Michael Collins: the myths

“The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?” examines a number of popular myths which have inhibited our understanding of Collins’ life and death:

“In the absence of any public inquest, the story of Michael Collins’ end, as we know it, is largely not much more than a folk tale.  A number of myths have taken on a powerful life of their own; often tolerated and even disseminated by official sources.

“Mythology can have two potential functions: to illuminate the facts, or to obscure them.  The popular misconceptions listed below have in no way increased our understanding of the events; but have, almost without exception, served exclusively to mislead the public about what really happened.

“The origins of these myths are discussed below, each in its own section.  Most are easily traceable to sources by no means entirely objective or disinterested; when not to actual political opponents of the man whose death they seem to trivialize.

Myth 1: That there is any “official story”; that we know what happened.

Myth 2:  The anti-Treaty side did it.

Myth 3: “No, stop and we’ll fight them.”

Myth 4: Collins died because he was “careless of personal danger”

Myth 5: Collins died because he was “inexperienced in live combat”

Myth 6: Collins was merely one of several ambitious men of the time, only less successful than others.

Myth 7:  He was “not assassinated.” It was an “accident of war.”

Myth 8:  Collins’ War of Independence strategy may be described as a “killing spree”

Myth 9:  Collins was invincible; his judgement was infallible

Myth 10: Collins was “ruthless”

Myth 11:  It’s too late now for an inquest / investigation / solution to the case”

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President John F Kennedy, and other assassinations: lest we forget

“Crime of the century” is an expression which has been too often exploited by sensationalist commentators. Yet Collins’ martyrdom was indeed one of history’s defining moments, at the dawn of the turbulent 20th century. It was a particular type of political tragedy: one which the following decades would see replayed over and over again, throughout the world. It bore many factors in common with the fate of other great leaders. It could be called one of the opening salvos, in the sort of national and international conflicts which would define the era. In this sense, it may also be seen as a kind of skeleton key: a deeper understanding of which may unlock riddles in other cases like his.

More from the Introduction

The leaders of great revolutionary struggles often do not live to see the fulfilment of their own handiwork.  That is an occupational hazard.  One which they all accept at the very outset.  One  which Collins, judging from his own words on the subject, was thoroughly prepared for every day.  
    “All great leaders of this kind take on a very old system: an ancient imperialist war and political machine, oiled by centuries’ experience in putting down popular revolutions.  And in eliminating great popular leaders.” 

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

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