Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland, & Michael Collins: the unfinished business of Irish independence

photo of Martin McGuinness

It was through the lessons of Collins’ life & death, that Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, with his colleagues & community, survived to achieve so much: in a lifetime struggle to repair what happened to northern* Ireland, following Collins’ death.


photo of Michael Collins at a rally in Armagh 1921

Michael Collins in Armagh 1921

In 1922, Dublin’s fledgling independent government was headed by the representative for Armagh in northern Ireland: Michael Collins, TD.

What links Collins with Martin McGuinness’ generation of Irish statesmen? These excerpts from The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Beal na mBlath? explore their connections:

“The 26-county Republic of Ireland, and the 6-county Northern Ireland statelet, directly owe their existence, their institutional structures, and much of their history, to Michael Collins’ life and times; to the controversies which culminated in his death; and to the travesties which his death enabled.

… Before the ink on the Treaty was dry, even among smiles, handshakes, and agreements, Winston Churchill was funding, directing and protecting military aggression in Ulster (both on and off the record.) Michael Collins, not to be outdone, cooperated without hesitation in republican units’ response there…

On 1st and 2nd August 1922, Commander-in-Chief Collins met with northern [IRA] officers at Portobello Barracks in Dublin. He told them, “The civil war will be over in a few weeks and then we can resume in the north. You men will get intensive training.” Collins explained that, until the Civil War was resolved, IRA in the north would have to remain defensive and avoid engagements. A small, specially paid “Belfast Guard” would be created to protect Catholic areas from sectarian attacks. The Dublin government in the meantime would apply political pressure. Said Collins, “If that fails, the Treaty can go to hell, and we will start again.”

… Following British soldiers’ killing of two adolescent girls near the northern border, an outraged Collins wrote to WT Cosgrave:

I am forced to the conclusion that we have yet to fight the British in the northeast. We must by forceful action make them understand that we will not tolerate this carelessness with the lives of our people.

In other correspondence:

[The north] must be redeemed for Ireland, and we must keep striving in every way until that objective is achieved. The northeast must not be allowed to settle down in the feeling that it is a thing apart from the Irish nation.

Six counties implies coercion. South and east Down, south Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone will not come into Northern Ireland.

… Coogan … agrees that Collins’ policy on the North was “unwelcome to his Cabinet colleagues and of course to the British.” [That is,] Collins was serving on a Cabinet with men whose agenda for the future of Ireland was closer to the British, than to his own.

… [Then, in August 1922,] Arthur Griffith and Collins 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. All hope of continuing armed resistance against unionist pogroms in the north.

It was then that the Troubles for Northern Ireland began.

The spreading [Civil War], marked by the cessation of IRA operations in the north, was correctly interpreted by the unionist government and armed loyalism as effectively removing the threat of concerted assault on the northern state.” **

… That threat was more real and present than most people, (including many historians,) realize … A shooting war between Irish troops and their British / loyalist counterparts in the northeast flared up continually throughout 1922. It included both IRA guerrilla actions and Free State regulars, British troops and loyalist paramilitaries combined. It moved Churchill to call for defense preparations against a Dublin-sponsored invasion of Ulster.

With Collins removed, subsequent Dublin governments were content, or reduced, to leave northern nationalists twisting in the wind.”

Dublin governments all too willing to “tolerate this carelessness with the lives of our people” and to allow the northeast “to settle down in the feeling that it is a thing apart from the Irish nation.” Until the north’s simmering apartheid regime exploded into thirty years of bloody conflict.

Would the north have been different, had Collins lived? Could Martin McGuinness have been born in a united 32-county Ireland? Could decades of mayhem and murder been avoided, had the appropriate governments and armies come to grips, in 1922?  photo of Martin McGuinness 1971

Could Collins, with his War of Independence army intact, have extended their victory throughout the north? With the aid of officers who, over Collins’ dead body, were later executed by the Dublin government of W T Cosgrave (founder of Finn Gael)?

Could the Troubles have been prevented, by Collins and company’s combination of political pressure from Dublin, plus sustained military response to British/loyalist violence in the north?

Ultimately, the story of Ulster is inseparable from the story of Michael Collins: who clearly saw, almost a hundred years ago, that peace might be won only at the cost of eventual armed conflict in the north; who perhaps died striving to make it possible for republican comrades to lay down their arms; and who died … as elected representative for the people of northern Ireland.


** Eamonn Phoenix Michael Collins – The Northern Question 1916-22

* “northern Ireland” is here used to refer to that region of the country, before partition; “Northern Ireland” (capitalized) refers to the statelet created by Partition.

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

by S M Sigerson

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A Michael Collins Christmas

photo of Michael Collins & friends at the Gresham Hotel

Michael Collins & friends at the Gresham Hotel

During the height of the Tan War, David Neligan, Collins’ “Spy in the Castle”, recounts the Big Fella inviting him to Christmas dinner at the Gresham Hotel. Collins asked whether Neligan would be there.

“No!” exclaimed Neligan, “And neither should you! It’s the most dangerous place to be tonight!”

Still Collins was determined to regale his closest associates with holiday cheer, in the best hotel in Dublin, as planned.

The festivities were in full swing when the party was raided by the notorious Auxiliaries. What’s more, it was not the most random spot check. They had a photo of Collins ready to hand, (probably snipped from the 1919 group photo of the First Dail,) and were looking for him there. An officer promptly fastened on the Big Fella, and dragged him off to the men’s room for interrogation. He was searched, and a small notebook from his pocket was scrutinized. One entry seemed to be a reminder to order “rifles”.

Collins persisted in taking all their questions with easy-going bemusement, as a tremendously droll mistake. He assured them they were reading his scrawl all wrong: that it really said “refills”. He kept up his good humor as they yanked back his head by the hair, staring at the photo & then at his face. It went on for half an hour or more.

photo of The Gresham Hotel, Dublin

However, at last they gave it up, persuaded that this must be the wrong fellow entirely. Collins went back to the dinner, and ordered drinks all around; while the Auxies continued to hover about, watching the party closely.

It was quietly decided that the wisest course under these circumstances was to get truly, indubitably, certifiably drunk. It was one of the only occasions throughout the war when Collins was seen to be visibly intoxicated.

And so the most wanted men in Ireland did uproarious justice to the good things before them, and all slept sound in their beds that night.

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

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The Spy in the Castle
by David Neligan


graphic of Christmas garland

2022 Michael Collins Centenary: What happened at Béal na mBláth?


Photo of Michael Collins in uniform standing Colourized by macredmond2013

Michael Collins’ 2022 Centenary will offer unprecedented opportunities to examine, celebrate, and reflect on the meaning of his life and death.
How should it be observed?

Ireland’s “Decade of Centenaries” marches on, with much to explore, celebrate, and remember; ultimately culminating in 2022: the 100th anniversary of Collins’ death.

The 2016 Rising Centenary brought to light a wealth of original materials, records, testimony, which had long languished unexamined, inaccessible to the public. It opened a vast, new, fertile debate in Ireland, on the Rising’s meaning, causes, effects. How successful was that revolution? Is Ireland truly independent today? Has it ever been? Can Ireland yet be called independent while the UK still claims dominion over six counties in the North? Was violent conflict unavoidable? Did taking down the Union Jack & raising the Tricolor, as James Connolly warned us, in itself, solve none of Ireland’s problems?

The study of this period has thereby been greatly enriched, on countless levels; which may never be understood in our lifetime.

The Rising, while it was neither the beginning nor the end of the Revolutionary Era, would always be important in itself, even if it were a stand-alone event.

Its greatest significance, however, is in those who survived it: who went forth from it to organize and carry on the cause of independence, in the amazing achievements of 1919-1921 (The War of Independence / Tan War.)

In this there is much to be learned: about what happened to the dream and promise of the 1916 Proclamation, and those who fought for it.

These are questions still debated today. Most of us, inside & outside of Ireland, recognize the establishment of the Dáil & Dublin government, the conclusive departure of the British Army and British colonial administration from 26 of 32 counties, as a tremendous achievement; as Collins (a Rising veteran) himself said, “…beyond our wildest dreams in 1916.”

Most are likewise painfuly aware that the unfinished business of Irish independence, whether behind a northern border, or in the corridors of Dublin government, is the challenging legacy left for this and future generations to resolve.

Between now and 2022, we’ll have a chance to celebrate the achievements of those who survived the Rising: to raise the siege which forced the British to the negotiating table (a development considered unthinkable in 1916.)

In the big picture of Michael Collins & his story, 2022 is not merely a once-in-a-lifetime chance. It’s not only the chance of a century. His 100th anniversary will happen just once ever, period. One time only will this particular, most uncommon generation gather for a new in-depth review of his life & death, from this unique vantage point: when the smoke of those conflicts is just clearing, while his deeds still ring in living memory, among generations who were reared by those who knew him personally. Generations who have been revolutionary, in their own ways. In short, perhaps better equipped to discover, explore, understand what happened to him; with a vital role to play, which no future generation might be able for.

To ponder his death and his life eternally

Now is the time to fulfill two fundamental needs, which have inhibited our understanding of Collins, and of Ireland’s history:
– a complete, authoritative catalogue of all his writings and correspondence; and
– a forensic examination of his remains: to right the wrong done by the 1922 Dublin governement’s failure, neglect, and refusal to hold an enquiry into his death.

Short of a united Ireland, what better way to honour his memory?

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The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
by S M Sigerson
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Michael Collins in the 1916 Rising

photo of Michael Collins as a young recruit 1916

Michael Collins as a young recruit 1916

Michael Collins is famous for his role in realizing what was “beyond our wildest dreams in 1916.”  Yet fewer are familiar with the part he played in the ill-fated Rising himself.

In 1906, shortly before his sixteenth birthday, Michael Collins took a job as a clerk in London, where an elder sister was already established.  Here he assuaged a keen homesickness for Ireland, by way of enthusiastic participation in London’s Irish community.  The Gaelic Athletics League, the Geraldines Hurling Club, ceilis, and friends from Cork helped create a welcoming social island in the British metropolis. Continuing to write, he presented papers at political societies which supported Irish independence; where he became known as “a Wolfe Tone republican” in his outlook.

By 1914 he was secretary to the London and Southeastern district  of the the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a clandestine body organizing the struggle for independence. In April 1914, along with his cousin and close friend Sean Hurley, he enlisted with the London Brigade of the Irish Volunteers. When the Easter Rebellion of 1916 was in its planning stages, he and a number of his boyhood friends from home all volunteered together.

During the Easter Rising, Collins served as staff Captain and aide-de-camp to Joseph Plunkett, at the Rising’s headquarters in the General Post Office building (the “GPO”.) There he and his comrades underwent a crucible of fire. Hundreds of vastly outnumbered and out-gunned republicans held out against thousands of British troops, under brutal artillery bombardment, for a week. There, and in the Rising’s aftermath, he saw many of his mentors and closest friends lose their lives.

Following the Rising he was imprisoned with over a thousand others. The execution of the Rising’s leaders thrust young men like himself to the fore. As he boarded the boat with fellow prisoners, he was already discussing plans for “next time.” While still interned at the prison camp, he was instrumental in re-organizing the survivors: first in a campaign of non-cooperation with prison authorities.  Later planning the underground campaign, which would lead ultimately to Britain’s capitulation in 1921.

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

by S M Sigerson
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As a history and mystery buff I couldn’t help but keep reading..”
“... a great read on a fascinating story …
The Assassination of Michael Collins is definitely a must-read if you have any interest in this period of Irish history, or any interest in Collins himself.”

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Arthur Griffith & Michael Collins: Were their deaths connected?

Photo of Arthur Griffith (1871-1922)

Arthur Griffith 1871-1922)

(The following is an excerpt from the book
“The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?”)

Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein, is considered by many to have been the leading strategist of Ireland’s 20th century independence movement … After ages of continual battle against British imperialism, it was his genius for uniting Ireland’s internal divisions, which brought nationalism into a new, ultimately victorious phase …

… The chances seem astronomical against there having been anything either “accidental”, “random”, or “natural” about the sudden death, within days of each other, of Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith, and Harry Boland. Even in the dangerous environment of the Civil War, it would be about equivalent to being struck by lightening while holding a winning lottery ticket.

P S O’Hegerty quotes Griffith himself as saying, in their interview on June 30, “Of course, those fellows will assassinate Collins and myself. DeValera is responsible for this, for all of it. There would have been no trouble but for him.”

[The Cabinet “junta’s”] first step was to isolate Arthur Griffith … shortly before his death [P Moylett] found Griffith sitting alone with not even a secretary or typist available to him.  –  John M Feehan 

Collins, who was working intimately with Griffith on a daily basis at the time, by no means took his death so much for granted as historians have been willing to do. As shown in his personal correspondence:

The death of poor Mr Griffith was indeed a shock to us all, more so naturally to those of us who had been intimate with him, and who thought that his illness was a very slight thing indeed. We shall miss for many a day his cheerful presence and his wise counsel … He had sounder political judgement than any of us, and in this way we shall feel his absence very keenly. 

Although no bounding youth like the C-in-C, Griffith, at 51, was hardly decrepit. The negotiations with Britain, the deterioration of the country into Civil War, certainly would place a tremendous strain on anyone in his highly responsible position. Yet, lest we forget, since the founding of Sinn Fein in 1905, Griffith had lived in the eye of a political storm. His life had consisted of unending controversy, continual persecution; in the course of which he endured years of imprisonment, and constant threat of arrest or assassination.

Yet P S O’Hegerty was even more shocked at Griffith’s demise:

Until the last few months, he never lay in a sickbed. Whoever else died, we felt sure that it would not be Griffith – Griffith with the iron will, the iron constitution, the imperturbable nerve. Griffith, whom we all thought certain to live to be one hundred and write the epitaph of all of us.  Griffith, upon whom we all leaned and depended.

At the time of Griffith’s death, the Civil War was in full swing. A list appears to have issued from some quarter, indicating that members of the Dublin government were to be shot on sight at the first opportunity. Government Buildings became for Griffith and other ministers “a place of internment,” for their own safety…

As for DeValera, that ambitious statesman would never have the most potent political voice in Ireland, as long as Griffith still lived.  Nor would any post-war government led by Griffith ever be supine to British interests …

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“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
by S M Sigerson
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The bombardment of Four Courts: Who gave the order?

photo of the bombardment of Four Courts, June 1922

The bombardment of Four Courts, June 1922

There clearly seems to be a need for a definitive study on the
actual commencement of hostilities [in the Civil War ]. 

– John M Feehan

Did Michael Collins give the order to begin the bombardment of Four Courts?  Historians have presumed so; but no more.  The evidence casts considerable doubt as to whether the order ever came from Collins himself…  There is no record as to precisely who gave it.

(Excerpts from the book
The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBlath?“:)

“…a conflict of comrades … would be the greatest calamity in Irish history, and would leave Ireland broken for generations…”

– “The Army Document” signed by Michael Collins, along with an equal
number of
prominent pro- & anti-Treaty officers, May 1922
May 1922 – Leaders Strive to Prevent Civil War in Ireland

The hindsight of history demonstrates that he was among the leaders who clearly foresaw just how terrible a disaster these hostilities would bring. Amidst all the trigger-happy factions, baying for blood at that juncture, in London, in the Free State government, and in anti-Treaty camps, Collins by far most strenuously and continually resisted giving battle…

As subsequent events proved, his judgement on this was excellent. It was that explosion of the Four Courts, which he was so keen to avoid, that set off the chain of events which, ultimately, took his own life … he outlived the first shells to hit Inns Quay, by only fifty-five days.

In this sense, the mysteries surrounding the bombardment of Four Courts are directly related to the death of Collins: who may with justice be called one of its first casualties.

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


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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
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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


Michael Collins by Coogan cover image



“Michael Collins
by Tim Pat Coogan




Cover Image of the book "Ireland 1912-1985 Politics and Society" by JJ Lee Ireland 1912-1985 Politics and Society by JJ Lee

Feallmharú Michael Collins: Cad a tharla ag Béal na mBláth?

This post is in the Irish language (Gaielge)
Read in English here:

photo of Michael Collins speaking on a podium

Michael Collins

Cad chuige an gá dúinn eolas a bheith againn?

Cad chuige a bhfuil ga le leabhar eile faoi Michael Collins? Cad chuige a bhfuil an ghné áirithe seo dá scéal mar fhócas leabhair?

Is duine é Michael Collins atá in inmhe daoine a spreagadh fud fad an domhain. Tá ceachtanna suntasacha le fáil ag gach náisiún mar gheall ar a choimhlintí, buanna agus tragóidí agus iad a bhí ag Éirinn chomh maith.

Is é ábhar a bháis mistéirigh a ghnóthaigh níos mó na leabhar amháin roimhe seo. Ach fós féin tá go leor ceisteanna gan freagra: nó gan freagraí sásúla. Agus ó thaobh an fhiosrúcháin a rinneadh tá sé lochtach go mór. Is fiú níos mó airde a thabhairt don díospóireacht mar a sheasann sé anois. Tá sé breis is tríocha bliain ó foilsíodh an leabhar deireanach a bhí dírithe air. Tá sé breis is fiche bliain ó bhí comóradh a bhreithe ann I 1990 a chuir tús le hathbheochan úr le staidéar ar a shaol. Nocht an athbheochan seo saibhreas iontach taighde agus anailíse.

Agus fós táthar ann a dhéanann díspeagadh ar fhiosrúchán den sórt seo. Maíonn cuid acu gur ag tógáil taibhsí ó aimsir chianda atá ann, ag tógáil ceisteanna atá caite srl. Ach is fada ó chaite atá na saincheisteanna a bhaineann le críoch Michael Collins.

Is mar gheall ar Collins agus saol a linne go bhfuil Poblacht na hÉireann, sé chontae is fiche ann chomh maith leis an stáitín, Tuaisceart Éireann a bhfuil sé chontae ann agus a gcuid struchtúr institiúideach chomh maith le cuid mhaith den stair na n-áiteanna. Tá baint acu leis na conspóidí a raibh a bhás mar thoradh orthu agus na mórmheancóga a lean é.

Níl sé fíor le rá gur bhain Collins é féin an troid ar son na saoirse ach ta sé fíor le rá gan Collins go gcaillfeadh Éire an cogadh.  – J Feehan

Tagann na struchtúir chumhachta dúchasacha anuas chugainn ón phointe sárthábhachtach sin. Mar a fheictear i “Réamhrá” an leabhair seo, chuir eilimintí atá diongbháilte in institiúidí náisiúnta, chuir siad bac ar phlé an tréimhse sin ó shin.

Cad é is féidir linn a thuigbheáil ó seo ach go bhfuil rún éigin atá le nochtú fós? Rún éigin a mbeadh tionchar nach beag aige fiú inniu dá nochtfaí é. Fírinne éigin ceilte atá chomh cumhachtach sin nár bhain sé a spriocdháta díola amach fós. Tá dreasacht éigin chumhachtach beo fós chun an plé seo a chosc; plé a bheadh pléascach.

Caithfidh meas a bheith ar an teaghlach marthanach agus an dóigh a ndéanann siad iarracht sean fhuathanna a chur ar ceal agus aontas náisiúnta a chur ina n-áit, rud a bhí mar phrióireacht ag Collins féin. Ach cé go meastar in áiteanna go bhfuil a bhás féin ina ábhar iontach conspóideach cruthaíonn seo nach ceist acadúil ná scéal lorgaireachta é (cé gur féidir leis seo a bheith amhlaidh.)

Is ionann náisiún a dhéanann dearmad ar phríomhphointí a staire féin agus duine a bhfuil galar Alzheimer air. Agus féadann sin a bheith ina thinneas sóisialta atá scriosach. Cé go bhfuil sé tábhachtach ó thaobh na réadúlachta, polaitíochta agus mothúchánacha de go stadann daoine de bheith ag argóint faoin am a chuaigh thart tá bás Collins ina ceist ollmhór staire gan fuascailt. Agus fós féin ní bhfuair sé an t-iniúchadh uileghabhálach atá tuillte aici.

How long shall they kill our prophets,
while we stand aside and look?  – Bob Marley

I measc na bpointí achrannacha a chruthaíonn an stair ghoilliúnach seo an cheist is mó le bheith mothúchánach faoi agus mé ag scríobh: in Éirinn nach bhfuil chomh fada imithe ón ghlúin sin chun a aicsin a mheas le cothrom na Féinne.  Taobh thiar de seo tá cosc sóisialta ann ag moladh ról Collins ar eagla ról De Valera a cháineadh. Tá sé béasach, glactar leis, gan tuairimí a nochtadh a chuirfeadh isteach ar dhaoine, go háirithe iad siúd a chaill gaolta, ar mhaithe le hargóintí a bheadh ciméarach.

Iad siúd nach gcuimhníonn a rinneadh tá siad damnaithe chun é a athdhéanamh.

Ní bhíonn an rud nua ann. Tá seo amhlaidh leis na modhanna a úsáidtear le ceannairí a fheallmharú, go háirithe iad a chruthaíonn fórsa láidir as a muintir le haghaidh dínite, cothrom na féinne agus féinchinntiúcháin.

 Leagan Bearla:
The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?

by S M Sigerson
(Leagan leabhair gaielge ag ullmhú.)

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Nó iarr ar do siopa leabhar áitiúil.


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

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

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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.”

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