Michael Collins: The real meaning of the 1916 Rising

1916 Proclamation heading close-up

How Ireland Made Her Case Clear

Following are excerpts from Michael Collins’ own writings on 1916 and the struggle for Irish freedom

“The period from 1914 to 1918 is an important one in the struggle for Irish freedom.  It was a transition period.  It saw a wholesome & necessary departure from the ideas and methods which had been held & adopted for a generation, and it is a period which is misread by a great many of our people, even by some who helped that departure, and who helped to win the success we have achieved.

“The real importance of the Rising of 1916 did not  become apparent until 1918.  It is not correct to say now that the assertion of the republican principle which was stated by the leaders of the Rising was upheld as the national policy without a break.  The declaration of a Republic was really in advance of national thought, and it was only after a period of two years’ propaganda that we were actually able to get solidarity on the idea.

“The European War, which began in 1914, is now generally recognised to have been a war between two rival empires…Germany spoke frankly of her need for expansion, and for new fields of enterprise for her surplus population.  England, who likes to fight under a high-sounding title, got her opportunity in the invasion of Belgium.  She was entering the war ‘in defence of the freedom of small nationalities.

“America at first looked on, but she accepted the motive in good faith, and she ultimately joined in … ‘Shall,’ asked President Wilson, ‘the military power of any nation … be suffered to determine the fortunes of peoples over whom they have no right to rule except the right of force?

“But the most flagrant instance of the violation of this principle did not seem to strike … President Wilson, and he led the American nation – peopled so largely by Irish men & women who had fled from British oppression – into the battle and to the side of that nation which for hundreds of years had determined the fortunes of the Irish people against their wish, and had ruled them, and was still ruling them, by no other right than the right of force.

“There were created by the Allied Powers half-a-dozen new Republics as a demonstration of adherence to these principles.  At the same time, England’s military subjection of Ireland continued.  And Ireland was a nation with claims as strong as, or stronger than, those of the other small nations.

This subjugation constituted a mockery of those principles, yet the expression of them before the world as principles for which great nations were willing to pour out their  blood and treasure gave us the opportunity to raise again our flag of freedom and to call the attention of the world to the denial of our claim.

“We were not pro-German during the war any more than we were pro-Bulgarian, pro-Turk, or anti-French.  We were anti-British, pursuing our age-long policy against the common enemy.  Not only was this our policy, but it was the policy that any weak nation would have pursued in the same circumstances…

“We remembered that England’s difficulty was Ireland’s opportunity, and we took advantage of her engagement elsewhere to make a bid for freedom.  The odds between us were for the moment a little less unequal… We had made common cause with France when France was fighting England.  We made common cause with Spain when Spain was fighting England.  We made common cause with the Dutch when the Dutch were fighting England…

“Our position was our old position.  Our aim was our old aim.  Our intention was simply to secure liberation from the English occupation …

“The Rising expressed our right to freedom.  It expressed our determination to have the same liberty of choice in regard to our own destinies as was conceded to Poland or Czecho-Slovakia, or any other of the nations that were emerging as a result of the new doctrines being preached…

Our claim was to govern ourselves … It was a gesture to the world that there could be no confusion about. It was an emphasis of our separate nationhood and a declaration that our ultimate goal was and would continue to be complete independence...

“We were to learn that freedom was to be secured by traveling along a different road … that it was [the English] presence alone which denied it to us, and we must make that presence uncomfortable for them, and that the only question between us and them was the terms on which they would clear out and cease their interference with us.”

 Read more
Path to Freedom cover image
The Path to Freedom
by Michael Collins



Book Cover - 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
Paperback or Kindle edition here:

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Best Reads of the year – Rabid Readers Reviews

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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

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

Paperback or Kindle edition here:

All other e-reader formats:

Reviewed in Best Reads of the year – Rabid Readers Reviews

Or ask at your local book shop

Why do we need to know how Michael Collns died?

aerial photo of Béal na mBláth

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

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

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

Excerpt from the book:

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

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

Read more:

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

Paperback or Kindle edition here:

For all other e-reader formats: 

Or ask at your local bookshop

 Visit the Commemoration webiste:

Commemorative edition: 90th Anniversary pictorial history

Michael Collins: a biography by Tim Pat Coogan

The Curragh Mutiny: 100 years ago this week

The Curragh Mutiny was a major turning point in the struggle for Irish independence. 

“Home Rule”, a measure of increased self-determination for Ireland, had been pressed for in the British Parliament for decades.   As it seemed on the brink of fulfillment, there arose the prospect of violent resistance to Home Rule by unionists in the northeast of the country.  This in turn meant that the British Army might be required to enforce Irish self-determination, against violent factions who wanted direct rule from London. 

In the Curragh Mutiny, a number of British Army officers declared that they would resign, if ordered to use force against unionist paramilitaries. 

It was a major disaster for the British government, and for Home Rule.  It ultimately meant the defeat of efforts to win Irish independence by peaceful, constitutional means: and so set the stage for the War of Independence. 

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”  – John F Kennedy

What has the Curragh Mutiny to do with the death of Collins?
A chapter in the new book “
The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?”  re-examines events leading up to Collins’ death, and linked to the Mutiny.  

Paperback or Kindle e-book:

Read more about the Curragh Mutiny:

Correction: PAPERBACK Back Online today

Apologies to anyone who had difficulty ordering the paperback in the last two weeks.

It’s just been discovered that, due to a technical glitch, the paperback was listed as “unavailable” since March 1.

This has been corrected.  The paperback is back online now at  www.createspace.com/4528334

There may be a few days’ delay before it shows as back in stock on amazon.

Once again, sorry for any inconvenience.

(The Kindle e-book edition has always been available, and is not affected.)