Michael Collins’ “Squad”: “No man shot without full proof of his guilt”

 

Photo of "The Squad" ca 1920

                                Members of “The Squad” ca. 1920

Discussions about the history of Ireland tend to be fraught with political debate.  Sometimes with moral debate; sometimes with politics masquerading as moral debate.  While killings before 1922 by the British Empire in Ireland are rarely questioned, any corresponding blows struck by Irish forces seem to awaken an agonized conscience, from quite unexpected quarters.  “The Squad” is one of the hottest topics of this kind: Michael Collins’ elite unit for executing secretive “spies and informers” of a violent foreign occupation force.

Along with Liam Tobin and Tom Cullen, Frank Thornton was the third in Collins’ innermost team of associates at GHQ.  While the shooters themselves may have understood the reasons for any particular “job” in only a general sense, Thornton avers that each order had to be confirmed by a Joint meeting of the Dáil Cabinet.

The following excerpt from his 60-page Witness Statement (No. 0615), Bureau of Military History, bids fair to allay any ambiguity about how the Squad’s targets were chosen: .

“The British at this time, realising that the terrorism of the Black an’Tans’ burning and looting was not going to succeed unless they could actually put their finger on our Headquarters Staff and eliminate us in that way. With that end in view they aimed to set up a full time Secret Service outside of the army, working on proper continental Lines with a Central Headquarters and other houses forming minor centres scattered all throughout the city in which they operated…

“I had the honour to be in charge of that particular job of compiling all that information and got the very unenvious job of presenting my full report to a Joint meeting of the Dáll Cabinet and Army Council, at which meeting I had to prove that each and every man on my list was an accredited Secret Serviceman of the British Government. This, as everybody can realise, was not an easy task, but proves one thing: that is, that our Government and our Army were not going to allow any man to be shot without the fullest possible proof being produced of his guilt. Our men have been referred to as the “murder gang” from time to time by our enemy, but I can assure you that whether in the Brigades throughout the country or here in Dublin, no man was ever shot during the Tan War except in an open fight and a fair fight, unless he had first received the benefit of a full court-martial. Very often as you know it was not possible to have the man present at his own court martial, but what I mean to convey is that the proof had to be absolutely a full 100% watertight before any action could be taken.”

You can read more of Thornton’s fascinating inside story of Michael Collins’ GHQ operations throughout the War of Independence here:
Frank Thornton’s Witness Statement in full – Bureau of Military History

photo of Frank Thornton ca 1922

        Frank Thornton ca 1922

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more
“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
by S M Sigerson   
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Michael Collins and “Lawrence of Arabia”

photos of Michael Collins and T E Lawrence

Michael Collins and T E Lawrence (courtesy of @GeneralMichael4)

The great international conferences which led up to the Treaty of Versailles, were attended by many petitioners from “small nations”; including an Irish republican contingent. They lobbied vigorously for Ireland’s right to independence; particularly asking the American President Wilson to put pressure on London.

T E Lawrence also attended. His auto-biographical book “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” concerning his experiences in the Arab Revolt, was later the basis for the award-winning feature film “Lawrence of Arabia”. He and Collins met, and their friendly acquaintance posed interesting possibilities for the British Empire.
(The following is an excerpt from “The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?” goo.gl/a0tgOr
):

Not entirely unlike Collins, Lawrence was also a legendary leader of indigenous insurgents. He also had accomplished amazing things, at a remarkably young age. He had been Britain’s man in the Middle East. And he was not happy.

Lawrence had been commissioned to organize disgruntled Arabs, with promises of civil rights and national independence. In a long and bloody campaign, he had led men to their deaths on the strength of those promises, and on his word. Then the Crown pulled the rug out from under him. They had no intention of abiding by engagements made to a lot of restless natives. The promised united Arab Middle East, never materialized. Instead, this populous, culturally and politically strategic region was divided into the problematic fragments, which have cost the world so much in constant turmoil, ever since.

Lawrence had been used, and he took exception to it. In a public presentation at Buckingham Palace, he mounted the royal dais to, figuratively speaking, fling his decorations back at the king. The gesture was quite shocking at the time. He resigned his commission and went into early retirement, turning his back on the army.

Lawrence was also, on one side of his family, partly Irish. For some time, Collins had been trying to persuade him to help the Irish cause. Imagine the implications! Here were two of the most able military strategists in Europe. Each of them individually had proved his capacity to organize an army, from the ground up, fit to overthrow the world’s top guns. Collins had already bested every British general they could throw at him. Lawrence in Arabia and Collins in Ireland!? By God, they’d have the Empire encircled! This was an alliance to mar imperialists’ rest.

Due to Collins’ untimely end, the world will never know what they might have acheived together. T P Coogan, although often dismissive of “conspiracy theorists” refered to Lawrence’ own death as “mysterious,” to an extent which “generated controversy.”

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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

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

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COVER IMAGE The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Lawrence

T E Lawrence’ book
“The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”
www.goodreads.com/book/show/57936.Seven_Pillars_of_Wisdom

1949: The Republic of Ireland as we know it becomes official

April 1949 Irish independence headlines

 

18 April 1949, Ireland took the step into a new era: ending the “Irish Free State” as a Dominion within the British Commonwealth (the semi-independence compromise which had ended the Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921 (aka War of Independence / Tan War). Dublin’s new international status went far to vindicate Michael Collins’ position on the controversial 1921 Treaty.

In 1922, just as Ireland rightly revelled in its astounding military and political victory over British occupation, Eamonn DeValera had led the shattering of Ireland’s fledgling independent legislature. He had called on his faction within the Dail to follow him in leaving the new Dublin establishment en masse.

Their issue? They declared that it was traitrous for Irish nationalists to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, as a stepping stone toward complete self-determination.

That disastrous split earned DeValera the notorious tag “architect of the Civil War”: that horrific debacle which transformed Ireland’s brilliant triumph into tragedy, slaughtering many of the War of Independence’ greatest leaders and activists. It profoundly undermined the young nation’s unity, integrity, and social justice; leaving “Ireland broken for generations.”

1949 Dublin celebrates Republic of Ireland declaration

Yet 1949 at last saw the formal, complete withdrawal from the British Empire of Irish soil (excepting the six counties of Northern Ireland.)  Interestingly enough, no single political party of the time can claim credit. It was Dublin’s very first Inter-Party Government, headed by John A. Costello, which acheived that bold stroke on the pages of history.

This largely proved the validity of Michael Collins’ arguments, that the 1921 Treaty be used as a stepping stone in the on-going struggle for complete national independence.

Meanwhile that firebrand of freedom, Mr DeValera, although having dominated the Dublin establishment for the preceding 16 years (1932-1948,) had not brought Ireland one millimeter closer either to breaking ties with England; nor to ending the partition of Northern Ireland; (another of the key points over which he had incited the Civil War.)

Soon after the 1949 declaration, DeValera discreetly retreated from Irish soil; to embark on a worldwide tour lecturing about partition. (Perhaps not unlike his previous retreat from Ireland for the duration of the War of Independence; also for an extended speaking tour overseas.)

And how is it that in 1922, Mr DeValera had just happened to be at the very same obscure, back-country crossroads, within hours of Michael Collins’ being shot down there?

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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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Michael Collins, He For She: his early support for women’s rights

 

 

photo of Maryann O'Brien Collins and family co 1900

Michael’s mother Maryann O’Brien Collins, a married sister, and his grandmother Johanna McCarthy O’Brien co 1900

Among the great volume of commentary on Michael Collins, of all shades and quality, his intimate personal relationships, especially with women, have been a favorite focus for the lamentable number whose appetite for lurid gossip exceeds meticulous adherence to facts.

In honor of International Women’s Day, this excellent overview of Collins’ close connections with strong women and the women’s movement of his time is by P Prowler.

The product of a household headed by a hard-working single mother (after his aged father’s death when Michael was no more than seven,) Collins needed no lectures on women’s leadership potential.  His own highly competent, nurturing mother managed the family farm, labourers, construction crews; while doing much to encourage and support seven of her children in pursuing successful careers away from the farm. All while earning praise as “a hostess in ten thousand.”  Four sisters, much older than he, all doted on “The Big Fella,” as they affectionately dubbed the baby of the family,

The formative role of these many strong, competent, loving women in his childhood and youth produced a man who deeply respected women and thrived on female company of all ages. It also sometimes manifested in sensitive, nurturing care toward those he was responsible for. His qualifications of this kind were exemplified in his appointment as aide-de-camp to 1916 Rising organizer Joseph Plunkett, whose chronic health problems were a challenge to his presence at The Rising’s headquarters in the General Post Office.

It is perhaps no coincidence, therefore, that we have a woman to thank for the role Collins subsequently played in national events. Following the Rising, it was Thomas Clarke’s widow, Kathleen Daly Clarke, who singled out Michael to head up a re-organizition of the Irish Volunteers, for another go.  A good call, as it proved; for during Collins’ tenure at the helm (and at no other time, before or since,) Ireland won its greatest victories to date against the British Empire’s unwelcome colonial occupation.

photo of Kathleen ClarkeCollins’ lifetime exactly coincided with a period of aggressive, mass agitation for women’s rights. The female suffrage movement was in Ireland often closely linked with the campaign for Irish independence. Many proponents belonged to both “camps”. Full enfranchisement for women became enshrined in the 1916 Proclamation, the legal founding document of the Republic of Ireland. It was the modern world’s first national declaration to do so. This was the political climate in which Collins grew up and prospered. Yet he remained one of the few great men of the time who did not omit to use gender-inclusive language in his speeches, and to explicitly acknowledge women’s contributions and concerns on a regular basis therein.

All of this belies the far-fetched “Mick the misogynist” quip which has been occasionally offered, (along with every vice and virtue that could be image of poster Irish Women's Franchise Leagueattributed to him.)

Collins’ predecessor in the independence movement, Charles Stuart Parnell, was defeated by a sexual scandal. Collins’ detractors have occasionally attempted to raise similar issues. Reported to have sown some wild oats during his teen career in London (albeit while living under the roof of an older sister,) no scandal concerning his sexual life has ever been substantiated.

His intimate connections appear to have been no less healthy, vigorous, and well-conducted than other aspects of his life: his relations with women affectionate and normal, providing no evidence either of inexperience, excess or aberration.

At the same time, he may be said to have been never without female companionship. He carried on dating and epistolary relationships with a number of women such as Susan Kileen and “Dilly” Dicker, who also worked with him in positions of great trust during the struggle for independence. Their correspondence shows that they remained on friendly terms until the end of his life.

In 1921-22, he became engaged to Kitty Kiernan,[36] and made plans for a normal family life after the war. Of their voluminous correspondence, more than 241 letters survive. They provide an important record, not only of their intimacy, but of his daily life.

Detailing his exhausting schedule, during the concurrent national crisis, their letters chronicle the challenges the couple faced in getting quality time together, under the circumstances. In so doing, they prove it quite doubtful that he could have simultaneously devoted much attention to any additional liaison. Allegations of affair(s) with English society women at this same time are unsubstantiated, and fraught with suspicious political connotations. Those concerning Hazel Lavery originate chiefly with that lady herself, and are unsupported by comparable evidence.

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 Imageby S M Sigerson

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

All other e-reader formats:
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Also see:
“Michael Collins and the Women Who Spied For Ireland”

Cover image for book "Michael Collins and the women who spied for Ireland"

 

 

 

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/157333.Michael_Collins_and_the_Women_Who_Spied_for_Ireland

“Michael Collins and the Women in His Life”

Book cover image: "Michael Collins and the women in his life"

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/157335.Michael_Collins_and_the_Women_in_His_Life

The Assassination of Michael Collins: Which ones lied?

photo of Cork Flying Column

Cork Flying Column

There are a number of reasons why Michael Collins’ death continues to be viewed by many as suspicious and unsolved. The most obvious is the eye-witness testimony: no two witnesses’ statements are alike. Each and every one contradicts the others.

Having enjoyed the honor to be both quoted, and flagrantly misquoted, in a recent work on the topic, the author of the book “The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?” offers the following excerpts of what it actually says:

“Well, here you have a fair collection of statements from eyewitnesses, each contradicting the other on vital and significant points, and none of which can be accepted as a completely reliable version.”     – John M Feehan

Some observations we can make with confidence at this point:

1) Not all these inconsistencies can be attributed to the lapse of time, differences of photo of gathering at Beal na mBlath day after death of Collinsperspective, or even carelessness. That is to say:

2) They cannot all be telling the truth, Which is to say:

3) Some of them were lying.

These answers, as answers often do, raise questions:

photo of John Mcpeak 4) Which one(s) lied?

5) Why did they lie?

6) Did some have more reason to lie than others?

7) If two mutually negating points are both corroborated by more than one witness, how can we tell which is correct? (i.e. The convoy came under machine gun fire; the convoy did not come under machine gun fire.)

8) Can we decipher the answers to these questions from the information before us?

photo of Emmet Dalton

Emmet Dalton

If we compare all the testimony’s various contradictions and corroborations, in light of the possible interests and pressures at work in each case, we may separate out some chaff: Which witnesses have adhered only to facts which

were within their own knowledge? Which ones report events which happened when they were not present? Does the statement demonstrate that they were “coached” as to what to say? Did some deponents have reason to lie? Did some others have less reason? Do they stray so far from verifiable facts as to invalidate their testimony altogether?

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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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www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

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Private John McPeak – the armoured car gunner

photo of Private John McPeak

Private John McPeak

Private Jock McPeak was the machine-gun operator in the armored car; which followed immediately behind Commander-in-Chief Michael Collins’ touring car, during the fatal ambush at Béal na mBláth. A British soldier himself right up until the Truce, he has been the subject of considerable speculation, for his central position at the much-disputed Vickers machine gun; as well as for extraordinary turncoat adventures and criminal convictions, in the wake of Collins’ death.  Following excerpts from the book “The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?” offer a nutshell of McPeak’s enigmatic story:

As the gunner who operated the Vickers machine gun in the turret of the armoured car, McPeak, his conduct, and the performance of that gun, are most central to events at Béal na mBláth. Upon close scrutiny, his actions and words cast conspicuous doubt upon his veracity and character; including the key question of whether McPeak’s gun worked fine, or malfunctioned.

McPeak was one of those most directly responsible for the protection of the C-in-C’s invaluable life, and physically nearest to him at the moment of his suspicious death. He was reportedly the object of acute suspicion among fellow Free State soldiers; suspicion which seemed justified soon after by his desertion and theft of the armoured car.

In view of all the mysterious factors connected with him, hardly any other conclusion would be reasonable but that, if Collins met his fate through the agency of traitors in his own bodyguard, then McPeak was either involved, or had some knowledge of what happened. If so, his account published in 1971 might be expected to contain inaccuracies, calculated to conceal something he knew. (That is, he would be one who may have lied, had more reason to lie than others, etc.)

There are a number of wild rumours about McPeak, ostensibly coming from former Free State soldiers. These include reports that he was accused, interrogated, beaten, and charged with Michael Collins’ murder (but that charges were dropped for lack of evidence.) Others said that, in his cups, McPeak boasted that he had killed Collins. Another witness claims that McPeak admitted the C-in-C fell “accidentally” to “friendly fire”.

The truth is the strangest tale of all: three months after the ambush, the Irish Civil War still raging, McPeak deserted the Free State Army, and joined the anti-Treaty side. In doing so, he just happened to drive away, not with just any armoured car, but that one in particular, which took such an important part in the ambush where Collins died.

A number of plausible explanations were offered for this extraordinary theft of army property. But none of them are nearly so likely, as that his absconding with that great hulking piece of evidence had to do with that single most important event connected with it, and with him: the C-in-C’s untimely demise.

Could an examination of the armoured car and its machine gun turret have cast doubt on someone’s version of what happened?

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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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www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

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The coverup of Michael Collins’ assassination continues

photo of Michael Collins courtesy of Collins Press

courtesy of Collins Press

Like myths, books can either illuminate facts, or obscure them.  In the run-up to the Centenaries of Ireland’s War of Independence (1919-1921) & Civil War (1922-1923), the battle of ideas has begun.
Are some new books part of the same old coverup? How to tell good books from other kinds? S M Sigerson, author of “The Assassination of Michael Coliins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?” (and of this blog) asks and answers these questions; and talks about the experience of chronicling the death of Collins.

Writing about Michael Collins tends to fall into three categories: The first (and best) is by authors whose aim is to enable the public, and future historians, to better understand what happened: by providing information, perspective, analysis, and other investigative tools. Such authors present their own opinions on the case in this context, as opinions, while encouraging further research and critique.

The second category would be by authors whose chief purpose is to focus on their own particular theory of what happened; who aim to persuade us that their theory is the right one. Whether it is or not, they, too, often unearth valuable research and raise important issues.

Within the second is a third, more suspect group, such as often crops up where politics are concerned: written with intent to discredit an individual, a political movement, etc. Created, that is, in order to obscure the facts. These may come disguised, to attract an unsuspecting public: proclaiming themselves as fearless exposés; and/or masking their intent with dulcet language of objectivity, scientific method, etc.  Some have even come decorated by academic credentials from lofty institutions.

As we approach the 2022 Centenary of Michael Collins’ death, this third type of commentary has begun to rear its ugly head. Much in the style of “fake news” and outrageous fabrications with which powerful and dangerous elements have lately bombarded the public, from the highest places, such sprurious studies aim to create general confusion. Confusion which, in turn, disarms criticism and resistance. Resistance to … most questionable proceedings indeed.

Such works and the writers thereof, being otherwise beneath our notice, shall remain nameless here.

Writing about the death of Collins

What I here make public has, after a long and scrupulous inquiry, seemed to me evidently true … Whether it be so or no, I am content the reader should impartially examine.      – George Berkeley

This writer came to Michael Collins’ story with a mind as nearly completely open as could be found, in anyone who cares enough to write about it at all. Not having grown up in Ireland, there was no pressure of Civil War loyalties to either side, in my background.

Nor had I any preconception whatever as to how he died. At first, I accepted the sketchy standard version which appears in most biographies of him. As my interest and acquaintance with the topic grew deeper, I gradually became dissatisfied with that version. Initially, only a little dissatisfied; until at last I grew convinced that his death had not been adequately investigated; neither at the time it happened, nor subsequently by historians.

It also became clear that Collins’ end can only be discussed intelligently, with a working understanding of both sides in the Civil War. In my own writing, I sought to present both sides, in a style digestible not only for general readers, but also for enthusiasts who might sympathize with either the pro-Treaty or anti-Treaty viewpoints: trying to give equal time to both, and letting them speak for themselves in their own words, as much as possible.

It is the practice of some more cynical commentators (described above,) to attack anyone who tries to do so, as a dangerous, wild-eyed partisan; that is, anyone who does not participate in silencing one side of the discussion.

People in Ireland are well-used to this technique; with which they have been sadly acquainted ad nauseum throughout The Troubles of the 20th century; and in the surrounding debate, ever since.

S M Sigerson’s work, obviously written from the heart, is a valuable contribution to the literature on Michael Collins and should be available in any self-respecting Irish library.             – Tim Pat Coogan

I trust in the public, in future generations, and in the passage of time, to ultimately sort true from false, among conflicting claims about the life and death of Michael Collins.

I call for a full catalog and compendium of Collins’ own letters and writings, which are infinitely more valuable to history than anything that subsequent writers can say about him. Looking forward to the 2022 Centenary, I again urge all individuals and institutions holding such materials, to cooperate in realizing this, with speed.

I also repeat my call for an independent forensic examination of his remains; which could conclusively answer many points now debated in theory.

I encourage those with an interest to examine all writings about Michael Collins.
Then, you be the judge.

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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Also see:
“Studying the death of Michael Collins:
Deception, evasion, and perception”
www.academia.edu/34795377/Studying_the_death_of_Michael_Collins_1890_-_1922_.rtf

 

May 1922 – Leaders strive to prevent Civil War in Ireland

Photo 1922 meeting of pro- & anti-Treaty army officers, to avert Civil War: left to right Sean McEoin (Pro-Treaty), Sean Moylan (IRA), Eoin O’Duffy (Pro-Treaty), Liam Lynch (IRA), Gearóid O’Sullivan (Pro-Treaty) and Liam Mellows (IRA)

Photo 1922 meeting of pro- & anti-Treaty army officers, to avert Civil War: left to right Sean McEoin, Sean Moylan, Eoin O’Duffy, Liam Lynch, Gearóid O’Sullivan, and Liam Mellows

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

The following statement, known as “The Army Document” was published on 1 May 1922, and signed by equal numbers of both pro- and anti-Treaty officers of the Irish Volunteers / IRA:

“We, the undersigned officers of the IRA, realising the gravity of the present situation in Ireland, and appreciating the fact that if the present drift is maintained a conflict of comrades is inevitable, declare that this would be the greatest calamity in Irish history, and would leave Ireland broken for generations.

“To avert this catastrophe we believe that a closing of the ranks all round is necessary.

“We suggest to all leaders, Army and political, and all citizens and soldiers of Ireland the advisability of a unification of forces on the basis of the acceptance and utilisation of our present national position in the best interests of Ireland, and we require that nothing shall be done that would prejudice our position or dissipate our strength.

“We feel that on this basis alone can the situation best be faced, viz.:

1) The acceptance of the fact – admitted by all sides – that the majority of the people of Ireland are willing to accept the Treaty.
2) An agreed election with a view to
3) Forming a Government which will have the confidence of the whole country.
4) Army unification on above basis ”

[Signed by:]
Dan Breen   Tom Hales    Owen O’Duffy  
H Murphy     S O’Hegerty
Gearoid O’Sullivan  
F O’Donoghue     Sean Boylan
Michael Collins
    RJ Mulcahy

Photo of Dan Breen

Dan Breen

The Civil War by no means broke out instantaneously or thoughtlessly. Tremendous efforts were carried on, for months on end, to avert the outbreak of hostilities. The Army Document (shown in its entirely at the head of this chapter) was only one statement, produced in one round of meetings.

Photo of Tom Hales

Tom Hales

Photo of Florence O'Donoghue (courtesy Irish Academic Press)

Florence O’Donoghue (courtesy Irish Academic Press)

Countless such parlays convened, from January (when the Dáil split) thru June 1922. The most painstaking debates were carried on interminably, by those who had risked every danger together for years. Many strove desperately to find some means of going forward without civil conflict.

Indeed, there is an awesome sense of tragedy, in reviewing the transcripts of these debates: to hear echo again the penetrating observations, poignant pleas, passionate oaths, of the greatest hearts and minds of that heroic era; many of whom would soon be silenced forever. Silenced by the outcome of their own relentless march: into the disaster which they all knew that this war would bring.

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

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www.smashwords.com/books/view/433954

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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 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.

 

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

Read reviews:

http://www.rabidreaders.com/2014/12/03/assassination-michael-collins-s-m-sigerson-2/

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

Read reviews:
http://www.rabidreaders.com/2014/12/03/assassination-michael-collins-s-m-sigerson-2/

Or ask at your local book shop