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

Free State Provisional Government Cabinet 1922 - Collins leaning forward on the left; Ernest Blythe opposite him, Cosgrave at the head of the table

Free State Provisional Government Cabinet 1922 – Collins leaning forward on the left; Ernest Blythe opposite him, Cosgrave at the head of the table

‘We find, then, two independent bodies with a very direct interest in getting rid of Collins, viz, the junta within the Cabinet and the British secret service.’
– John M Feehan

In 1922, shortly after the Irish took power in Dublin, how did the Collins-Griffith government become the Cosgrave-Blythe government overnight?  And with what consequences for Ireland?

On the relationship between the Cosgrave-Blythe government, and the death of Collins, here are some excerpts from
“The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?”:

“In his seminal biography, Tim Pat Coogan [pointed out] that Collins’ policy on the North was ‘unwelcome to his Cabinet colleagues and of course to the British.’ In this he supports that Collins was serving on the [Free State Provisional Government] with men whose agenda for the future of Ireland was closer to the British, than to his own. This in itself speaks volumes. John M Feehan (in ‘The Shooting of Michael Collins: Murder or Accident?’) went even further:

‘Collins never concealed his contempt for [WT] Cosgrave, whom he regularly referred to as “that bloody little altar-boy.” He detested [Ernest] Blythe and distrusted Eoin MacNeill and the feeling on their side was mutual, although for political reasons he had to have them in the cabinet.

“… Exactly one month before the C-in-C’s untimely demise, W T Cosgrave (former Minister for Local Government, and, until then, not a luminary in national affairs) became Chairman of the Provisional Government in Collins’ place… Think how convenient it was, one month later, that Collins’ successor was already sitting at the head of the Provisional Government, when both Griffith and the C-in-C suddenly died within two weeks of each other. And with them, all hope of an amicable settlement with honor to the Civil War. All hope of merging anti-Treaty heroes from the War of Independence into the leadership of the Free State Army. And, with their deaths, organized political and military resistance against unionist pogroms in the north was effectively suspended.

“The Collins-Griffith government became the Cosgrave[-Blythe] government, indefinitely; with a very different direction for Ireland indeed. Soon after commenced Dublin’s shooting without trial of Irish prisoners. The Free State seemed to become everything the anti-Treaty side said it was; in an Ireland dominated by what J J Lee would call:

‘...the flint-minded [people] whose grandparents had done well out of the Famine and who intended to do better themselves out of the Free State.’

“Was the Treaty and the Civil War which it ignited, in a sense, the ‘counter-revolution’? A strategy to put the breaks on the independence struggle; to extirpate its most effective leadership; and replace that leadership’s agenda? In this case, with a Dublin government less staunchly opposed to cooperation with imperialist interests: even willing to perpetuate old policies of colonialistic exploitation?

There are a lot of unanswered questions and mysterious incidents which [the Cabinet] could have cleared up and did not, and if the finger of guilt is sometimes pointed at them they have only themselves to blame.’
– John M Feehan

 

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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The Shooting of Michael Collins by Feehan cover image       “The Shooting of Michael Collins:
          Murder or Accident?
by John M Feehan
http://www.amazon.com/Shooting-Michael-Collins-Murder-Accident/dp/0946645035

 

Michael Collins by Coogan cover image

 

 

“Michael Collins
by Tim Pat Coogan
http://www.timpatcoogan.com/books/michael_collins.htm

 

 

 

Cover Image of the book "Ireland 1912-1985 Politics and Society" by JJ Lee Ireland 1912-1985 Politics and Society by JJ Lee
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36225796-ireland-1912-1985

Michael Collins: “Threats” played no part in signing the Treaty

photo of Michael Collins speaking 1922 Clonakilty County Cork

Michael Collins speaking, Clonakilty, County Cork, 1922

A number of historians and biographers have reiterated the erroneous contention that the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 was signed in response to threats of extraordinary military action by the British.

However, this was roundly refuted by Michael Collins himself; who, excepting only Arthur Griffith, certainly carried the lion’s share of work, responsibility, and decision-making in those negotiations.

Others’ writings about Collins often seem to be more readily before the public these days, than the unquestionably more valuable writings of the man himself.

His own cogent statements on this issue are characteristically blunt and penetrating:

It has been variously stated that the Treaty was signed under duress.  

“I did not sign the Treaty under duress, except in the sense that the position as between Ireland and England, historically, and because of superior forces on the part of England, has always been one of duress.  

“The element of duress was present when we agreed to the Truce, because our simple right would have been to beat the English out of Ireland.  There was an element of duress in going to London to negotiate. But there was not, and could not have been, any personal duress.  

“The threat of “immediate and terrible war” did not matter overmuch to me.  The position appeared to be then exactly as it appears now.   The British would not, I think have declared terrible and immediate war upon us.  

“… The threat of immediate and terrible war was probably bluff. The immediate tactics would surely have been to put the offer of July 20, which the British considered a very good offer, before the country, and if rejected, they would have very little difficulty in carrying their own people into a war against Ireland.

“I am not impressed by the talk of duress, nor by threats of a declaration of immediate and terrible war.  Britain has not made a declaration of war upon Egypt, neither has she made a declaration of war upon India.  But is the conflict less terrible because of the absence of such a declaration?  

“We must not be misled by words and phrases.  Unquestionably the alternative to the Treaty, sooner or later, was war, and if the Irish Nation had accepted that, I should have gladly accepted it.  …

“To me it would have been a criminal act to refuse to allow the Irish Nation to give its opinion as to whether it would accept this settlement or resume hostilities.  That I maintain, is a democratic stand.  It has always been the stand of public representatives who are alive to their responsibilities

“The Irish struggle has always been for freedom – freedom from English occupation, from English interference, from English domination – not for freedom with any particular label attached to it.  

“What we fought for at any particular time was the greatest measure of freedom obtainable at that time, and it depended upon our strength whether the claim was greater than at another time or lesser than at another time.

“When the national stiuation was very bad we lay inert; when it improved a little we looked for Repeal of the Union; when it receded again we looked for Home Rule under varying trade names;  when it went still worse we spoke of some form of devolution.  When our strength became greater our aim became higher, and we strove for  greater measure of freedom under the name of Republic.  But it was freedom we sought for, not the name of the form of government we should adopt when we got our freedom.

(Excerpted from “Advance and Use Our Liberties” from the Treaty debates, 1922; included in:)

“A Path to Freedom
by Michael Collins
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/157332.A_Path_to_Freedom

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

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www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

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www.smashwords.com/books/view/433954

Reviewed in Best Reads of the year – Rabid Readers Reviews
http://www.rabidreaders.com/2015/01/05/best-rabid-readers-reviews-reads-of-2014/

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Kitty and Michael: a revolutionary courtship

photo of Michael Collins

Michael Collins

photo of Kitty Kiernan

Kitty Kiernan

Some historians have been obliged to play down Michael Collin’s fiancé, Kitty Kiernan, in order to support their theories about his death.  However, Ms Kiernan cannot be relegated to a footnote here, but merits a few choice words on her own account (excerpt from the book): 

“There is no basis for the erroneous characterization of Ms Kiernan as politically naïve. It is, at best, a gloss of inexcusable carelessness. The contention that others would have had more capacity than Ms Kiernan, as a political confidante, is entirely refuted by the record.  Writers seem to have presumed on the fact that … Ms Kiernan was merely the proprietor of a small hotel and shops, in a modest country town, in rural Ireland; her name unknown to the public, outside of her relationship with Collins.  Collins biographers seem to have written off Ms Kiernan as clueless and useless politically, on this basis alone.

Clearly Collins did not think so; as an attentive reading of their letters illustrates. Such an assumption does not demonstrate adequate acquaintance with their correspondence, with her education, her family’s prominent, albeit secret role in the War of Independence; nor with the level of political sophistication general among Irish people of her time, place, class and social standing.  On the contrary, as muse, hostess, networker, companion and confidante, the Kiernan sisters and their hotel may be called the Irish nationalist counterparts, of a London lady’s political salon.  With Ms Kiernan, Collins could feel secure that he was not confiding in a British agent: the Kiernan hotel had been a key safe house for Volunteers throughout the War of Independence. In their correspondence, she and Collins frequently discussed the political situation; of which she demonstrated a keen grasp, often providing insight and encouragement. The C-in-C, for his part, explicitly declared that Kitty was more and more necessary to him in these stressful days, and that “there’s no one like you.”

Ms Kiernan came from precisely the same sort of background as he: a traditional Irish farming family, hard-working, upwardly mobile,  successful in business and adaptable to town life. Both were products of a progressive, republican education. Both were ambitious, modern and stylish. In Collins’ world, Ms Kiernan was an elegant lady, and the female of his own species.”

Read more:

The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?
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: “Best Reads”of the Year
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Why do we need to know how Michael Collns died?

aerial photo of Béal na mBláth

Béal na mBláth (courtesy of the Ordinance Survey Ireland www.osi.ie)

On the anniversary of the ambush at Béal na mBláth, we ponder the meaning of Collins’ life and death.

Remember the Annual Béal na mBláth Commemoration is this Sunday 24 August.  (See previous blog post of 5 August, below for full details.)

Excerpt from the book:

Tim Pat Coogan introduces his discussion of Béal na mBláth with a lament that “It is a perversion of Collins’ significance to Irish history that the circumstances of his death … should have come almost to overshadow the significance of his life.” Yet it is the special importance of his life, which makes it necessary to answer the questions surrounding his death.

That one man’s death could change the future is astounding. How and why we lost such a man, is as important as any other question. If there is any perversion, it is the failure to fully account for the nation’s terrible loss, of the man they needed most, at the moment he was most needed. It may not be in our power to make another like him. What we might learn from this story, should we ever get such a one again, is how we could better manage to keep him. Certainly that is a lesson worth studying.

Read more:

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

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

For all other e-reader formats: 
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 Visit the Commemoration webiste:
http://www.bealnamblathcommemoration.com/201-oration/

Commemorative edition: 90th Anniversary pictorial history
http://www.bealnamblathcommemoration.com/buy-the-book/

Michael Collins: a biography by Tim Pat Coogan
http://www.timpatcoogan.com/books/michael_collins.htm

The Assassination of Sir Henry Wilson

 

Sir Henry Wilson in 1921

Sir Henry Wilson in 1921

On 22 June 1922, Sir Henry Wilson was assassinated in broad daylight, in front of his own home in London: Field Marshall, Unionist MP for Ulster, former Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS). He’d played a prominent role in the Curragh Mutiny https://wp.me/p43KWx-1t Following creation of an Irish government in Dublin, Wilson became chief military adviser to Anglo Ascendancy forces in the then-new Northern Ireland statelet. Atrocities and undeclared war on Irish Catholics became the order of the day there.

The book “The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBlath?” devotes a full chapter to re-examining Wilson’s enigmatic death.  Was there a connection with Collins’ own end, exactly two months later?

(excerpt from the book)

I was given good reason to suspect a close relation between the shooting of Sir Henry Wilson and the shooting of Michael Collins, but when I tried to investigate this line I found every door closed on me – indeed some banged in my face.
– John M Feehan

Not unlike Collins’ own end, controversy continues to surround the assassination of Sir Henry Wilson. At the very same time that the anti-Treaty men were sweating it out in the Four Courts, two members of the London IRA shot Wilson dead, on the doorstep of his home in London, in broad daylight. This was months after hostilities with the British were officially ended: after the Truce, after the Treaty had been signed; “out of the blue” as it seemed.

The shooters were obeying orders. But from whom? Who gave the order? The mystery has never been solved.

Allegations that either Collins or the anti-Treaty leaders ordered the operation do not hold water: these amount to no more than rumour, and are abundantly refuted by more substantial accounts. Yet Wilson was unquestionably shot by members of the London Brigade of the IRA.

Wilson’s death was seized upon and exploited as a pretext for the British to threaten to declare the imperfect-but- hard-won Anglo-Irish Treaty null and void.  In short, it set in motion those events which led directly to the death of Michael Collins. For these reasons, any re-examination of Béal na mBláth should not omit another look at Wilson’s mysterious, unsolved case.
** [end book excerpt]**

Much mythology has been constructed, on rather slender presumptions: 1) that Michael Collins ordered Wilson’s death; 2) that Collins likewise ordered the bombardment of IRA men occupying the Four Courts; and 3) that the IRA shot Collins.  This conventional wisdom would seem to wrap things up in a tidy package, with loose ends neatly tied.  

However, there is no evidence that Collins ordered the 1922 assassination of Wilson.  No one knows precisely how the bombardment of Four Courts was initiated, or by whom.  As for the perennial mystery, “Who shot Collins?“… We don’t even know which side shot him.

.  Read more:

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

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

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Book cover image - The Assassination of Michael Collins - What Happened at Béal na mBláth

Michael Collins in James Joyce’s Dublin

Gogarty

(Dr Oliver St John Gogarty – companion of James Joyce and of Michael Collins)

On Bloomsday people all over the world celebrate the Dublin of Michael Collins’ life and times.

Is there any other work of fiction which has spawned its own international commemoration day? 

Many James Joyce fans know by heart the opening scenes of his seminal novel “Ulysses”.   Devotees may be aware that Joyce himself once shared an apartment in that same fabled tower with friends, including Oliver St John Gogarty. 

Gogarty, “a surgeon and man of letters,” was a noted poet of his day.  He published fictionalized accounts of Dublin life (Tumbling in the Hay, 1939), as well as a number of other works.

Joyce’ flatmate Dr Gogarty was also a close friend of Michael Collins.  It was he who fulfilled the sad duty of preparing his boon companion for lying in state.  It is believed that he also acted as official medical examiner, and may have produced an autopsy report … now apparently lost to history.

Read more:

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

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

For all other e-book formats see Smashwords

page:  www.smashwords.com/books/view/433954

Best Reads of the Year – Rabid Readers Reviews
http://www.rabidreaders.com/2015/01/05/best-rabid-readers-reveiws-reads-of-2014/

Book Cover - The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?


Ulysses by James Joyce
amazon page:
http://www.amazon.com/Ulysses-James-Joyce/dp/1494405490
Project Gutenberg ebook online
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4300/4300-h/4300-h.htm

Ulysses Cover

 

As I Was Going Down Sackville Street
by Oliver St. John Gogarty

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1163144.As_I_Was_Going_Down_Sackville_Street

Book Cover - As I Was Going Dpwn Sackville Street

Ballots … and bullets

ballots

 

Electoral democracy provides for periodic, peaceful transference of power, from one political party to another, according to the people’s choice: society free from political warfare.

Do elections really matter? Political violence, aimed at influencing election outcomes, would seem to prove that they matter very much indeed.

 Some excerpts from the book on this subject:

It is in the interests of entrenched political establishments, to encourage a general disbelief that any politician is going to be different. A general hopelessness that anything can change, is advantageous to the status quo.

“Such inertia keeps people away from the polls: they don’t bother to vote. This is good for entrenched establishments. The fewer people vote, the more likely that the usual suspects will keep their seats. Large voter turn-outs are generally good news for progressives, bad news for conservatives. When the public perceives a chance for positive improvements, when a candidate stands out as offering something genuinely valuable and innovative; when the public imagination is fired: then they stand up to be counted.

“It is therefore definitely in the interests of some political elements to discourage this sort of thing. Government by assassination is the most extreme form of that strategy. It is one very destructive and dangerous way to make sure that there will be only one kind of candidate.

 Read more

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

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