Michael Collins and President Kennedy: What did they have in common?

photo of Michael Collins

Michael Collins


As we mark another anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, lest we forget … Did JFK and Michael Collins really have much in common?

Both leaders were from an Irish Catholic background.

Both their families came from simple, agrarian origins, in Ireland. Both descended from an ancient clan, perhaps no stranger to national affairs.

Both were political leaders who united diverse factions in their respective countries. They bridged gaps and opened dialogue between the middle class, the poor, ethnic and religious minorities, and political leadership.

Both were friendly to women’s rights, and supported greater inclusion for women in the highest  office; at a time when this was still highly controversial.

They each were the standard-bearer of new hope, in a political landscape that was ossified, stagnant, and unresponsive to the changing times in which they lived.

Each became the spearhead of a new generation, which brought dramatic, far-reaching changes: Collins, in the form of full-scale, violent revolution and the creation of new government institutions. Kennedy, in domestic affairs, was the first US President to lend active support to an epoch-making civil rights movement on the ground, which constituted nothing less than social revolution. In foreign relations, he was first to openly challenge militaristic Cold War thinking, which had kept the world teetering on the edge of nuclear war, since the 1940s. 

Both were robbed of the chance to fulfill their great promise: cut off in their prime by an assassin’s bullet.  Passionately mourned by the public, millions turned out for their respective funerals.

Both died from a massive head wound, caused by gunshot; as they travelled in a motorcade, through hostile territory, in a country torn by civil discord; within 12 months of a major national election.  On the 22nd.

Read more:

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

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“I care not if my life has only the span of a night and a day if my deeds be spoken of by the men of Ireland” Padraic Colum’s thoughts on Pearse and MacDonagh (1916)

Thanks to LIam Horgan for unearthing this poignant, poetic, and most informative biographical sketch on 1916 leaders.

History is what we choose to remember


taken from the Introduction to Poems of the Irish revolutionary brotherhood (Padraic Colum, 1916)

“The years that brought maturity to the [poets] who were foremost to sign, and foremost to take arms to assert, Ireland’s Declaration of Independence, may come to be looked back on as signal days in Irish history. They were days of preparation. The youth of Nationalist Ireland had turned to a task – the task of learning – of learning first the Irish language, of learning then about Irish public affairs, and at the end of learning arms and about the handling of men.

Padraic Colum - from a sketch by Jack B. Yeats Padraic Colum – from a sketch by Jack B. Yeats

The generation that became conscious twenty years ago turned with hope, faith and reverence to Gaelic Ireland. From the remnant of the Gaelic speaking people they would learn what civilization their country was capable of attaining to. Those who regarded themselves as the historic Irish nation were then rediscovering their origins and their achievements : they were Celts; they were…

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