems were a challenge to his presence at The Rising’s headquarters in the General Post Office.

It is perhaps no coincidence, therefore, that we have a woman to thank for the role Collins subsequently played in national events. Following the Rising, it was Thomas Clarke’s widow, Kathleen Daly Clarke, who singled out Michael to head up a re-organizition of the Irish Volunteers, for another go.  A good call, as it proved; for during Collins’ tenure at the helm (and at no other time, before or since,) Ireland won its greatest victories to date against the British Empire’s unwelcome colonial occupation.

photo of Kathleen ClarkeCollins’ lifetime exactly coincided with a period of aggressive, mass agitation for women’s rights. The female suffrage movement was in Ireland often closely linked with the campaign for Irish independence. Many proponents belonged to both “camps”. Full enfranchisement for women became enshrined in the 1916 Proclamation, the legal founding document of the Republic of Ireland. It was the modern world’s first national declaration to do so. This was the political climate in which Collins grew up and prospered. Yet he remained one of the few great men of the time who did not omit to use gender-inclusive language in his speeches, and to explicitly acknowledge women’s contributions and concerns on a regular basis therein.

All of this belies the far-fetched “Mick the misogynist” quip which has been occasionally offered, (along with every vice and virtue that could be image of poster Irish Women's Franchise Leagueattributed to him.)

Collins’ predecessor in the independence movement, Charles Stuart Parnell, was defeated by a sexual scandal. Collins’ detractors have occasionally attempted to raise similar issues. Reported to have sown some wild oats during his teen career in London (albeit while living under the roof of an older sister,) no scandal concerning his sexual life has ever been substantiated.

His intimate connections appear to have been no less healthy, vigorous, and well-conducted than other aspects of his life: his relations with women affectionate and normal, providing no evidence either of inexperience, excess or aberration.

At the same time, he may be said to have been never without female companionship. He carried on dating and epistolary relationships with a number of women such as Susan Kileen and “Dilly” Dicker, who also worked with him in positions of great trust during the struggle for independence. Their correspondence shows that they remained on friendly terms until the end of his life.

In 1921-22, he became engaged to Kitty Kiernan,[36] and made plans for a normal family life after the war. Of their voluminous correspondence, more than 241 letters survive. They provide an important record, not only of their intimacy, but of his daily life.

Detailing his exhausting schedule, during the concurrent national crisis, their letters chronicle the challenges the couple faced in getting quality time together, under the circumstances. In so doing, they prove it quite doubtful that he could have simultaneously devoted much attention to any additional liaison. Allegations of affair(s) with English society women at this same time are unsubstantiated, and fraught with suspicious political connotations. Those concerning Hazel Lavery originate chiefly with that lady herself, and are unsupported by comparable evidence.

Read more
“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”

The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth? by S M Sigerson - Cover Imageby S M Sigerson

Paperback or Kindle edition here:
www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

All other e-reader formats:
www.smashwords.com/books/view/433954

Read reviews:
http://www.rabidreaders.com/2014/12/03/assassination-michael-collins-s-m-sigerson-2/

Or ask at your local book shop

Also see:
“Michael Collins and the Women Who Spied For Ireland”

Cover image for book "Michael Collins and the women who spied for Ireland"

 

 

 

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/157333.Michael_Collins_and_the_Women_Who_Spied_for_Ireland

“Michael Collins and the Women in His Life”

Book cover image: "Michael Collins and the women in his life"

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/157335.Michael_Collins_and_the_Women_in_His_Life

The Assassination of Michael Collins: Which ones lied?

photo of Cork Flying Column

Cork Flying Column

There are a number of reasons why Michael Collins’ death continues to be viewed by many as suspicious and unsolved. The most obvious is the eye-witness testimony: no two witnesses’ statements are alike. Each and every one contradicts the others.

Having enjoyed the honor to be both quoted, and flagrantly misquoted, in a recent work on the topic, the author of the book “The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?” offers the following excerpts of what it actually says:

“Well, here you have a fair collection of statements from eyewitnesses, each contradicting the other on vital and significant points, and none of which can be accepted as a completely reliable version.”     – John M Feehan

Some observations we can make with confidence at this point:

1) Not all these inconsistencies can be attributed to the lapse of time, differences of photo of gathering at Beal na mBlath day after death of Collinsperspective, or even carelessness. That is to say:

2) They cannot all be telling the truth, Which is to say:

3) Some of them were lying.

These answers, as answers often do, raise questions:

photo of John Mcpeak 4) Which one(s) lied?

5) Why did they lie?

6) Did some have more reason to lie than others?

7) If two mutually negating points are both corroborated by more than one witness, how can we tell which is correct? (i.e. The convoy came under machine gun fire; the convoy did not come under machine gun fire.)

8) Can we decipher the answers to these questions from the information before us?

photo of Emmet Dalton

Emmet Dalton

If we compare all the testimony’s various contradictions and corroborations, in light of the possible interests and pressures at work in each case, we may separate out some chaff: Which witnesses have adhered only to facts which

were within their own knowledge? Which ones report events which happened when they were not present? Does the statement demonstrate that they were “coached” as to what to say? Did some deponents have reason to lie? Did some others have less reason? Do they stray so far from verifiable facts as to invalidate their testimony altogether?

Read more

The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth? by S M Sigerson - Cover Image
by S M Sigerson

Paperback or Kindle edition here:
www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

All other e-reader formats:
www.smashwords.com/books/view/433954

Read reviews:
http://www.rabidreaders.com/2014/12/03/assassination-michael-collins-s-m-sigerson-2/

Or ask at your local book shop