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BOOK REVIEW – “THE MUNSTER REPUBLIC:THE CIVIL WAR IN NORTH CORK” BY MICHAEL HARRINGTON

BOOK REVIEW – “THE MUNSTER REPUBLIC:THE

CIVIL WAR IN NORTH CORK” BY MICHAEL

HARRINGTON

“They had spent two years on the run fighting the might of the British army… The vast majority of the Volunteers were young men plucked from working on the land or from employment as clerks in offices or shops. Some of the officers had second-level education, few had third-level qualifications, and the education of most of the Volunteers would have ended at primary-school level. Their understanding of national freedom was narrow; in essence it meant the ejection from the country of British troops and the British system of government, and its replacement with a form of government that they believed was free and fundamentally Irish. Consequently, the vast majority of the Volunteers did not have the opportunity to consider the concept of republicanism in any depth, let alone the implications of democracy.

“Republicanism for the Volunteers was shorthand for anti-British nationalism, combined with traditional insurrectionism. Republicanism was an expression of Irish identity, and the cry of “Up the Republic” was hurled provocatively at the hated occupying forces. It did not have any philosophical basis. Nor did it imply any future structure of government beyond a native Irish government based on self-determination.”

These were the preconditions of the ‘Civil War’ according to a book called The Munster Republic: The Civil War In North Cork by Michael Harrington published in 2009 by the Mercier Press. The book “started out as a thesis”. It is the “third level qualification” view of the War of Independence: it was fought by ignoramuses who did not know what they were fighting for, did not know what republicanism was, or what democracy was, and who therefore did not know when to stop fighting.

But who “plucked” them from their labour in the farms and the offices, gave them a few war-cries to utter, and put them fighting without a “philosophical basis “? Surely it was in England that was done, with virtual conscription followed by actual conscription! Or in Redmondite Ireland, which siphoned people into the British Army with crude shibboleths. But never mind the facts. Learn to feel the feelings of our new quality education which aspires to comprehensive thought control.

What did the plucking is not material. The story is that the ignorant lower classes were plucked from useful labour in farms and shops—what, no tradesmen! were they Poles even then?— and put fighting in the IRA without knowing what they were fighting about.

“In post-First World War Ireland, democracy was sometimes interpreted in different ways. Universal suffrage among males was in its infancy, women did not have the right to vote [!!!], and the implications of full civil rights for all had not been addressed. Some people believed that a democratic government based on the will of all the people… was appropriate. But many others believed that government decisions should be based on general collective will demonstrated over several generations of Irish people, and that doctrines embedded in this general will should influence decision-making in government, even if the expressed will of the majority of the people at a certain point was otherwise. Hence the view that the majority did not have the right to do wrong… In this way republicans could justify taking up arms against the majority of the country because the will of earlier generations had been a complete break from, not the reaching of an accommodation with, Britain…” (p137).

Now this is puzzling. The ignorant Volunteers plucked from the farms and shops had an understanding of things drawn from the most philosophical of all modern political theorists, Edmund Burke, who held that the present generation had no right to do as they pleased, but were bound to preserve the inheritance of past generations and transmit it to future generations. And C.C. O’Brien told us we should revere Burke, did he not?

Harrington’s quite short Bibliography includes two books by Peter Hart (who of course interviews the dead) and three by Tom Garvin. He seems to have been much influenced by the view of things expounded in Garvin’s 1922: The Birth Of Irish Democracy.

Garvin in 1922 puts one in mind of Nietzsche on the immoral history of morality and the taming by violence of human impulse in the cause of civilisation. The ‘Civil War’ brought us to our senses—or it tortured our senses into the bourgeois/capitalist mould. The ‘Civil War’ was about forcing a wild society—a society made wild by its newly established independence gained in a surge of unrealistic expectations—into the narrow constraints of bourgeois life under capitalism.

Garvin does not accept that a genuine will to independence was expressed in 1918. He says that the Election, though policed by the British apparatus of state, was rigged by a small minority of Republican intimidators. (He says that in some places and says something else in other places, but that is the sense of his account of the ‘Civil war’.)

By means of skilfully directed terrorism the small, active minority, obliged the populace to behave as if they had willed independence and fought for it against the Imperialistic intransigence of the British Democracy. Because the people had not willed what they fought for they did not know when they had gained it. Britain conceded independence with the Treaty, but it did not live up to the unrealistic expectations of those who had been excited by the fighting. Therefore they did not want what they had won, and it had to be imposed on them by superior force by an active authoritarian element which knew what freedom meant if it was to be functional. Viable democracy emerged from the purposeful infliction of pain on the idealists by the authoritarians.

Garvin etc. make a point of seeing Ireland post-1918 in what they think is an international context. They mean that what happened in Ireland was of a kind with what was happening elsewhere.

It is not at all impossible that a people should fight for independence with anarchic assumptions about what independence would be like, and should then be hammered into shape by purposeful authoritarians. Something like that happened even in Italy, which disrupted itself through its Irredentist war on Austria (egged on by Britain and the Redmondites). It emerged from  the War in the “exalted” condition attributed to the Irish by Garvin, Foster etc., and then had to be battered back into shape by Mussolini.

That is not what happened in Ireland. Some of the Treatyites, who did not feel it was appropriate to defend the Treaty as a submission to irresistible Imperialist force with a view to fighting another day, believed or pretended that it was what happened. The difference between pretence and belief is not easy to pin down in a case like this. One easily becomes the other. (See Pascal.) And some of the Treatyites lived out that pretence/belief very earnestly in the 1930s when they became Fascists for the purpose of suppressing the anarchy within which Irish Bolshevism was lurking.

But the Irish disorder of 1922 was not the disorder of independence won with anarchist expectations. Nationalist Ireland was well adapted to the bourgeois/capitalist order of things long before 1918. The land agitation parted company with anarchic Utopianism, or Millenarianism (which revisionists love to find in nooks and crannies) about 1850 when Gavan Duffy launched the Tenant Leagues on the assumptions of bourgeois political economy—and on that ground made common cause with the Ulster Protestant farmers. And, half a century later, Canon Sheehan and William O’Brien, in active alliance with the Orangemen, got rid of the landlord system strictly within the order of bourgeois political economy. And then Sheehan and O’Brien made a serious bid to consolidate the gains of 1903 within a coherent capitalist order of things, and to sweep aside the sectarian grievance-mongering being peddled by the Redmondites. And they succeeded in County Cork and adjacent areas—which is where the War of Independence was fought in the main.

The Dail Government policed the country in 1919-21 in accordance with the bourgeoiscapitalist order of things. The capitalist order of property was held sacred by it, as well as by the society which elected it, leaving aside a residue of problematic forms of landed property in the Midlands. The country did not need to be tortured into capitalist ways in 1922. That torturing had been done generations earlier. And what had been sought by the great agitations launched by Duffy and completed by Sheehan and O’Brien was not some unrealisable Utopia, but access to the capitalist way.

There were elements of Utopian phrasemongering in Redmondism to the end. But Sinn Fein was bourgeois from the start. (Griffith’s guide in these matters was the political economist of national-capitalist development, Frederick List.) And the Sinn Fein Party as reconstructed after 1916 was the bourgeois party of a society which had settled down into bourgeois ways. Garvin prefers to ignore that development, as does Harrington.

If the British Democracy had recognised Irish independence when it was asserted in January 1919, I can see no reason to think that anything but bourgeois social order would have followed.

Such disorder as occurred in 1919-21 was the result of the British military attempt to prevent the elected Irish Government from governing. And the disorder of 1922 resulted from the success of the British Democracy in breaking up the Irish Democracy and obliging it to make war on itself.

According to Harrington: “The Civil War did not happen overnight—it was at least one full year in gestation…” (p15). This accords with the academic view of recent decades, often asserted but never demonstrated, that it was the outcome of basic differences within the Sinn Fein party of 1918-21.

“When the Civil War finally began, it seemed that the republicans had the advantage… Yet within two months Provisional Government forces controlled the towns and cities…” (p16).

I doubt if it seemed to De Valera in late June 1922 that the anti-Treatyites had the advantage. About 40 years ago I read the papers for the first six months of 1922. It seemed to me that the Treatyite leaders had prepared for war from the moment they became the Provisional Government on Whitehall authority. They strong along the Anti-Treatyites while they built up a heavily armed mercenary (paid) army with British support. When they struck, they did so with organised force against a disorganised enemy that had made no real preparation for war.

The Anti-Treatyites were strung along by means of juggling with the Dail Government, with its Sinn Fein party and Volunteer Army, and the Provisional Government and its professional Army. Griffith and Collins played a double act, with Griffith running the Dail and Collins the Provisional Government. But it was Griffith who pressed for war and Collins who delayed. Then Collins struck from a position of strength, and in a little over a month it was all over but for the mopping up of pockets of guerilla resistance in Munster.

When I was satisfied that I knew what was the case in January-June 1922 I thought no more about it for over twenty years. I was trying to deal with the Northern situation, and Northern nationalism tended to be pro-Treaty. When I was asked to give a talk at Newmarket about the Civil War, I merely said it was fought over Crown sovereignty and created the party system of the 26 Counties. It was fortunate that I had not gone into the matter any further as I was told at the end of the meeting that it was the first public discussion of the Civil War in North Cork since it ended, and people were on tenterhooks about it.

Anyhow, forty years ago I thought I knew what had gone on between the Treaty and the War but suspended judgment on it until I was finished with Belfast politics.

Harrington says: “The delegates, unsurprisingly believed themselves to be full plenipotentiaries”. They made a Treaty, as they were entitled to do. The Dail ratified the Treaty.

De Valera, who used to be a democrat, rejected the Treaty, either out of pique at not being obeyed, as some suggest, or out of rivalry with Collins for the leadership as Ryle Dwyer suggests. He became ambivalent about democracy and made speeches which can only be understood as incitement against the democracy. The democracy acted to defend itself. That seems to be more or less Harrington’s story.

I remember much talk about “plenipotentiaries” from when I was very young and was surprised to see it being recycled. A plenipotentiary is a diplomat on whom the power of state is conferred for the purpose of making arrangements with another state. He is a creature of a bygone era when travel was slow and there were no telephones.

Whatever the Dail delegates were, they were not in fact plenipotentiaries. They did not present their credentials as authorised representatives of a foreign state at the Court of St. James and have them accepted. The Dail was not recognised by Britain as having any legitimate authority. It was a bunch of rebels. Britain would be willing to make a deal with some of these rebels and set them up in subordinate authority. After much haggling it put its final offer on the table and demanded that it be signed at once by the rebels. The Prime Minister had two letters in his hands.

One of them meant peace, the other war. If the rebels signed it would be peace, and they would be set up in authority. If they did not all sign immediately it would be war. Mr. Shakespeare was waiting to see which of the letters he would rush off to Belfast with. The rebels signed and made themselves the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland.

The delegates were rebels in London but, until that moment, they had taken themselves to be representatives of the sovereign authority in Ireland. They were under instruction to sign nothing without the approval of the Dail Government. But they could not consult their Government because Mr. Shakespeare was waiting. And anyway weren’t they plenipotentiaries?

Argument about Mr. Shakespeare was part of my childhood. Later on I thought of looking him up. He turned out to be a member of an influential Baptist family at a time when Nonconformists were entering the ruling elite as a matter of course. In 1921 he became a member of Lloyd George’s Secretariat. About 30 years later he published his memoirs, and described the Treaty’ signing: /

“About seven-thirty Lloyd George delivered his famous ultimatum. The Irish delegates, he said, were plenipotentiaries and they must sign now. If they refused to sign, war would follow immediately…

‘I have sometimes wondered since whether Lloyd George was right in presenting that ultimatum. I am convinced on mature reflection that but for the ultimatum we might have had no treaty. Supposing the Irish delegates had not signed that night; that the negotiations had terminated inconclusively; that the final decision was left over to the Republican atmosphere in Dublin, which had a few days previously rejected Dominion status. Would the treaty have emerged intact? I doubt it. As it was, here were the five Irish delegates committed before the world by their signatures to the approval of the treaty and going before the Irish Cabinet and the Dail to recommend its acceptance. Even so, the treaty survived only by the narrow margin of seven votes in the Dail…

“If, then, Lloyd George was right in attaching the utmost importance to the fait accompliand to the Irish signing that night, he was entitled to use the most potent weapon in his armoury. The delegates to whom the ultimatum was delivered had been in prison, had been hunted, had seen their comrades executed or shot, their homesteads razed to the ground. Savage guerilla warfare had ravaged their homeland. The ultimatum conjured up before their eyes further years of bloodshed and reprisals on a vaster scale.

“I have, however, never understood why the Irish accepted the ultimatum at its face value. Why did they not call the bluff? Lloyd George stated over and over again that he had promised to let Sir James Craig know next day (Tuesday, December 6) one way or the other. Supposing Arthur Griffith had said: “What is sacrosanct about Tuesday? We have waited hundreds of years for a settlement… Are you really going to break the truce and plunge Ireland again into war without giving the Irish Cabinet the chance of discussing your latest proposals?” How could Lloyd George have persisted with the ultimatum if Arthur Griffith had argued like this.

“But the Irish delegation did not counter the ultimatum with logic. They bowed to it and signed.  I am nevertheless puzzled to find the reason. Was it that Arthur Griffith, having won the substance of Irish independence, signed because he, too, thought it would be more difficult for the Dail to repudiate it?

“Perhaps, as so often is the case, the simplest explanation is the true one. In the debate in the Dail on the treaty Barton said: “The English Prime Minister, with all the solemnity and the power of conviction he alone of all men I have ever met can impart by word and gesture, declared that limit of his patience. He threatened war, he looked war, and he intended war, unless they signed.

No one could doubt his sincerity when his word “imparted conviction”, his eyes flashed lighting. How dare they question the ultimatum? They were awed and they signed…

“I dined with Lloyd George that night alone. He was in a mood of suppressed excitement.

“I have delivered my ultimatum”, he said. I am not giving his exact words, but this was the effect of them: “We have offered full Dominion status. Either they sign now or negotiations are off. If there is a break we will put into Ireland a large force and restore order. I told them as much and it is now up to them to choose between peace and war.” Estimates of the size of the force needed to hold down Southern Ireland varied, but the highest figure mentioned was 250,000 men.

“One significant remark made by Lloyd George as he was leaving I shall always remember:

“If only Michael Collins”, he said, “has as much moral courage as he has physical courage, we shall get a settlement. But moral courage is a much higher quality than physical courage, and it is a quality that brave men often lack”…” (Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare. Let Candles Be Brought In, 1949, p87-9).

So the Irish delegates were hustled, bluffed, intimidated, and over-awed. They forgot what they were and became rebels against their own government. Collins denied in the Dail that he had signed under the impact of the threat of immediate war, and there is evidence that his decision was made beforehand. In that case the persuading was not all done by Lloyd George. Collins and Griffith were party to the final hustling of the other delegates. But Griffith seems to have had little talent for negotiation or for the handling of power. His mind ran on a short-circuit and he had little influence. It was Collins who counted. And it was Collins who took the crucial decision to make a  settlement without consulting the Dail Government.

What matters is not whether the British position was final, but Collins’s decision not to make the Dail Government deal with his conclusion that it was final and that it must either settle for it or prepare for war. He pre-empted the Dail Government, knowing that the immense British propaganda apparatus would be immediately activated in support of him, and that the situation when he came back to Dublin after signing would be utterly different from what it would have been if he had come back before signing to put it to the Dail Government that the final position had been reached, and obliging it to deal with his own ultimatum within the structure of confidence of Dail legitimacy.

In the realpolitik of the situation, Collins took the game into his own hands with that decision and he acted as if he knew it. He became the Provisional Government on British authority and built a new army with British support. The obvious purpose of his new army was to make war on the IRA, and he must have had that in mind if he said that by signing the Treaty he also signed his own death warrant. But he also seems to have thought that he could handle not only the IRA and the Dail, but also Whitehall. And that was where it all broke down. In the event he was Whitehall’s man. Whitehall was jubilant when it got him fighting the IRA.

It now seems to be agreed in official circles that the Anti-Treaty position in 1922 was undemocratic. I have learned to be careful about using the word ‘democracy’. In 1969 I made myself widely hated by pointing out that Partition was socially based. Then, around 1970, I wrote something about the Northern Ireland state being democratically valid. That was nonsense.

Northern Ireland was not a state and it had always been excluded from the democracy of the State of which it was part. But, hated though I was, nobody refuted me by pointing this out. I had to refute myself. And that taught me to be careful about democracy.

In January 1922 a Provisional Government was set up by Collins on British authority. Those who set it up might have had a small majority of Dail members for what they did, but it was not the Dail that set it up. Britain did not recognise the Dail as a sovereign authority after the Treaty any more than before it. The Provisional Government was established on British authority both de jure and de facto. And those in the Dail who supported it had to meet as the Parliament of Southern Ireland under the 1920 Act in order to set it up.

That Dail had been returned without a vote in the Summer of 1921. The Home Rule movement had withered away after its defeat in 1918, and no other party or individual contested the independence issue with Sinn Fein.

After the Treaty it was agreed that another election should be held quickly. In May 1922 an agreement was made that the election should not be contested between the Treaty and Anti-Treaty faction of Sinn Fein. The aim was to reproduce the existing balance of forces in the new Dail and establish a Coalition Government with a Treatyite majority. The Dail ratified this Agreement.

Collins was summoned to London and ordered to break it, which he did in ambiguous terms two days before the election.

The election had been delayed so that a Constitution for the Free State should be published for the information of the electorate. Collins tried to nudge it towards republicanism but this was vetoed by Whitehall. The draft Constitution acceptable to Whitehall was published on the morning of the election.

The Election Agreement ratified by the Dail was broken by Collins, sort of, but not quite. A substantial part of the voting was done on the assumption that it held. The Agreement provided for a Treatyite majority in any case, so the Treatyite majority was no surprise. The voting was not on a referendum proposal. It was the election of a Parliament to form a Government.

The Civil War was launched a few days after the Election. It was not launched on the authority of the Dail that had just been elected. If that Dail had met and the matter had been put to it, it is very unlikely that there would have been war.

The war was launched by the Provisional Government in response to yet another Whitehall ultimatum, threatening that the British Army would go into action if the Treatyite Army did not act promptly. The newly elected Dail did not meet until September, by which time the Free State Army was in command, the war was won, and all that remained to be done was the atrocities designed to burn the spirit of defeat into the souls of the defeated.

The most interesting book I know of about the war is by another Harrington, Niall C, the son of a Redmondite MP, who qualified as a chemist, joined the IRA, then joined the Medical Corps of the Treatyite Army and was present with it in Kerry in the Autumn of 1922. The book is Kerry Landing, published in 1992, and it tells how the Munster Republic was taken in the rear by means of a naval landing in Kerry. Harrington then had a long career in the Army before becoming the Organiser of the Federated Union of Employers in 1959. He died in 1981.

Leaving aside ideology about democracy, the book confirms the conclusions I came to forty years ago, so how could I not think it good! : e.g.—

“The Provisional Government had been in existence for almost six months… In that time, despite the toing and froing of opposing political and military heads, it was able to build resources and make emergency plans. It could keep its ‘front’ busy in talks, arguments and disagreements about maintaining the IRA as the nation’s volunteer army, while building and strengthening the new regular army. It had the means of doing what it wished to do, while observing very closely the growing aggressiveness of an opposition which spent its time thinking and talking, without agreeing on what was to be done or how to go about doing it. That was where the line of demarcation lay…” (p33)

On the constitutional situation brought about by the Treaty:

“Two Irish governments now functioned side by side… : the Dail Eireann Government… and the Provisional Government…

“In that confused and emotive period… not only were there two national governments…; there were also two national armies…, each giving allegiance to a republic, one to the “existing republic” proclaimed on Easter Monday 1916 and ratified by Dail Eireann…, the other to a republic to be achieved in time by the “stepping stone” of the Treaty…” (p7).

“Richard Mulcahy… was insisting that enlistment in the new army being formed by the Provisional Government was an engagement to serve in the “Regular Forces of the Republican Army”. This was illusory, of course; de facto it was the army of the Provisional Government that was being recruited; in other words, it was the Free State Army. The IRA who were against the Treaty… could claim that theirs was the true Republican Army, and so they did claim…” (p 10).

In an Appendix, from “unpublished documents”, Harrington gives a document by the “Chief of the General Staff”, apparently drawn up in early August 1922, which makes the following comment on the war and the Constitution:

“It is too early to say yet whether we could so establish ourselves [in “certain principal points” in Munster, BC] in time to have Parliament meet on 12th (August). I feel that we shall have to have another postponement…

“I consider that if Parliament did not meet until 24th our military position would be very favourable; we would have occupied sufficient additional posts in the South to dominate entirely the position there, and would be able to indicate so definitely our ability to deal with the military problem there that no parliamentary criticism of any kind could  seriously interfere with our ability” (pl64).

This was the parliament elected in June, that constituted the foundation of ‘democracy’ in 1922, but which had never met while democratic order was being imposed.

Brendan Clifford

Michael Collins Sliabh na mBan Armoured Car Restoration and refit

Short time lapse video of the restoration of the Rolls Royce Armoured Car ‘Sliabh na mBan’. This historic car was part of Gen Michael Collins’ convoy at the Beal na Blath ambush where he was mortally wounded in 1922. Sliabh na mBan was renovated in the Combined Vehicle Based Workshops in the Defence Forces Training Centre, Curragh.
Courtesy of the Irish Defence Forces Cavalry Corps.
The last known photograph of Collins alive was taken as he made his way through Bandon, Co Cork,in the back of an army vehicle. He is pictured outside White’s Hotel (now Munster Arms) on 22 August 1922. On the road to Bandon,, at the village of Beal na mBlath(Irish, “the Mouth of Flowers”), Collins’ column stopped to ask directions. However the man whom they asked, Dinny Long, was also a member of the local Anti-Treaty IRA.

An ambush was then prepared for the convoy when it made its return journey back to Cork city. They knew Collins would return by the same route as the two other roads from Bandon to Cork had been rendered impassable by Republicans. The ambush party, commanded by Liam Deasy had mostly dispersed to a nearby pub by 8:00 p.m., when Collins and his men returned to Béal na mBlath but the remaining five ambushers on the scene opened fire on Collins’s convoy. The ambushers had laid a mine on the scene, which could have killed many more people in Collins’s party, but they had disconnected it by the time the firing broke out.

Collins was killed in the subsequent gun battle, which lasted about 20 minutes, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. He was the only fatality. He had ordered his convoy to stop and return fire, instead of choosing the safer option of driving on in his touring car or transferring to the safety of the accompanying armoured car,(sliabh na mBan) as his companion, Emmet Dalton, had wished. He was killed while exchanging rifle fire with the ambushers. Under the cover of the armoured car, Collins’s body was loaded into the touring car and driven back to Cork.  For more on the ambush at Beal na Blath see http://theirishwar.com/history/ambushes/beal-na-mblath/

Seán Collins beside the coffin of his brother Michael Collins

General Michael Collins

(TD) for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-chief of the National Army. Throughout this time, at least as of 1919, he was also President of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and, therefore, under the bylaws of the Brotherhood, President of the Irish Republic. Collins was shot and killed in August 1922, during the Irish Civil War.
Although most Irish political parties recognise his contribution to the foundation of the modern Irish state, supporters of Fine Gael hold his memory in particular esteem, regarding him as their movement’s founding father, through his link to their precursor Cumann na nGaedheal.

The Home of Michael Collins, Woodfield, Co Cork

Born in Sam’s Cross, West Cork, Collins was the third son and youngest of eight children. Most biographies state his date of birth as 16 October 1890; however, his tombstone gives his date of birth as 12 October 1890. His father, also named Michael, had become a member of the republican Fenian movement, but had left and settled down to farming. The elder Collins was 60 years old when he married Marianne O’Brien, then 23, in 1875. The marriage was apparently happy and they raised eight children on their 90 acre (36 ha) farm in Woodfield. Michael was the youngest child; he was only six years old when his father died. On his death bed his father (who was the seventh son of a seventh son) predicted that his daughter Helena (one of Michael’s elder sisters) would become a nun (which she did, known as Sister Mary Celestine, based in London).He then turned to the family and told them to take care of Michael, because “One day he’ll be a great man. He’ll do great work for Ireland.”

Bust of Michael Collins

Collins was a bright and precocious child, with a fiery temper and a passionate feeling of nationalism. This was spurred on by a local blacksmith, James Santry, and later, at the Lisavaird National School by a local school headmaster, Denis Lyons, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).
After leaving school aged 15, Collins took the British Civil Service examination in Cork in February 1906, and was then employed by the Royal Mail from July 1906.[citation needed] In 1910, he moved to London where he became a messenger at a London firm of stock brokers, Horne and Company. While in London he lived with his elder sister, and studied at King’s College London. He joined the London GAA and, through this, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret, oath-bound society dedicated to achieving Irish independence. Sam Maguire, a Church of Ireland republican from Dunmanway, County Cork, introduced the 19-year-old Collins into the IRB.In 1915, he moved to the Guaranty Trust Company of New York where he remained until his return to Ireland the following year.
Michael Collins first became known during the Easter Rising in 1916. A skilled organiser of considerable intelligence, he was highly respected in the IRB, so much so that he was made financial advisor to Count Plunkett, father of one of the Rising’s organisers, Joseph Mary Plunkett, whose aide-de-camp Collins later became.
When the Rising itself took place on Easter Monday, 1916, he fought alongside Patrick Pearse and others in the General Post Office in Dublin. The Rising became (as expected by many) a military disaster. While some celebrated the fact that a rising had happened at all, believing in Pearse’s theory of “blood sacrifice” (namely that the deaths of the Rising’s leaders would inspire others), Collins railed against it, notably the seizure of indefensible and very vulnerable positions such as St Stephen’s Green that were impossible to escape from and difficult to supply. (During the War of Independence he ensured the avoidance of such sitting targets, with his soldiers operating as “flying columns” who waged a guerrilla war against the British, suddenly attacking then just as quickly withdrawing, minimising losses and maximising effectiveness.)
Collins, like many of the other participants, was arrested, almost executed and was imprisoned up at Frongoch internment camp. Collins became one of the leading figures in the post-rising Sinn Féin, a small nationalist party which the British government and the Irish media wrongly blamed for the Rising. It was quickly infiltrated by participants in the Rising, so as to capitalise on the “notoriety” the movement had gained through British attacks. By October 1917, Collins had risen to become a member of the executive of Sinn Féin and director of organisation of the Irish Volunteers; Éamon de Valera was president of both organisations.
Like all senior Sinn Féin members, Collins was nominated in the 1918 general election to elect Irish MPs to the British House of Commons in London. As was the case throughout much of Ireland (with many seats uncontested), Collins won for Sinn Féin, becoming MP for Cork South. However, unlike their rivals in the Irish Parliamentary Party, Sinn Féin MPs had announced that they would not take their seats in Westminster, but instead would set up an Irish Parliament in Dublin.
That new parliament, called Dáil Éireann (meaning “Assembly of Ireland”, see First Dáil) met in the Mansion House, Dublin in January 1919, although De Valera and leading Sinn Féin MPs had been arrested. Collins, tipped off by his network of spies, had warned his colleagues of the dangers of arrest; de Valera and others ignored the warnings, believing if the arrests happened they would constitute a propaganda coup. In de Valera’s absence, Cathal Brugha was elected Príomh Aire (‘Main’ or ‘Prime’, Minister’, but often translated as ‘President of Dáil Éireann’), to be replaced by de Valera, when Collins helped him escape from Lincoln Prison in April 1919.
In 1919, Collins had a number of roles. That summer he was elected president of the IRB (and therefore, in the doctrine of that organisation, de jure President of the Irish Republic). In September he was made Director of Intelligence of the Irish Republican Army, as the Volunteers had come to be known (the organisation’s claim to be the army of the Irish Republic was ratified by the Dáil in January 1919). The Irish War of Independence in effect began on the same day that the First Dáil met on 21 January 1919, when an ambush party of IRA volunteers acting without orders and led by Seán Treacy, attacked a group of Royal Irish Constabulary men who were escorting a consignment of gelignite to a quarry in Soloheadbeg, County Tipperary. Two policemen were shot dead during the engagement and the ambush is considered to be the first action taken in the Irish War of Independence.
In 1919, the already busy Collins received yet another responsibility when de Valera appointed him to the Aireacht (ministry) as Minister for Finance.[11] Understandably, in the circumstances of a brutal war, in which ministers were liable to be arrested or killed by the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British Army, the Black and Tans or the Auxiliaries at a moment’s notice, most of the ministries existed only on paper, or as one or two people working in a room of a private house.
This was not the case with Collins, however, who produced a Finance Ministry that was able to organise a large bond issue in the form of a “National Loan” to fund the new Irish Republic. The Russian Republic, in the midst of its own civil war, ordered Ludwig Martens, head of the Soviet Bureau in New York City, to acquire a “national loan” from the Irish Republic through Harry Boland, offering some of the Russian Crown Jewels as collateral (the jewels remained in a Dublin safe, forgotten by all sides, until the 1930s, when they were found by chance).
Collins created a special assassination unit called The Squad designed to kill British agents; arranged the “National Loan”; organised the IRA; effectively led the government when de Valera travelled to and remained in the United States for an extended period of time; and managed an arms-smuggling operation.
Collins and Richard Mulcahy were the two principal organisers for the Irish Republican Army, insofar as it was possible to direct the actions of scattered and heavily localised guerrilla units. Collins is often credited with organising the IRA’s guerrilla “flying columns” during the War of Independence, although to suggest Collins organised this single handedly would be false. He had a prominent part in the formation of the flying columns but the main organiser would have been Dick McKee, later killed by the British in disputed circumstances on Bloody Sunday. In addition, a great deal of IRA activity was carried out on the initiative of local leaders, with tactics and overall strategy developed by Collins or Mulcahy.
In 1920, the British offered a bounty of £10,000 (equivalent to GB£300,000 / €360,000 in 2010) for information leading to the capture or death of Collins. His fame had so transcended the IRA movement that he was nicknamed “The Big Fellow”. Irish author Frank O’Connor, who participated in the Irish Civil War, gave a different account of the nickname. He said that it began as an ironic, even scornful, reference to Collins’ efforts to be taken seriously by others, seen as bordering on self-importance.
In July 1921, the British suddenly offered a truce. Collins later said that at that time, the IRA was weeks–or even days–from collapse for want of ammunition. He added that when he and his colleagues heard of the truce offer, “Frankly, we thought they were mad.”[citation needed] Arrangements were made for a conference between the British government and the leaders of the as-yet unrecognised Irish Republic. Other than the Soviet Union, no other state gave diplomatic recognition to the 1919 republic, despite sustained lobbying in Washington by de Valera and prominent Irish-Americans, as well as attempts (by Irish-Americans and others) to have representatives of the Irish Republic[13] invited to the 1919 Versailles conference by Seán T. O’Kelly.
In August 1921, de Valera made the Dáil upgrade his office from Prime Minister to President of the Irish Republic, which ostensibly made him equivalent to George V in the negotiations. Earlier while in America, Dev had begun using the title “President” while speaking across that country trying to raise funds, a move which brought him into conflict with some members of the IRB, whose constitution and bylaws declared their own president, Collins in this case, President of the Irish Republic.Eventually, however, he announced that as the King would not attend, then neither would he. Instead, with the reluctant agreement of his cabinet, de Valera nominated a team of delegates headed by Vice-President Arthur Griffith, with Collins as his deputy. While he thought that de Valera should head the delegation, Collins agreed to go to London.
The majority of the Irish Treaty delegates including Arthur Griffith (leader), Robert Barton and Eamonn Duggan (with Robert Erskine Childers as Secretary General to the delegation) set up headquarters at 22 Hans Place in Knightsbridge on 11 October 1921 and resided there until conclusion of the negotiations in December. Collins took up separate quarters at 15 Cadogan Gardens. His personal staff included Liam Tobin, Ned Broy and Joe McGrath.[15] Collins himself protested his appointment as envoy plenipotentiary, as he was not a statesman and his revelation to the British (he had previously kept his public presence to a minimum) would reduce his effectiveness as a guerilla leader should hostilities resume.
The negotiations ultimately resulted in the Anglo-Irish Treaty which was signed on 6 December 1921, which envisaged a new Irish state, to be named the “Irish Free State” (a literal translation from the Irish language term Saorstát Éireann), which appeared on the letterhead de Valera used, though de Valera had translated it less literally as the Irish Republic.”Saorstat Eireann” was, in fact, the title used for the Irish Republic in the proclamation of the provisional government in 1916.
The treaty provided for a possible all-Ireland state, subject to the right of a six-county region in the northeast to opt out of the Free State. If this happened, an Irish Boundary Commission was to be established to redraw the Irish border, which Collins expected would so reduce the size of Northern Ireland as to make it economically unviable, thus enabling unity, as most of the unionist population was concentrated in a relatively small area in eastern Ulster. The Irish Free State was established in December 1922, and as expected, Northern Ireland exercised its option to remain part of the United Kingdom proper.
The new state was to be a Dominion, with a bicameral parliament, executive authority vested in the king but exercised by an Irish government elected by a lower house called Dáil Éireann (translated this time as “Chamber of Deputies”), an independent courts system, and a level of internal independence that far exceeded anything sought by Charles Stewart Parnell or the subsequent Irish Parliamentary Party.
While it fell short of the republic that he’d originally fought to create, Collins concluded that the Treaty offered Ireland “the freedom to achieve freedom.” Nonetheless, he knew that the treaty, and in particular the issue of partition, would not be well received in Ireland. Upon signing the treaty, he remarked “I have signed my own death warrant.”
Republican purists saw it as a sell-out, with the replacement of the republic by dominion status within the British Empire, and an Oath of Allegiance made (it was then claimed) directly to the King. The actual wording shows that the oath was made to the Irish Free State, with a subsidiary oath of fidelity to the King as part of the Treaty settlement, not to the king unilaterally.
Sinn Féin split over the treaty, and the Dáil debated the matter bitterly for ten days until it was approved by a vote of 64 to 57. The Supreme Council of the IRB, which had been kept informed in detail about every facet of the Treaty negotiations and which had approved many of its provisions, voted unanimously to accept the Treaty, with the single notable exception of later COS of the IRA Liam Lynch. De Valera joined the anti-treaty faction opposing the concessions. His opponents charged that he had prior knowledge that the crown would have to feature in whatever form of settlement was agreed.
The Treaty was extremely controversial in Ireland. First, Éamon de Valera, President of the Irish Republic until 9 January, had been unhappy that Collins had signed any deal without his and his cabinet’s authorisation. Second, the contents of the Treaty were bitterly disputed. De Valera and many other members of the republican movement objected to Ireland’s status as a dominion of the British Empire and to the symbolism of having to give a statement of faithfulness to the British king to this effect. Also controversial was the British retention of Treaty Ports on the south coast of Ireland for the Royal Navy. Both of these things threatened to give Britain control over Ireland’s foreign policy. Most of the Irish Republican Army opposed the Treaty, opening the prospect of civil war.
Under the Dáil Constitution adopted in 1919, Dáil Éireann continued to exist. De Valera resigned the presidency and sought re-election (in an effort to destroy the newly approved Treaty), but Arthur Griffith replaced him after the close vote on 9 January. (Griffith called himself “President of Dáil Éireann” rather than de Valera’s more exalted “President of the Republic”.) However, this government, or Aireacht, had no legal status in British constitutional law, so another co-existent government emerged, nominally answerable to the House of Commons of Southern Ireland.
The new Provisional Government (Rialtas Sealadach na hÉireann) was formed under Collins, who became “President of the Provisional Government” (i.e., Prime Minister). He also remained Minister for Finance of Griffith’s republican administration. An example of the complexities involved can be seen even in the manner of his installation:
In British legal theory he was a Crown-appointed prime minister, installed under the Royal Prerogative. To be so installed, he had to formally meet the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Viscount Fitzalan (the head of the British administration in Ireland).
According to the republican view, Collins met Fitzalan to accept the surrender of Dublin Castle, the seat of British government in Ireland. Having surrendered, Fitzalan still remained in place as viceroy until December 1922.
According to British constitutional theory, he met Fitzalan to “kiss hands” (the formal name for the installation of a minister of the Crown), the fact of their meeting rather than the signing of any documents, duly installing him in office. Kissing hands was the only mechanism of transfer then, as the relevant British legislation only passed into law on 1 April 1922.
In his biography of Michael Collins, Tim Pat Coogan recounted that, when Lord Lieutenant Fitzalan remarked that Collins had arrived seven minutes late for the 16 January 1922 ceremony, Collins replied, “We’ve been waiting over seven hundred years, you can have the extra seven minutes”. The same tale was repeated when Richard Mulcahy took over Beggars’ Bush Barracks, and may be apocryphal.
The partition of Ireland between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland was not as controversial. One of the main reasons for this was that Collins was secretly planning to launch a clandestine guerrilla war against the Northern State. Throughout the early months of 1922, he had been sending IRA units to the border and sending arms and money to the northern units of the IRA. In May–June 1922, he and IRA Chief of Staff Liam Lynch organised an offensive of both pro- and anti-treaty IRA units along the new border. British arms supplied to Collins’ Provisional government were instead swapped with the weapons of IRA units, which were sent to the north.
This offensive was officially called off under British pressure on 3 June and Collins issued a statement that “no troops from the 26 counties, either those under official control [pro-treaty] or those attached to the [IRA] Executive [anti-treaty] should be permitted to invade the six county area.” However, low level IRA attacks on the border continued. Such activity was interrupted by the outbreak of civil war in the south, but had Collins lived, there is every chance he would have launched a full-scale guerrilla offensive against Northern Ireland. Because of this, most northern IRA units supported Collins and 524 individual volunteers came south to join the National Army in the Irish Civil War..at least until after Collins’ death; at the end of the civil war, Aiken was COS of the IRA.
In the months leading up to the outbreak of civil war in June 1922, Collins tried desperately to heal the rift in the nationalist movement and prevent civil war. De Valera, having opposed the Treaty in the Dáil, withdrew from the assembly with his supporters. Collins secured a compromise, the “Pact”, whereby the two factions of Sinn Féin, pro- and anti-Treaty, would fight the soon-to-be Free State’s first election jointly and form a coalition government afterwards.
Collins proposed that the envisaged Free State would have a republican constitution, with no mention of the British king, without repudiating the Treaty, a compromise acceptable to all but the most intransigent republicans. To foster military unity, he established an “army re-unification committee” with delegates from pro- and anti-Treaty factions. He also made efforts to use the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood of which he was president, to get IRA officers to accept the Treaty. However, the British vetoed the proposed republican constitution under the threat of an economic blockade, arguing they had signed and ratified the Treaty in good faith and its terms could not be changed so quickly. By this stage most British forces had been withdrawn from the Free State but thousands remained. Collins was therefore unable to reconcile the anti-Treaty side, whose Army Executive had anyway decided in March 1922 that it had never been subordinate to the Dáil.
On 14 April 1922, a group of 200 anti-Treaty IRA men occupied the Four Courts in Dublin in defiance of the Provisional government. Collins, who wanted to avoid civil war at all costs, did not attack them until June 1922, when British pressure also forced his hand. On 22 June 1922, Sir Henry Wilson, a retired British Army field marshal now serving as Military Advisor to the Craig Administration,[23] was shot dead by two IRA men in Belgravia, London. At the time, it was presumed that the anti-Treaty faction of the IRA were responsible and Winston Churchill told Collins that unless he moved against the Four Courts garrison, he (Churchill) would use British troops to do so.
It has since been claimed that Collins ordered the killing of Wilson in reprisal for failing to prevent the attacks on Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland. Joe Dolan—a member of Collins’ “Squad” or assassination unit in the War of Independence and in 1922 a captain in the National Army—said this in the 1950s, along with the statement that Collins had ordered him to try to rescue the two gunmen before they were executed.[24] In any event, this forced Collins to take action against the Four Courts men and the final provocation came when they kidnapped J.J. “Ginger” O’Connell, a provisional government general. After a final attempt to persuade the men to leave, Collins borrowed two 18 pounder artillery pieces from the British and bombarded the Four Courts until its garrison surrendered.[25]
This led to the Irish Civil War as fighting broke out in Dublin between the anti-Treaty IRA and the provisional government’s troops. Under Collins’ supervision, the Free State rapidly took control of the capital. In July 1922, anti-Treaty forces held the southern province of Munster and several other areas of the country. De Valera and the other anti-Treaty TDs sided with the anti-Treaty IRA. By mid-1922, Collins in effect laid down his responsibilities as Chairman of the Provisional Government to become Commander-in-Chief of the National Army, a formal, structured, uniformed army that formed around the nucleus of the pro-Treaty IRA. The Free State Army that was armed and funded by the British was rapidly expanded with Irish veterans of the British Army (a large number of whom may presumed to have been previously members of John Redmond’s “National Volunteers” after the split from the original Irish Volunteers) and young men unassociated with the Volunteers during the war to fight the civil war.
Collins, along with Richard Mulcahy and Eoin O’Duffy decided on a series of seaborne landings into republican held areas that re-took Munster and the west in July–August 1922. As part of this offensive, Collins travelled to his native Cork, against the advice of his companions, and despite suffering from stomach ache and depression. Collins reputedly told his comrades that “They wouldn’t shoot me in my own county”.[29] It has been questioned why Collins put himself in such danger by visiting the south of the country while much of it was still held by hostile forces. What historian Michael Hopkinson describes as ‘plentiful oral evidence’ suggests that Collins’ purpose was to meet Republican leaders in order to bring the war to an end. In Cork city, he met with neutral IRA men Seán O’Hegarty and Florrie O’Donoghue, with a view to contacting Anti-Treaty IRA leaders Tom Barry and Tom Hales to propose a truce.Hopkinson asserts though that, although Éamon de Valera was in west Cork at the time, “there is no evidence that there was any prospect of a meeting between de Valera and Collins”.
Collins’ personal diary outlined his plan for peace. Republicans must “accept the People’s Verdict” on the Treaty, but could then “go home without their arms. We don’t ask for any surrender of their principles”. He argued that the Provisional Government was upholding “the people’s rights” and would continue to do so. “We want to avoid any possible unnecessary destruction and loss of life. We do not want to mitigate their weakness by resolute action beyond what is required”. But if Republicans did not accept his terms, “further blood is on their shoulders”.
The last known photograph of Collins alive was taken as he made his way through Bandon, County Cork in the back of an army vehicle. He is pictured outside White’s Hotel (now Munster Arms) on 22 August 1922. On the road to Bandon, at the village of Béal na mBláth (Irish, “the Mouth of Flowers”), Collins’ column stopped to ask directions. However the man whom they asked, Dinny Long, was also a member of the local Anti-Treaty IRA. An ambush was then prepared for the convoy when it made its return journey back to Cork city. They knew Collins would return by the same route as the two other roads from Bandon to Cork had been rendered impassable by Republicans. The ambush party, commanded by Liam Deasy, had mostly dispersed to a nearby pub by 8:00 p.m., when Collins and his men returned to Béal na mBlath but the remaining five ambushers on the scene opened fire on Collins’s convoy. The ambushers had laid a mine on the scene, which could have killed many more people in Collins’s party, but they had disconnected it by the time the firing broke out.
Kitty Kiernan, Collins’ fiancée.
Collins was killed in the subsequent gun battle, which lasted about 20 minutes, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. He was the only fatality. He had ordered his convoy to stop and return fire, instead of choosing the safer option of driving on in his touring car or transferring to the safety of the accompanying armoured car, as his companion, Emmet Dalton, had wished. He was killed while exchanging rifle fire with the ambushers. Under the cover of the armoured car, Collins’s body was loaded into the touring car and driven back to Cork. At the time of his death, he was engaged to Kitty Kiernan.
There is no consensus as to who fired the fatal shot. The most recent authoritative account suggests that the shot was fired by Denis (“Sonny”) O’Neill, an Anti-Treaty IRA fighter and a former British Army marksman who died in 1950.[33] This is supported by eyewitness accounts of the participants in the ambush. O’Neill was using dum-dum ammunition, which disintegrates on impact and which left a gaping wound in Collins’s skull. He dumped the remaining bullets afterwards for fear of reprisals by Free State troops.
Collins’s men brought his body back to Cork where it was then shipped to Dublin because it was feared the body might be stolen in an ambush if it were transported by road.[33] His body lay in state for three days in Dublin City Hall where tens of thousands of mourners filed past his coffin to pay their respects. His funeral mass took place at Dublin’s Pro Cathedral where a number of foreign and Irish dignitaries were in attendance. Some 500,000 people attended his funeral, almost one fifth of the country’s population.
Collins’ grave.
Collins’s shooting has provoked many conspiracy theories in Ireland, and even the identity and motives of the assassin are subject to debate. Some Republicans maintain that Collins was killed by a British “plant”. Some Pro-Treaty accounts claim that de Valera ordered Collins’ assassination. Others allege that he was killed by one of his own soldiers, Jock McPeak, who defected to the Republican side with an armoured car three months after the ambush.[34] However, historian Meda Ryan, who researched the incident exhaustively, concluded that there was no real basis for such theories. “Michael Collins was shot by a Republican, who said [on the night of the ambush], ‘I dropped one man'”. Liam Deasy, who was in command of the ambush party, said, “We all knew it was Sonny O’Neill’s bullet.”[35]
Eamon de Valera is reported to have stated in 1966:
“I can’t see my way to becoming Patron of the Michael Collins Foundation. It is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time history will record the greatness of Collins and it will be recorded at my expense”
However, there is some doubt that de Valera ever made this controversial statement.

(TD) for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-chief of the National Army. Throughout this time, at least as of 1919, he was also President of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and, therefore, under the bylaws of the Brotherhood, President of the Irish Republic. Collins was shot and killed in August 1922, during the Irish Civil War.Although most Irish political parties recognise his contribution to the foundation of the modern Irish state, supporters of Fine Gael hold his memory in particular esteem, regarding him as their movement’s founding father, through his link to their precursor Cumann na nGaedheal.
Born in Sam’s Cross, West Cork, Collins was the third son and youngest of eight children. Most biographies state his date of birth as 16 October 1890; however, his tombstone gives his date of birth as 12 October 1890. His father, also named Michael, had become a member of the republican Fenian movement, but had left and settled down to farming. The elder Collins was 60 years old when he married Marianne O’Brien, then 23, in 1875. The marriage was apparently happy and they raised eight children on their 90 acre (36 ha) farm in Woodfield. Michael was the youngest child; he was only six years old when his father died. On his death bed his father (who was the seventh son of a seventh son) predicted that his daughter Helena (one of Michael’s elder sisters) would become a nun (which she did, known as Sister Mary Celestine, based in London).He then turned to the family and told them to take care of Michael, because “One day he’ll be a great man. He’ll do great work for Ireland.”Collins was a bright and precocious child, with a fiery temper and a passionate feeling of nationalism. This was spurred on by a local blacksmith, James Santry, and later, at the Lisavaird National School by a local school headmaster, Denis Lyons, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).After leaving school aged 15, Collins took the British Civil Service examination in Cork in February 1906, and was then employed by the Royal Mail from July 1906.[citation needed] In 1910, he moved to London where he became a messenger at a London firm of stock brokers, Horne and Company. While in London he lived with his elder sister, and studied at King’s College London. He joined the London GAA and, through this, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret, oath-bound society dedicated to achieving Irish independence. Sam Maguire, a Church of Ireland republican from Dunmanway, County Cork, introduced the 19-year-old Collins into the IRB.In 1915, he moved to the Guaranty Trust Company of New York where he remained until his return to Ireland the following year.
Michael Collins first became known during the Easter Rising in 1916. A skilled organiser of considerable intelligence, he was highly respected in the IRB, so much so that he was made financial advisor to Count Plunkett, father of one of the Rising’s organisers, Joseph Mary Plunkett, whose aide-de-camp Collins later became.When the Rising itself took place on Easter Monday, 1916, he fought alongside Patrick Pearse and others in the General Post Office in Dublin. The Rising became (as expected by many) a military disaster. While some celebrated the fact that a rising had happened at all, believing in Pearse’s theory of “blood sacrifice” (namely that the deaths of the Rising’s leaders would inspire others), Collins railed against it, notably the seizure of indefensible and very vulnerable positions such as St Stephen’s Green that were impossible to escape from and difficult to supply. (During the War of Independence he ensured the avoidance of such sitting targets, with his soldiers operating as “flying columns” who waged a guerrilla war against the British, suddenly attacking then just as quickly withdrawing, minimising losses and maximising effectiveness.)
Collins, like many of the other participants, was arrested, almost executed and was imprisoned up at Frongoch internment camp. Collins became one of the leading figures in the post-rising Sinn Féin, a small nationalist party which the British government and the Irish media wrongly blamed for the Rising. It was quickly infiltrated by participants in the Rising, so as to capitalise on the “notoriety” the movement had gained through British attacks. By October 1917, Collins had risen to become a member of the executive of Sinn Féin and director of organisation of the Irish Volunteers; Éamon de Valera was president of both organisations.

Like all senior Sinn Féin members, Collins was nominated in the 1918 general election to elect Irish MPs to the British House of Commons in London. As was the case throughout much of Ireland (with many seats uncontested), Collins won for Sinn Féin, becoming MP for Cork South. However, unlike their rivals in the Irish Parliamentary Party, Sinn Féin MPs had announced that they would not take their seats in Westminster, but instead would set up an Irish Parliament in Dublin.That new parliament, called Dáil Éireann (meaning “Assembly of Ireland”, see First Dáil) met in the Mansion House, Dublin in January 1919, although De Valera and leading Sinn Féin MPs had been arrested. Collins, tipped off by his network of spies, had warned his colleagues of the dangers of arrest; de Valera and others ignored the warnings, believing if the arrests happened they would constitute a propaganda coup. In de Valera’s absence, Cathal Brugha was elected Príomh Aire (‘Main’ or ‘Prime’, Minister’, but often translated as ‘President of Dáil Éireann’), to be replaced by de Valera, when Collins helped him escape from Lincoln Prison in April 1919.In 1919, Collins had a number of roles. That summer he was elected president of the IRB (and therefore, in the doctrine of that organisation, de jure President of the Irish Republic). In September he was made Director of Intelligence of the Irish Republican Army, as the Volunteers had come to be known (the organisation’s claim to be the army of the Irish Republic was ratified by the Dáil in January 1919). The Irish War of Independence in effect began on the same day that the First Dáil met on 21 January 1919, when an ambush party of IRA volunteers acting without orders and led by Seán Treacy, attacked a group of Royal Irish Constabulary men who were escorting a consignment of gelignite to a quarry in Soloheadbeg, County Tipperary. Two policemen were shot dead during the engagement and the ambush is considered to be the first action taken in the Irish War of Independence.
In 1919, the already busy Collins received yet another responsibility when de Valera appointed him to the Aireacht (ministry) as Minister for Finance.[11] Understandably, in the circumstances of a brutal war, in which ministers were liable to be arrested or killed by the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British Army, the Black and Tans or the Auxiliaries at a moment’s notice, most of the ministries existed only on paper, or as one or two people working in a room of a private house.This was not the case with Collins, however, who produced a Finance Ministry that was able to organise a large bond issue in the form of a “National Loan” to fund the new Irish Republic. The Russian Republic, in the midst of its own civil war, ordered Ludwig Martens, head of the Soviet Bureau in New York City, to acquire a “national loan” from the Irish Republic through Harry Boland, offering some of the Russian Crown Jewels as collateral (the jewels remained in a Dublin safe, forgotten by all sides, until the 1930s, when they were found by chance).Collins created a special assassination unit called The Squad designed to kill British agents; arranged the “National Loan”; organised the IRA; effectively led the government when de Valera travelled to and remained in the United States for an extended period of time; and managed an arms-smuggling operation.Collins and Richard Mulcahy were the two principal organisers for the Irish Republican Army, insofar as it was possible to direct the actions of scattered and heavily localised guerrilla units. Collins is often credited with organising the IRA’s guerrilla “flying columns” during the War of Independence, although to suggest Collins organised this single handedly would be false. He had a prominent part in the formation of the flying columns but the main organiser would have been Dick McKee, later killed by the British in disputed circumstances on Bloody Sunday. In addition, a great deal of IRA activity was carried out on the initiative of local leaders, with tactics and overall strategy developed by Collins or Mulcahy.In 1920, the British offered a bounty of £10,000 (equivalent to GB£300,000 / €360,000 in 2010) for information leading to the capture or death of Collins. His fame had so transcended the IRA movement that he was nicknamed “The Big Fellow”. Irish author Frank O’Connor, who participated in the Irish Civil War, gave a different account of the nickname. He said that it began as an ironic, even scornful, reference to Collins’ efforts to be taken seriously by others, seen as bordering on self-importance.In July 1921, the British suddenly offered a truce. Collins later said that at that time, the IRA was weeks–or even days–from collapse for want of ammunition. He added that when he and his colleagues heard of the truce offer, “Frankly, we thought they were mad.”[citation needed] Arrangements were made for a conference between the British government and the leaders of the as-yet unrecognised Irish Republic. Other than the Soviet Union, no other state gave diplomatic recognition to the 1919 republic, despite sustained lobbying in Washington by de Valera and prominent Irish-Americans, as well as attempts (by Irish-Americans and others) to have representatives of the Irish Republic[13] invited to the 1919 Versailles conference by Seán T. O’Kelly.In August 1921, de Valera made the Dáil upgrade his office from Prime Minister to President of the Irish Republic, which ostensibly made him equivalent to George V in the negotiations. Earlier while in America, Dev had begun using the title “President” while speaking across that country trying to raise funds, a move which brought him into conflict with some members of the IRB, whose constitution and bylaws declared their own president, Collins in this case, President of the Irish Republic.Eventually, however, he announced that as the King would not attend, then neither would he. Instead, with the reluctant agreement of his cabinet, de Valera nominated a team of delegates headed by Vice-President Arthur Griffith, with Collins as his deputy. While he thought that de Valera should head the delegation, Collins agreed to go to London.

The majority of the Irish Treaty delegates including Arthur Griffith (leader), Robert Barton and Eamonn Duggan (with Robert Erskine Childers as Secretary General to the delegation) set up headquarters at 22 Hans Place in Knightsbridge on 11 October 1921 and resided there until conclusion of the negotiations in December. Collins took up separate quarters at 15 Cadogan Gardens. His personal staff included Liam Tobin, Ned Broy and Joe McGrath.[15] Collins himself protested his appointment as envoy plenipotentiary, as he was not a statesman and his revelation to the British (he had previously kept his public presence to a minimum) would reduce his effectiveness as a guerilla leader should hostilities resume.The negotiations ultimately resulted in the Anglo-Irish Treaty which was signed on 6 December 1921, which envisaged a new Irish state, to be named the “Irish Free State” (a literal translation from the Irish language term Saorstát Éireann), which appeared on the letterhead de Valera used, though de Valera had translated it less literally as the Irish Republic.”Saorstat Eireann” was, in fact, the title used for the Irish Republic in the proclamation of the provisional government in 1916.The treaty provided for a possible all-Ireland state, subject to the right of a six-county region in the northeast to opt out of the Free State. If this happened, an Irish Boundary Commission was to be established to redraw the Irish border, which Collins expected would so reduce the size of Northern Ireland as to make it economically unviable, thus enabling unity, as most of the unionist population was concentrated in a relatively small area in eastern Ulster. The Irish Free State was established in December 1922, and as expected, Northern Ireland exercised its option to remain part of the United Kingdom proper.The new state was to be a Dominion, with a bicameral parliament, executive authority vested in the king but exercised by an Irish government elected by a lower house called Dáil Éireann (translated this time as “Chamber of Deputies”), an independent courts system, and a level of internal independence that far exceeded anything sought by Charles Stewart Parnell or the subsequent Irish Parliamentary Party.While it fell short of the republic that he’d originally fought to create, Collins concluded that the Treaty offered Ireland “the freedom to achieve freedom.” Nonetheless, he knew that the treaty, and in particular the issue of partition, would not be well received in Ireland. Upon signing the treaty, he remarked “I have signed my own death warrant.”Republican purists saw it as a sell-out, with the replacement of the republic by dominion status within the British Empire, and an Oath of Allegiance made (it was then claimed) directly to the King. The actual wording shows that the oath was made to the Irish Free State, with a subsidiary oath of fidelity to the King as part of the Treaty settlement, not to the king unilaterally.Sinn Féin split over the treaty, and the Dáil debated the matter bitterly for ten days until it was approved by a vote of 64 to 57. The Supreme Council of the IRB, which had been kept informed in detail about every facet of the Treaty negotiations and which had approved many of its provisions, voted unanimously to accept the Treaty, with the single notable exception of later COS of the IRA Liam Lynch. De Valera joined the anti-treaty faction opposing the concessions. His opponents charged that he had prior knowledge that the crown would have to feature in whatever form of settlement was agreed.
The Treaty was extremely controversial in Ireland. First, Éamon de Valera, President of the Irish Republic until 9 January, had been unhappy that Collins had signed any deal without his and his cabinet’s authorisation. Second, the contents of the Treaty were bitterly disputed. De Valera and many other members of the republican movement objected to Ireland’s status as a dominion of the British Empire and to the symbolism of having to give a statement of faithfulness to the British king to this effect. Also controversial was the British retention of Treaty Ports on the south coast of Ireland for the Royal Navy. Both of these things threatened to give Britain control over Ireland’s foreign policy. Most of the Irish Republican Army opposed the Treaty, opening the prospect of civil war.Under the Dáil Constitution adopted in 1919, Dáil Éireann continued to exist. De Valera resigned the presidency and sought re-election (in an effort to destroy the newly approved Treaty), but Arthur Griffith replaced him after the close vote on 9 January. (Griffith called himself “President of Dáil Éireann” rather than de Valera’s more exalted “President of the Republic”.) However, this government, or Aireacht, had no legal status in British constitutional law, so another co-existent government emerged, nominally answerable to the House of Commons of Southern Ireland.The new Provisional Government (Rialtas Sealadach na hÉireann) was formed under Collins, who became “President of the Provisional Government” (i.e., Prime Minister). He also remained Minister for Finance of Griffith’s republican administration. An example of the complexities involved can be seen even in the manner of his installation:In British legal theory he was a Crown-appointed prime minister, installed under the Royal Prerogative. To be so installed, he had to formally meet the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Viscount Fitzalan (the head of the British administration in Ireland).According to the republican view, Collins met Fitzalan to accept the surrender of Dublin Castle, the seat of British government in Ireland. Having surrendered, Fitzalan still remained in place as viceroy until December 1922.According to British constitutional theory, he met Fitzalan to “kiss hands” (the formal name for the installation of a minister of the Crown), the fact of their meeting rather than the signing of any documents, duly installing him in office. Kissing hands was the only mechanism of transfer then, as the relevant British legislation only passed into law on 1 April 1922.In his biography of Michael Collins, Tim Pat Coogan recounted that, when Lord Lieutenant Fitzalan remarked that Collins had arrived seven minutes late for the 16 January 1922 ceremony, Collins replied, “We’ve been waiting over seven hundred years, you can have the extra seven minutes”. The same tale was repeated when Richard Mulcahy took over Beggars’ Bush Barracks, and may be apocryphal.The partition of Ireland between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland was not as controversial. One of the main reasons for this was that Collins was secretly planning to launch a clandestine guerrilla war against the Northern State. Throughout the early months of 1922, he had been sending IRA units to the border and sending arms and money to the northern units of the IRA. In May–June 1922, he and IRA Chief of Staff Liam Lynch organised an offensive of both pro- and anti-treaty IRA units along the new border. British arms supplied to Collins’ Provisional government were instead swapped with the weapons of IRA units, which were sent to the north.
This offensive was officially called off under British pressure on 3 June and Collins issued a statement that “no troops from the 26 counties, either those under official control [pro-treaty] or those attached to the [IRA] Executive [anti-treaty] should be permitted to invade the six county area.” However, low level IRA attacks on the border continued. Such activity was interrupted by the outbreak of civil war in the south, but had Collins lived, there is every chance he would have launched a full-scale guerrilla offensive against Northern Ireland. Because of this, most northern IRA units supported Collins and 524 individual volunteers came south to join the National Army in the Irish Civil War..at least until after Collins’ death; at the end of the civil war, Aiken was COS of the IRA.In the months leading up to the outbreak of civil war in June 1922, Collins tried desperately to heal the rift in the nationalist movement and prevent civil war. De Valera, having opposed the Treaty in the Dáil, withdrew from the assembly with his supporters. Collins secured a compromise, the “Pact”, whereby the two factions of Sinn Féin, pro- and anti-Treaty, would fight the soon-to-be Free State’s first election jointly and form a coalition government afterwards.Collins proposed that the envisaged Free State would have a republican constitution, with no mention of the British king, without repudiating the Treaty, a compromise acceptable to all but the most intransigent republicans. To foster military unity, he established an “army re-unification committee” with delegates from pro- and anti-Treaty factions. He also made efforts to use the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood of which he was president, to get IRA officers to accept the Treaty. However, the British vetoed the proposed republican constitution under the threat of an economic blockade, arguing they had signed and ratified the Treaty in good faith and its terms could not be changed so quickly. By this stage most British forces had been withdrawn from the Free State but thousands remained. Collins was therefore unable to reconcile the anti-Treaty side, whose Army Executive had anyway decided in March 1922 that it had never been subordinate to the Dáil.
On 14 April 1922, a group of 200 anti-Treaty IRA men occupied the Four Courts in Dublin in defiance of the Provisional government. Collins, who wanted to avoid civil war at all costs, did not attack them until June 1922, when British pressure also forced his hand. On 22 June 1922, Sir Henry Wilson, a retired British Army field marshal now serving as Military Advisor to the Craig Administration,[23] was shot dead by two IRA men in Belgravia, London. At the time, it was presumed that the anti-Treaty faction of the IRA were responsible and Winston Churchill told Collins that unless he moved against the Four Courts garrison, he (Churchill) would use British troops to do so.It has since been claimed that Collins ordered the killing of Wilson in reprisal for failing to prevent the attacks on Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland. Joe Dolan—a member of Collins’ “Squad” or assassination unit in the War of Independence and in 1922 a captain in the National Army—said this in the 1950s, along with the statement that Collins had ordered him to try to rescue the two gunmen before they were executed.[24] In any event, this forced Collins to take action against the Four Courts men and the final provocation came when they kidnapped J.J. “Ginger” O’Connell, a provisional government general. After a final attempt to persuade the men to leave, Collins borrowed two 18 pounder artillery pieces from the British and bombarded the Four Courts until its garrison surrendered.[25]This led to the Irish Civil War as fighting broke out in Dublin between the anti-Treaty IRA and the provisional government’s troops. Under Collins’ supervision, the Free State rapidly took control of the capital. In July 1922, anti-Treaty forces held the southern province of Munster and several other areas of the country. De Valera and the other anti-Treaty TDs sided with the anti-Treaty IRA. By mid-1922, Collins in effect laid down his responsibilities as Chairman of the Provisional Government to become Commander-in-Chief of the National Army, a formal, structured, uniformed army that formed around the nucleus of the pro-Treaty IRA. The Free State Army that was armed and funded by the British was rapidly expanded with Irish veterans of the British Army (a large number of whom may presumed to have been previously members of John Redmond’s “National Volunteers” after the split from the original Irish Volunteers) and young men unassociated with the Volunteers during the war to fight the civil war.Collins, along with Richard Mulcahy and Eoin O’Duffy decided on a series of seaborne landings into republican held areas that re-took Munster and the west in July–August 1922. As part of this offensive, Collins travelled to his native Cork, against the advice of his companions, and despite suffering from stomach ache and depression. Collins reputedly told his comrades that “They wouldn’t shoot me in my own county”.[29] It has been questioned why Collins put himself in such danger by visiting the south of the country while much of it was still held by hostile forces. What historian Michael Hopkinson describes as ‘plentiful oral evidence’ suggests that Collins’ purpose was to meet Republican leaders in order to bring the war to an end. In Cork city, he met with neutral IRA men Seán O’Hegarty and Florrie O’Donoghue, with a view to contacting Anti-Treaty IRA leaders Tom Barry and Tom Hales to propose a truce.Hopkinson asserts though that, although Éamon de Valera was in west Cork at the time, “there is no evidence that there was any prospect of a meeting between de Valera and Collins”.Collins’ personal diary outlined his plan for peace. Republicans must “accept the People’s Verdict” on the Treaty, but could then “go home without their arms. We don’t ask for any surrender of their principles”. He argued that the Provisional Government was upholding “the people’s rights” and would continue to do so. “We want to avoid any possible unnecessary destruction and loss of life. We do not want to mitigate their weakness by resolute action beyond what is required”. But if Republicans did not accept his terms, “further blood is on their shoulders”.
The last known photograph of Collins alive was taken as he made his way through Bandon, County Cork in the back of an army vehicle. He is pictured outside White’s Hotel (now Munster Arms) on 22 August 1922. On the road to Bandon, at the village of Béal na mBláth (Irish, “the Mouth of Flowers”), Collins’ column stopped to ask directions. However the man whom they asked, Dinny Long, was also a member of the local Anti-Treaty IRA. An ambush was then prepared for the convoy when it made its return journey back to Cork city. They knew Collins would return by the same route as the two other roads from Bandon to Cork had been rendered impassable by Republicans. The ambush party, commanded by Liam Deasy, had mostly dispersed to a nearby pub by 8:00 p.m., when Collins and his men returned to Béal na mBlath but the remaining five ambushers on the scene opened fire on Collins’s convoy. The ambushers had laid a mine on the scene, which could have killed many more people in Collins’s party, but they had disconnected it by the time the firing broke out.

Kitty Kiernan, Collins’ fiancée.Collins was killed in the subsequent gun battle, which lasted about 20 minutes, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. He was the only fatality. He had ordered his convoy to stop and return fire, instead of choosing the safer option of driving on in his touring car or transferring to the safety of the accompanying armoured car, as his companion, Emmet Dalton, had wished. He was killed while exchanging rifle fire with the ambushers. Under the cover of the armoured car, Collins’s body was loaded into the touring car and driven back to Cork. At the time of his death, he was engaged to Kitty Kiernan.There is no consensus as to who fired the fatal shot. The most recent authoritative account suggests that the shot was fired by Denis (“Sonny”) O’Neill, an Anti-Treaty IRA fighter and a former British Army marksman who died in 1950.[33] This is supported by eyewitness accounts of the participants in the ambush. O’Neill was using dum-dum ammunition, which disintegrates on impact and which left a gaping wound in Collins’s skull. He dumped the remaining bullets afterwards for fear of reprisals by Free State troops.Collins’s men brought his body back to Cork where it was then shipped to Dublin because it was feared the body might be stolen in an ambush if it were transported by road.[33] His body lay in state for three days in Dublin City Hall where tens of thousands of mourners filed past his coffin to pay their respects. His funeral mass took place at Dublin’s Pro Cathedral where a number of foreign and Irish dignitaries were in attendance. Some 500,000 people attended his funeral, almost one fifth of the country’s population.

Collins’ grave.Collins’s shooting has provoked many conspiracy theories in Ireland, and even the identity and motives of the assassin are subject to debate. Some Republicans maintain that Collins was killed by a British “plant”. Some Pro-Treaty accounts claim that de Valera ordered Collins’ assassination. Others allege that he was killed by one of his own soldiers, Jock McPeak, who defected to the Republican side with an armoured car three months after the ambush.[34] However, historian Meda Ryan, who researched the incident exhaustively, concluded that there was no real basis for such theories. “Michael Collins was shot by a Republican, who said [on the night of the ambush], ‘I dropped one man'”. Liam Deasy, who was in command of the ambush party, said, “We all knew it was Sonny O’Neill’s bullet.”[35]Eamon de Valera is reported to have stated in 1966:”I can’t see my way to becoming Patron of the Michael Collins Foundation. It is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time history will record the greatness of Collins and it will be recorded at my expense”However, there is some doubt that de Valera ever made this controversial statement.

Michael Collins drawings and paintings

Hi,my name is Cathy Twomey and this time last year i undertook a commission,from the Michael Collins museum Clonakilty,   to paint the ambush of Michael Collins,in preparation i did some drawings and thought you might like to take a look.the photo i have sent of the ambush at that stage only has the outline of Collins falling ,and so looks incomplete.on the day of delivery in my haste i neglected to take a final photo!,the launch is this June at the Collins centre so i will be sure and take one then.i am currently collecting information for my next piece,another of Collins for which there are no photographs,its my fascination to recreate stories based on fact.my other work can be viewed on www.newirishart.com.thanking you,Cathy Twomey

De Valera was an English spy?

De Valera was an English spy?

By Padrig O Ruairc.

Book Review:- “England’s Greatest Spy – Eamonn De Valera.” By John J. Turi. Published by Stacey International, London 2009. ISBN 978 – 1 – 906768-09-6

Last week I stumbled across the above book, in O Mahony’s Bookshop, Limerick. I was completely unaware of the radio debate that had taken place on RTE a few hours earlier between the author and the veteran Irish historian and journalist Tim Pat Coogan. I found the title of the book both shocking and intriguing as this weighty tome seemed to rally against the perceived orthodoxy, and whole fabric of accepted modern Irish politics and twentieth century Irish history. After reading the sleeve notes which stated: “Turi presents startling new evidence to prove the man who led Ireland throughout most of the 20th century [De Valera] … was an agent for England” I decided, although immediately sceptical of such a controversial claim, to read the book eager as a historian examine this “new evidence” and determined to try and keep an open mind about the book’s central thesis.

Unfortunately the new evidence promised in the sleeve notes does not appear in the main body of the book. Instead the reader is treated (mistreated?) to a whopping 462 page political rant which re-hashes worn out conspiracy theories and pub talk about ‘Who killed Michael Collins?’. Added to these are the author’s even more fantastic deductions about the War of Independence and Civil War which he arrives at without providing any conclusive documentary evidence. Infact Turi’s whole thesis that De Valera was a British Agent seems based completely on supposition, propaganda stories, wild interpretation of accepted facts, hear say and illogical conjecture. Throughout the book any setbacks that are encountered by those fighting for Irish independence are immediately ascribed to conspiracy by Mr. Turi, who never considers the more realistic possibility that these events were due to bad luck, chance, incompetence or poor decision making. What little he does offer as evidence to prove his claims is regularly liberally interpreted to suit his theories – rather than adjusting his theories to suit the facts.

Turi’s central argument is that the British authorities in Ireland were fully aware of the I.R.B’s plans for the 1916 Rising but allowed the rebellion to take place so that they could organise a “machine gun massacre” of the rebel Irish. According to Turi the British had already ensured the rebellion would failure through the actions of their spy Austin Stack was responsible for the capture of the German arms shipment on the Aud. This and not Eoin Mc Neill’s countermanding order was responsible for the failure of the rebellion. Turi then claims that after his surrender to the British and imprisonment in Kilmainham Jail, De Valera was given a stark choice become a British Agent or else be executed along with Pearse, Connolly and co…
De Valera readily agrees and through the secret machinations of Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, he is appointed leader of Sinn Fein in 1917. This of course was part of a secret British plot to split the Sinn Fein party, code named: “Assignment Sinn Fein” Unfortunately for the British this plot is then foiled by one of the heroes of Mr. Turi’s tale Arthur Griffith. De Valera is arrested by the British and imprisoned in Lincoln Jail, England and then his escape is staged so that De Valera can go to America to sabotage the Irish American groups lobbying the American President to support Irish Independence. This secret operation is dubbed “Assignment America”
Eventually De Valera takes part in “Assignment Ireland” whereby he returns home to destroy Sinn Fein and The I.R.A. From within – he succeeds and the I.R.A. are forced to negotiate with the British. In two further British assignments – ‘Chaos’ and ‘Civil War’ De Valera first ensures that the Irish delegation in the Treaty negotiations will not secure a Republic and then he argues against the Treaty so that he can plunge the south of Ireland into Civil War. This of course is orchestrated by the British because Michael Collins is about to cause trouble for them in the north, and the Civil War will keep him distracted long enough for De Valera’s next assignment – the assassination of both Griffith and Collins.
Turi’s heroes Collins and Griffith of course by how are about to discover De Valera’s role as a British agent. Griffith is murdered after being served arsenic laden chocolates, and Collins’s assassination / murder is organised personally by De Valera and Emmett Dalton in Cork. Collins wasn’t hidden by the I.R.A. ambushers at Bealnablath on 22nd of August 1922 he was actually shot in the back and then in the head by a British agent who was posing as a Free State soldier.
The story doesn’t end there – Sean Hales T.D. starts investigating the plot and is also murdered by De Valera’s henchmen.
De Valera remains working as a British agent long after he is elected President and under their guidance manages to sabotage the Irish economy and keep Ireland neutral during World War Two in order to create anti-Irish feeling in the U.S. By the end of the book the only thing surprising to the reader is that Mr. Turi’s does not claim that De Valera’s masters in the British Government were not themselves being controlled by the Free Masons and the Elders of Zion who secretly control the world!

Does Mr. Turi’s book present any real proof to support these claims? Of course not, but he claims the proof exists – on page 302 Turi actually calls for the exhumation of Collin’s remains to prove he was murdered! On page 298 he quotes a Dr. Singh calling for Griffiths remains to be exhumed to prove he was also murdered. What would be the purpose of these exhumations? On page 462 the need for these exhumations is made clear when Turi calls for De Valera to be given a posthumous trial on charges of “treason, fraud and conspiracy to murder.”

Not content with merely vilifying De Valera, the author also derides a whole host of Republican figures who opposed Collins and the Treaty. Turi often uses rumour innuendo and Pro-Treaty and British propaganda tales of the period to do so. According to Turi: Countess Marcivictz was a coward. De Valera may have had an extra marital affair. Liam Lynch was ‘quite possibly insane’. Oscar Tranor the leader of the I.R.A.’s Dublin brigade was more interested in killing Irishmen than British soldiers. Austin Stack was a British spy since at least 1916. Erskine Childers ‘spent his whole life in the service of England and English Imperialism.’

One of the only leading anti-Treaty republicans who does not suffer character assassination at the pen of Mr. Turi is Cathal Brugha. It would have been incredibly difficult for Mr. Turis to question the integrity and motives of Brugha who had been severely wounded by a hand grenade, as well as by multiple gunshot wounds during the 1916 rising. After suffering these wounds Brugha initially was not expected to survive by his comrades. However since Brugha did survive and became one of Collins’s main rivals for power after 1916 it is surprising that Turi does not implicate him in the conspiracy.
Infact the name Cathal Brugha does not occur once in the whole book!!! Instead, rather confusingly, Brugha is only referred to by the English language translation of his name Charles Burgess. Turi who boasts that he has read over two hundred books on the subject must have known that Irish and British historians uniformly refer to the man as Cathal Brugha. Intriguingly when Turi quotes passages from other books which mention Cathal Brugha he seems to have deliberately translated the name in the quote from ‘Brugha’ to ‘Burgess’. Is it possible that when Mr. Turi was unable to discredit one of Michael Collins’s main rivals for power that he decided instead to try and airbrush him from the history books using literary slight of hand? Or have I too begun to suffer the effect of Mr. Turi’s love of illogical and absurd conspiracy theories?

As well as having a very thin, convoluted, unrealistic and often contradictory plot, Mr. Turi’s book suffers further from a disorganised chronology which has several large gaps in the first half of the book. The narrative constantly jumping back and forward in time to so often that it reminded me of the television series “Quantum Leap” Amazingly there is no account of the East Clare by-election of 1917 – I cannot think of too many biographies of politicians that do not give an account of the first time they stand successfully for public office! The whole narrative of the book is badly written, confusing and in some places incomprehensible, In the chapter about the Treaty negotiations and the causes and beginning of the Irish Civil War Turi’s thesis that De Valera was a spy gets lost completely, only to re-emerge in the narrative like a nmany headed hydra at a later point.

The language, grammar, terms and descriptive phrases used in the book are very, very poor, and couched in ‘twee’ Irish-American stereotypes of Ireland. This occurs so often as to be annoying and distracting. Ireland is referred to as ‘the Emerald Isle” or the “oulde sod”, books about Irish history are ‘Gaelic history books’, De Valera’s friends and comrades are his ‘buddies’ etc. The author also seems to suffer from difficulties with the geography of Britain and Ireland. The phrases England and Britain are constantly interchanged and confused in the text, on page 258 Turi paradoxically defines Scottish Planters as being “English settlers.” The British Prime Minister of the period Lloyd George is described on page 192 as “Lloyd George, a Welsh [sic] and Celt himself” – surely this should have read: ‘Lloyd George, a Welshman and fellow Celt (like De Valera). In many cases the language appears, to me, to be low brow and crass ie. page 259 “The decision was a slam-dunk, a no brainer”, on page 292 events are “shifted into fast forward”

On page 294 “Modest and frugal, Griffith literally sold the shirt off his back to keep his newspapers alive.” Whilst I can appreciate and agree with the point Turi is apparently(?) trying to make here that Griffith often deprived himself of money which he diverted to ensure the survival of his political newspapers – the sentence quoted suggests that Arthur Griffith went bare-chested to a used shirt traders in Dublin to finance his newspapers!
While I can appreciate that these seemingly grammatical mistakes may be the result of the many cultural and linguistic-dialectic differences between America and Ireland , it should be noted that other American / Irish American historians writing about the same period such as T. Ryle Dwyer and John Borgovono do not use similar phraseology in their work and take some care to tailor it to their Irish readership. I do not mean to ‘nit pick’ or become pedantic in highlighting these grammatical / descriptive errors which seem trivial when taken individually, occur so often through out the text that they become infuriating.

There are no attempts at impartiality of language or tone throughout the book
British soldiers are described as ‘screaming deamons’ Cromwell is the ‘plague of all plagues’. Orangemen and Irish Unionists are ‘Unionist goon’s’ Members of the Anti- Treaty I.R.A. during the Civil War are described as ‘IRA dissidents’ a heavily politicised, and ‘loaded’ modern political term connected with the post 1998 peace process.

De Valera is described by Turoi using imagery which is suggest to my mind the forces of the occult – the implication being as far as I could see that De Valera was a tool of evil. “Eamonn De Valera cast his long black shadow on events…” De Valera’s supposed British allies are “screaming demons”. Page 66 “Eamonn De Valera, forsaking martyrdom, made his Faustian pact with the Devil…” Or if the Prince of Darkness isn’t harsh enough how about Hitler! Page 450 “De Valera’s extremists in the Irish Republican Army were the Irish version of Hitler’s Brown Shirt enforcers.”

The only redeeming features in the whole book are Mr. Turi’s critical examination of the many myth’s surrounding of De Valera’s parentage in Chapter 2, and the examination of De Valera’s poor performance as a military commander during the 1916 Rising in Chapter 4. These deservingly challenge propaganda myths later created around De Valera’s early life and career, by sympathetic historians. Perhaps if Mr. Turi had not indulged in fantastic conspiracy theories, and firmly grounded himself in factual evidence, he might have produced a poor to fair critical biography of De Valera worth reading.

Finally to make matters worse Turi continually makes scathing and insulting references to a whole host of Irish historians and previous De Valera biographers including Longford and O Neill, Desmond Ryan, Joe Whelan, Dorothy Mc Ardle, T.Ryle Dwyer and Tim Pat Coogan. He seemingly regards them all as incompetents for not discovering De Valera’s alleged role as a British spy. These attacks are counter productive to Mr. Turi’s argument, and give the impression that not only is he a ‘conspicary nut’, he is also a bitter ‘crank’.

This book is not a work to be tossed aside lightly – it should hurled away from the reader with great force! It has often been said with regard to publishing that “Paper never refused ink.” I would suggest that if Mr. Turi publishes any other similar works in the future that he uses softer and more absorbent paper! The great tragedy here is that Mr Turi’s unfounded conspiracy ramblings will receive far more media attention and airtime, because of their controversial nature, than more deserving, thought provoking and well researched books on the period that have been recently published such as Terrence O Reilly’s “Rebel Heart – George Lennon Flying Column Commander”, William Sheehan’s “Hearts And Mines” or T.Ryle Dwyers “Michael Collins The Man Who Won The War”

In Turi’s interview with Fiona Audley for the Irish Post newspaper, the author commented about De Valera: “I don’t have enough bad words to say about him.” Having taken the time to read and suffer through all 462 pages of it, it is my humble opinion that the same could be said about Mr. Turi’s book! So I think I’ll end it here…

If the above arguments have failed to convince you that the book is a “feeble effort” ( The authors own modest description. Preface Page xi) then you might be interested in listening to Tim Pat Coogan in debate with Mr. Turi on the Pat Kenny Radio show, available by podcast at the below link.

http://www.rte.ie/podcasts/2009/pc/pod- … tkenny.mp3