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

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www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

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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

Book cover image - The Assassination of Michael Collins - What Happened at Béal na mBláthPaperback or Kindle edition here:
www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

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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

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

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

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https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/34749

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

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Michael Collins in the 1916 Rising

photo of Michael Collins as a young recruit 1916

Michael Collins as a young recruit 1916

Michael Collins is famous for his role in realizing what was “beyond our wildest dreams in 1916.”  Yet fewer are familiar with the part he played in the ill-fated Rising himself.

In 1906, shortly before his sixteenth birthday, Michael Collins took a job as a clerk in London, where an elder sister was already established.  Here he assuaged a keen homesickness for Ireland, by way of enthusiastic participation in London’s Irish community.  The Gaelic Athletics League, the Geraldines Hurling Club, ceilis, and friends from Cork helped create a welcoming social island in the British metropolis. Continuing to write, he presented papers at political societies which supported Irish independence; where he became known as “a Wolfe Tone republican” in his outlook.

By 1914 he was secretary to the London and Southeastern district  of the the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a clandestine body organizing the struggle for independence. In April 1914, along with his cousin and close friend Sean Hurley, he enlisted with the London Brigade of the Irish Volunteers. When the Easter Rebellion of 1916 was in its planning stages, he and a number of his boyhood friends from home all volunteered together.

During the Easter Rising, Collins served as staff Captain and aide-de-camp to Joseph Plunkett, at the Rising’s headquarters in the General Post Office building (the “GPO”.) There he and his comrades underwent a crucible of fire. Hundreds of vastly outnumbered and out-gunned republicans held out against thousands of British troops, under brutal artillery bombardment, for a week. There, and in the Rising’s aftermath, he saw many of his mentors and closest friends lose their lives.

Following the Rising he was imprisoned with over a thousand others. The execution of the Rising’s leaders thrust young men like himself to the fore. As he boarded the boat with fellow prisoners, he was already discussing plans for “next time.” While still interned at the prison camp, he was instrumental in re-organizing the survivors: first in a campaign of non-cooperation with prison authorities.  Later planning the underground campaign, which would lead ultimately to Britain’s capitulation in 1921.

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

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/
As a history and mystery buff I couldn’t help but keep reading..”

https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/the-assassination-of-michael-collins
“... a great read on a fascinating story …
The Assassination of Michael Collins is definitely a must-read if you have any interest in this period of Irish history, or any interest in Collins himself.”

Or ask at your local book shopAssassination of Michael Collins COVER

Northern Ireland, Michael Collins, and mysterious shootings

1922 McMahon family murders NI Image

McMahon family murders, Belfast, Northern Ireland 1922

What do mysterious shootings & political crises in Northern Ireland have in common with Michael Collins?

No one ever took responsibility for the suspicious killing of Michael Collins in 1922. His sudden death changed the government and the future of his country.

As David Neligan put it, (Collins’ “spy in the Castle,” later a founder of Dublin’s own law enforcement system):

“By means of an old police trick: pretending that his comrades had betrayed him”

Or, in this excerpt from
The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened At Béal na mBláth?“:

With Collins removed, subsequent Dublin governments were content, or reduced, to leave northern nationalists twisting in the wind.

Thus it may be seen that removing Collins would have been critical to the fulfillment of British imperialist agendas for the north: agendas which such elements proved demonstrably willing to kill for, and to go on killing for, indefinitely.”

Qui bono? Who gains?

Read more 

Assassination of Michael Collins COVER

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/
Or ask at your local book shop

The Spy in the Castle COVER
The Spy in the Castle
by David Neligan
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Spy-Castle-David-Nelligan/dp/0953569705

 

The Mcmahon Family Murders and the Belfast Troubles 1920-1922 COVER

 

The Mcmahon Family Murders
and the Belfast Troubles 1920-1922

(Belfast’s secret history series)
by Joe Baker
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mcmahon-Murders-Troubles-1920-1922-Belfasts/dp/B001A4FYMY


(The photo at the head of this post is courtesy of this book by J Baker.  Its amazon link is provided with apologies: as this interesting work can be difficult to obtain.)

 

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
www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714  (Paperback or Kindle)

For all other e-reader formats:
www.smashwords.com/books/view/433954

 OR ASK AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSHOP
Assassination of Michael Collins COVER