Tim Pat Coogan is generally recognized as Ireland’s foremost writer on its modern history; encompassing both the Revolutionary Era 1913 – 1923, and subsequent Troubles which continued throughout the 20th century. Being the leading authority in Ireland, it’s safe to say that would make him the greatest authority in the world on these topics.
Recent notorious efforts by certain academics to challenge that supremacy added nothing to their dignity; but served only to affirm Coogan’s unassailable stature as an historian, and popularity with the public.
Coogan is uniquely qualified indeed to explore this terrain. In his capacity as a journalist, he has interviewed, over decades, practically every surviving major participant from the War of Independence and Civil War. His books are the product of vast, minute original research; drawn not only from archival documents, but also from numerous personal contacts. His own family members, who themselves took part in these conflicts, included his father, Eamonn Coogan, who was active in the War of Independence, and served as a deputy commissioner in the post-Civil War government. His mother was among very few women who wrote for the Evening Herald in the 1920s, and was also active in the legendary Abbey Theatre: a hotbed of revolutionary ferment at the time.
Coogan got his start with the Irish Press, rising to the editor’s chair, which he occupied from 1968 – 1987. Yet while owing so much to the DeValera family (Irish Press owners) still his treatment of the Collins-DeValera conflict demonstrates penetrating integrity and fairness. Subsequent writers are deeply indebted to him for his sterling research, and painstaking examination of that controversy.
His landmark 1990 biography of Michael Collins remains, at this writing, head and shoulders above all others. It stands alone in being an authoritative compendium of all previous work on Collins’ life.
The mighty labour of such a detailed, full-scale biography, might necessarily preclude an exhaustive examination of any one particular day, however important. For this reason, despite the awe-inspiring stature of Coogan’s opus, this author has ventured to attempt to add something to his invaluable work, on that particular subject.
His very kind approbation of “The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?” represents for this writer the zenith of all possible praise. So much the more generous, in that the book he commends is by no means entirely uncritical of his own conclusions on the same subject.
“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
by S M Sigerson
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