Kitty and Michael: a revolutionary courtship

photo of Michael Collins

Michael Collins

photo of Kitty Kiernan

Kitty Kiernan

Some historians have been obliged to play down Michael Collin’s fiancé, Kitty Kiernan, in order to support their theories about his death.  However, Ms Kiernan cannot be relegated to a footnote here, but merits a few choice words on her own account (excerpt from the book): 

“There is no basis for the erroneous characterization of Ms Kiernan as politically naïve. It is, at best, a gloss of inexcusable carelessness. The contention that others would have had more capacity than Ms Kiernan, as a political confidante, is entirely refuted by the record.  Writers seem to have presumed on the fact that … Ms Kiernan was merely the proprietor of a small hotel and shops, in a modest country town, in rural Ireland; her name unknown to the public, outside of her relationship with Collins.  Collins biographers seem to have written off Ms Kiernan as clueless and useless politically, on this basis alone.

Clearly Collins did not think so; as an attentive reading of their letters illustrates. Such an assumption does not demonstrate adequate acquaintance with their correspondence, with her education, her family’s prominent, albeit secret role in the War of Independence; nor with the level of political sophistication general among Irish people of her time, place, class and social standing.  On the contrary, as muse, hostess, networker, companion and confidante, the Kiernan sisters and their hotel may be called the Irish nationalist counterparts, of a London lady’s political salon.  With Ms Kiernan, Collins could feel secure that he was not confiding in a British agent: the Kiernan hotel had been a key safe house for Volunteers throughout the War of Independence. In their correspondence, she and Collins frequently discussed the political situation; of which she demonstrated a keen grasp, often providing insight and encouragement. The C-in-C, for his part, explicitly declared that Kitty was more and more necessary to him in these stressful days, and that “there’s no one like you.”

Ms Kiernan came from precisely the same sort of background as he: a traditional Irish farming family, hard-working, upwardly mobile,  successful in business and adaptable to town life. Both were products of a progressive, republican education. Both were ambitious, modern and stylish. In Collins’ world, Ms Kiernan was an elegant lady, and the female of his own species.”

Read more:

The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?
by S M Sigerson
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Cumann na mBan and Michael Collins: friends and foes?

ImageWomen who took part in the 1916 Easter Rising


2 April 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Cumann na mBan, the “Women’s Association” of the Irish Volunteers; who took on the British Empire to win self-determination for Ireland, during the War of Independence, 1919 – 1921. 


Michael Collins was noted for his close working relationships with some of the most valiant and remarkable women of the War of Independence. They played a prominent role in his intelligence corps. Ireland owed much of her success in that war to their unique capacities to infiltrate and operate unnoticed behind enemy lines, on highly sensitive, dangerous missions.


Yet, in the split over the Treaty, which led to his death, Collins found himself surprisingly at odds with Cumann an mBan.   As discussed in this excerpt from “The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal an mBláth?“:


During this epoch-making period for women, their full participation in politics was still quite controversial. In Europe and the US, women’s right to vote was then still at issue, or only recently won. . . . There was an onus upon them never to be seen to lag behind, never to appear “soft” on hot topics. Thus the women took the “hard” line: Cumann na mBan “practically unanimously” opposed the Treaty.


The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?
Paperback or Kindle edition here:áth/dp/1493784714 Continue reading