Saturday, March 17, 2012

Michael Collins

Michael "Mick" Collins (Irish: Míċeál Ó Coileáin; 16 October 1890 – 22 August 1922) was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance and Teachta Dála (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.

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.

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