Tim Pat Coogan – historian of 20th century Ireland

photo of Tim Pat Coogan at work (courtesy of independent.ie)

Tim Pat Coogan at work (courtesy of independent.ie)

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 work, 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.

 

photo of Tim Pat Coogan

 

www.timpatcoogan.com

http://timpatcoogan.com/books.htm

 

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

Book cover image - 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

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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. https://ansionnachfionn.com/2015/06/08/the-battle-of-pettigo-and-belleek-may-to-june-1922/

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.

Read more

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

by S M Sigerson

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

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

All other e-reader formats:
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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.

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

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Or ask at your local book shop The Spy in the Castle COVER

The Spy in the Castle
by David Neligan
www.amazon.com/Spy-Castle-David-Neligan/dp/0953569705

 

graphic of Christmas garland

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

photo of Michael Collins close-up in uniform 1922

 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?

The 1916 Rising was neither the beginning, nor the end of the movement for Irish independence; nor of the Revolutionary Era (whether counted from 1900 or 1913 through 1923.)

The Rising would always have significance 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, to carry on the cause of independence, in the amazing achievements of 1919-1922.

Ireland’s “Decade of Centenaries” has so much to explore, celebrate, remember, between now and 2022: the centenary of Michael Collins’ death.

The Rising Centenary has brought to light a wealth of original materials, records, testimony, which had long languished unexamined, inaccessible to the public. The study of this period has thereby been greatly enriched, on countless levels; which may never be understood in our lifetime.

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?

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.

Between now and 2022, we’ll have a chance to celebrate the achievements of those who survived the Rising: who raised the siege of 1919-1921, and forced the British to the negotiating table (a development they considered unthinkable in 1916.)

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.

To ponder his death and his life eternally…

Read more
The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
by S M Sigerson
Book cover image - The Assassination of Michael Collins - What Happened at Béal na mBláth
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/ 

https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/the-assassination-of-michael-collins

Or ask at your local book shop

 

 

Béal na mBláth Annual Commemoration

photo of Beal na mBlath Commemoration
Béal na mBláth Annual Commemoration
(Anniversary of the death of Michael Collins)
Sunday 23 August 3PM 2015
at the monument
Béal na mBláth, Crookstown
County Cork
Republic of Ireland

“…I grew up with a rich lore of family history and virtually total silence outside the family. … There was never a mention of his name in the discussion of national life, except on the occasion of a visit to Béal na mBláth in August. All of that changed …”
–  Mary Banotti (grand-niece of Michael Collins)

Why do we gather at Béal na mBláth?

Michael Collins was one of the founding fathers of modern Ireland. His birth, in a quiet country farmhouse, caused no stir. Yet his death sent shockwaves around the world and down generations; which reverberate to this day.

The anniversary of one’s passing is an occasion very much observed in Irish culture; perhaps more than in any other country. Collins’ belongs to the nation. Yet he also belongs to people all over the world. “Because a story like his is for all people, everywhere, in all times.” **

The Commemoration’s annual oration is always delivered by a national figure of note. These have included Collns’ grandnieces, former legislator Helen Collins, and former Minister for Justice Nora Owen (now presenter of TV3’s “Midweek”); as well as Former President Mary Robinson (now UN Commissioner on climate change.) In 2012, the 90th anniversary marked the first time that the oration was given by a serving Taoiseach.

If you’re a Michael Collins fan, and you’re in Ireland in August, it’s not to be missed.

Visit the Commemoration webiste:
http://www.bealnamblathcommemoration.com

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

Read more of Mary Banotti’s chapter in
Michael Collins and the Making of the Irish State
(Gabriel Doherty & Dermot Keogh, editors)
http://www.mercierpress.ie/irish-books/michael_collins_and_the_making_of_the_irish_state/

Michael Collins and the Making of Irish State COVER

** Read more:

“The Assassination
of Michael Collins:

What Happened At
Béal na mBláth?”

by S M Sigerson
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For all other e-reader formats:
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 OR ASK AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSHOP
Assassination of Michael Collins COVER

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 …

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

All other e-reader formats:
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Assassination of Michael Collins COVER

Wolfe Tone and Michael Collins

Respect our existence: or expect our resistance

picture of Wolfe Tone b&w profile

 

To subvert the tyranny of our execrable Government, to break the connection of England – the unfailing source of all our ills – and to assert the independence of my native country … these were my objects.”

 

 

MC portrait Triskel show

When Michael Collins quoted Wolfe Tone’s words, above, in a 1918 election speech, he knew they would be instantly recognized by his audience. That motto had formed the original seed and core of Ireland’s nationalist independence movement, of which Tone was the idealogical father.

This uncompromising call to action had an impact equivalent to Malcolm X’s pithy summation, over a century later,
“… by any means necessary.”

It was a line drawn in the sand: political change would no longer be a mere debating point.  It was a question of survival.  It was a seizure of the moral high ground, and the right to defend it; in arms if need be.  From this point on, the evil of violent conflict might be considered by nationalists as lesser than the evil of continuing under a regime with genocidal consequences.

Collins’ connection with Tone was not merely rhetorical.  He grew up among those who had fought in the Fenian rising of 1867, and whose grandfathers had risen with Tone and Lord Edward Fitzgerald in 1798.  Collins’ own father had received his education surreptitiously, before the repeal of the Penal Laws; from a cousin, a hedge school master, who had been a school friend of Tone’s.

Tone helped bring Irish politics intellectually out of feudalism, and into the age of modern republicanism.  Along with other thinkers and doers of the 18th century Enlightenment, he promulgated the idea of a democratic society based on universal human rights, and the consent of the governed.

In 1798, the concept of government by and for the people challenged the age-old order of things.  In previous centuries, people had frequently risen up en masse against tyranny and injustice.  But once risen, had nowhere to go; except to choose between one lord or the other, one king or the other.

Human rights and democracy are ideas which many have the happiness to take for granted now.  Even while, in some parts of the world, they remain very much at issue.

We have also lived to see the flaws in democratic systems.  In two centuries of popular insurrections, and the establishment of modern republics, many things have changed.  And many things have not changed.

Yet there is still much to learn from the thinkers and doers for social justice who’ve gone before.  And from their fate.

Wolfe Tone was taken prisoner in the 1798 rebellion, and died in a British prison.  Michael Collins was shot to death under suspicious circumstances; at the close of a war with England, which could with justice be called a continuation and consummation of what Tone began in 1798.  Both their promising careers were cut off in the bloom of young manhood.  Under current Irish law, too young to run for president.

Both have left an undying legacy of courage, innovation, ideas, writings, achievements, which continue to inspire present and future generations.

*****

Why revolution? Why democracy? See previous post:
Revolution and Democracy
https://collinsassassination.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/revolution-and-democracy/

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-reader formats:
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/433954

Or ask at your local bookshop

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