The Riddle that was Erskine Childers


Excerpts from

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

      Erskine Childers’ tragic fate has remained an enigma
      Was he a hero? Martyr? Traitor? Casualty of war?
      One thing is certain: he was near the scene when Collins was killed.


“Another prominent member of the anti-Treaty party who was near Béal na mBláth that day was Erskine Childers.

“… Childers’ contemporaries varied widely in their assessment of the man. From the usually mild-mannered Arthur Griffith, he drew more than one explosion of public denunciation. … Others openly lauded Childers as a man of outstanding noble qualities.

 “…There seems something remarkable in Collins’ own attitude to this enigmatic figure. During the Civil War, … [when] British sources advocated [charging Childers with] treason … Collins said to keep [him] in England on a misdemeanor. If carried out, this plan would not only have neutralized him as a threat, but would also have preserved Childers’ life until the Civil War was over. …

“. . . If the absolute fact lies somewhere between these extremes and unsolved riddles . . . and if he was near Béal na mBláth around 22 August 1922, . . . He certainly may have known something about workings behind the scenes on that tragic day.

“Childers was a key anti-Treaty tactician. … He was a decorated former British Army officer, accused as a secret service agent, and certainly had excellent connections in London. … even if entirely innocent of any foreknowledge about the attempt on Collins, he was likely to have a penetrating awareness of many details and secret manoeuvers, which have since been lost forever.

 “… Childers was an elected member of the Dáil. His shocking summary execution took place against a backdrop of bloody purge, cover-up and file-burning. In light of all of the above, we should ask whether his killing could have had anything to do with his inside knowledge about what happened at and around Béal naBláth.”

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