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

 

graphic of Christmas garland

Michael Collins … or Hitler?

photo of Michael Collins

Michael Collins

photo Nazi Germany crowd giving seig heil salute

Nazi Germany

 

But in history, as in travelling, men usually see only what they already had in their own minds; and few learn much from history, who do not bring much with them to its study.

– John Stuart Mill


T
he book’s Epilogue compares Collins, and his fate, with that of a notorious contemporary. Following are some excerpts:

Yes, Michael Collins and Adolf Hitler: just about exact contemporaries. Let’s consider these two, side by side. Let’s examine their ideas, their plans and vision, as set forth in their writings…

No one could plead ignorance as to what Hitler intended to do. He never made any secret of it. The war and the concentration camps and the mass genocide were all there in black and white, for the world to read at their leisure, in his bestseller “Mein Kampf“. And he did exactly what he said he would do…

The one assassinated in his prime; arguably with the collusion of the British regime…The other patronized, coddled and enabled by London, to the devastation of Britain’s neighbours and allies on the Continent … Until the viper they’d nursed in their breast turned on themselves…

The loss of life and property in the Nazi bombardment of London was one of the worst military catastrophes in English history; dwarfing by comparison all the casualties and damage attributable to Irish insurgency in a hundred years.

So much for conventional wisdom of the powers that be. What was really dangerous, and what was good, for British interests?

A secure, united, egalitarian Ireland next door? Or friendly fascists on the Continent?”

*** *** ***

Anyone feel a disturbing sense of déjà vu here?

Does history indeed repeat itself?

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

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

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
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Michael Collins, unemployment, & mass immigration

Photo of Auxies searching civilians during the War of Independence

Auxiliary troops stop and search civilians during the War of Independence

“The keynote to the economic revival must be … that the people have steady work, at just remuneration, and their own share of control. ”
– Michael Collins 1922

Michael Collins grew up in an Ireland plagued by mass unemployment and mass immigration.  There was famine in the year of his birth, 1890; and its spectre of starvation continued to haunt everyday life.

As a young banking professional in London, a “glass ceiling” kept himself and other Irish hopefuls in the relatively menial clerical sector.  There was no hope of advancement: due to unwritten British policy that the Irish were not to be considered for management positions.

How ironic that this young man, passed over as unfit for management, would go on to manage a nation so effectively; much to London’s cost.

What parallels might be found today in Ireland, and in the rest of the world?   Are we not surrounded by general unemployment, poverty, hunger, and desperate mass immigration for survival?

Have we not seen, in our own lifetimes, how multitudes, once excluded from employment, from management, from professional and government positions, have suddenly broken down socio/political barriers which confined them to menial work and poverty wages?

People of color, and women of all nations, have proven themselves again and again, in fields so recently barred to them.  This writer remembers well the day when it was seriously debated in scholarly circles whether women were biologically incapable of discharging the duties of a government official.  When it was generally believed that women could never be police.  When chaos and mayhem were seriously posited as the results which must be expected if people of African descent were allowed to attend the same schools as those of a lighter complexion, or to follow the same articled professions.

Surely, all things considered, we must ask ourselves whether the immigrating, jobless Irish of today, might manage things well enough, given equal opportunity.  And could desperate millions, now herded into camps,  separated from schools, jobs, homes, all hope of building a life, do their own jobs well enough … if only those in responsible positions did theirs?

Can we not do better?  Is mass extreme poverty, unemployment, and refugee-ism so unavoidable?

#WWMCD : What would Michael Collins do?

“…to stop the national hemorrhage of emigration for the whole of the year.  There you have the practical politics of our new day.”
– Michael Collins 1922

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

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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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

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Assassination of Michael Collins COVER

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.  There is no record of precisely who gave the order.

(Excerpts from the book:)

“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…”

– “The Army Document” signed by Michael Collins and an
equal number of
prominent pro- & anti-Treaty officers, 1922

The evidence casts considerable doubt as to whether the order to commence the artillery bombardment of Four Courts ever came from Collins himself…

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 the Free State government, in London, 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.

Read more
“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
by S M Sigerson
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www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

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