Michael Collins: Love, hate, and the Big Fellow’s public image | Irish Examiner
Éamon de Valera with Winston Churchill in September up a friendly relationship with Michael Collins, who appreciated his support and. WHEN Michael Collins was killed in , there was considerable anguish and national mourning, while his nemesis Éamon de Valera was. 'Dev', of course, was Eamon de Valera who as Taoiseach maintained a policy by Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins deeply resonated with Churchill's sense of.
Canada, Australia, and South Africa were so far away that Britain could not interfere in their affairs, but Ireland was so close that the British would interfere in Irish affairs at will in the name of the king. Thus, Ireland needed something extra to ensure against British interference. It would be a stepping-stone to the desired independence. Inthe Statute of Westminster became law just five days after the 10th anniversary of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, formally recognising dominion independence.
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De Valera candidly admitted on coming to power a few months later that he had underestimated the freedom conferred by the Treaty. Hence it took de Valera almost 10 years to prove that Collins was indeed right.
This was done by unilaterally by abolishing the Treaty-oath, and by persuading the British to surrender their Treaty-right to use Irish ports and whatever facilities they might desire in time of war, or international tension. De Valera also introduced a new Constitution, voted in by a plebiscite inreplacing the king as head of state with a democratically elected president.
Thus Collins was proved right about the Treaty containing the freedom to achieve the desired freedom, but ironically it was de Valera who proved this in the face of the determined opposition of Fine Gael, which had essentially betrayed the Collins legacy.
As a result, de Valera got the credit, and Collins was essentially shunted into the shadows of history, from which he did not begin to re-emerge until the s.
Collins was gradually accorded proper recognition with a series of biographies, television documentaries, and eventually the movie starring Liam Neeson.
In this address I highlighted the small difference that had divided Collins and de Valera. Articles 2 and 3 had been written into the Constitution in order to perpetuate the myth that de Valera opposition to the Treaty revolved around the partition issue. The Kilmichael and Crossbarry Commemoration Committee responded by issuing a statement to the press in indignation.
It is difficult to see why Dev would not have tried to persuade Deasy to call off the ambush against Collins. He had probably begun to dislike and, perhaps, distrust Collins after his return from the United States, but it is hard to believe he had become so hardened towards Collins to regard his killing with equanimity.
After all, Collins had helped him escape from Lincoln gaol and made all the arrangements for his American visit. Neither could Dev have forgotten that Collins had been a rare friend to his wife and family while he was away, either in prison or in America. Collins would often travel to Greystones to bring food and money to the de Valera household and to play with the children. If the roles were reversed, would Collins have gone along with an attempt to kill Dev?
All the indicators suggest Collins would not have tolerated such an attack and would have done everything in his power to prevent it. There is good reason to believe that Dev felt guilty about Collins's death and that he avoided the subject all his life. If Dev had made any attempt to have the ambush called off, he would have had a wonderful opportunity to clear the air by telling his biographers of his efforts.
Instead, he set out to create the impression that he knew nothing about the ambush until it was all over. O'Neill and Longford record: At one house where he called at Beal na Blath, he was told that Collins had been there an hour before.
Next day he learned that Collins had been killed in an ambush near Beal na Blath on his return from west Cork the previous evening. The Irish version of Dev's biography has minor variations on the same story. He later understood that it was with Lynch or people like him that Collins wished to negotiate, and not with himself, who had little authority over the army.
It goes on to relate that, on August 22, Collins went to west Cork, when Dev was also in the area. He spent the previous night in the mountains outside Macroom, in the neighbourhood of Newcestown.
Early next morning, he took to the road by car, driven by James Flynn.
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He stopped at Beal na Blath, where Liam Deasy and Sean Hyde went into a house to be told that Collins had stopped at the house an hour earlier. Dev went on to Mainister na Mona. The following day, he learned that Collins had been killed.
He was disturbed by this disastrous news. Shuaith an sceul tubaisteach seo de Valera. The austere de Valera and the boyish, fun-loving Collins were never destined to be social friends, but the deterioration in their relationship after Dev returned from America is quite striking and has not been fully explored. Collins had become toughened by the ruthlessness of the military campaign in the l—21 period and was no longer as amenable to treating Dev's utterances with the greatest respect.
Dev had been in America for 18 months while Collins was at home, building up the most ruthless and efficient underground intelligence movement in any country at that time. Obviously, Collins was not so ready to be subservient to somebody whom he regarded as being out of touch with the changed situation and lacking in fundamental and practical knowledge about military matters.
Collins was most meticulous about committing things to writing, whereas Dev seemed to be quite diffident about putting things on paper.
He was also concerned about the expenditure on the trip and said he hoped it would be covered by receipts. This kind of question must have been infuriating for Dev, who justified his month stay in America by claiming to have raised a huge amount of money — which he undoubtedly did — but Collins seemed to think the trip could have been more successful.
Dr Arthur Mitchell, who did some research in this area for his book Revolutionary Government in Ireland, found it difficult to assess Dev's attitude to Collins at this time. In the beginning they were in constant communication, and Mitchell points out that it was Collins who found a secure place for Dev to live and provided the office equipment.
Dev told his biographers that, from April l, Collins no longer took heed of his direction. British intelligence reported that the two men had quarrelled and that Collins had emerged as the leader of the movement, yet there was no specific evidence of open friction between the two men during this period. Collins was obviously annoyed when Dev, soon after his return from America, proposed that he Collins should go to America to continue the fund-raising efforts.
This may have been an attempt to put it up to Collins to try to do better in the States than he had done or, indeed, to try to reduce his authority. Collins was very annoyed at Dev's inexplicable decision to exclude him from the peace delegation that went to meet Lloyd George in London in July l There is a further twist to the mystery of Beal na Blath in that Liam Deasy is said to have told Ernie O'Malley that he was to meet Michael Collins on the evening of the ambush.
It is scarcely credible that Deasy would have overseen the planning of an ambush to kill the man he was supposed to meet the same evening. Deasy told O'Malley that Collins saw Hegarty and Florrie the night before he was killed and was to have met him Deasy the following evening. O'Donoghue related that he met Collins on August It is known that Collins met O'Donoghue in Macroom on the evening of August 21 and gave him safe passage after he found that he had been put in gaol by the Free State soldiers who had taken over control of the town.
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He returned to Macroom again the morning of August 22, for another meeting with O'Donoghue. There have been suggestions that he was on his way towards Macroom, possibly for a third meeting, when he was ambushed at Beal na Blath.
O'Donoghue's diaries contain no reference to a possible meeting with Collins on the evening of August Whatever the speculation about meetings between the two sides, Collins could only have returned to Macroom or Cork by the Beal na Blath route, as all other roads had been blocked.
The enormity of their action seems to have hit the ambushers almost immediately they learned that they had killed Collins. Most of them refused to speak about the ambush until they were old men. Some tried to pretend that it was an accident, while others pretended they were quite unaware that Collins was in the convoy until the victim's name was disclosed.
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He was told that republican forces had been laying ambushes all that week for Free State convoys passing Beal na Blath. On August 22, after waiting in vain all day for a convoy, they were about to leave when a convoy was spotted and shots were fired. Following an exchange of gunfire, one of the convoy party was seen to fall to the ground. Five hours later, they were surprised to learn that Collins had been shot dead Tom Barry recounts this story in Guerrilla Days in Ireland.
It is only now, 75 years later, that a more accurate picture of one of the most tragic events of the civil war is emerging. An aspect that has not been highlighted is the two-fold purpose of Collins's visit to west Cork. The primary objective was to boost army morale for one last push to victory, but a secondary aim, just as important to Collins, was to stop the killing.
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It has been argued by anti-treatyists that Collins's tour, accompanied by an army convoy, was deliberately provocative and that the anti-treaty forces were obliged to respond, but Dev and Deasy, at least, must have known of the visit's peace-seeking aspect. Collins had also indicated that he was anxious to meet Barry and Hales. It would be expected that Robinson would have made arrangements to get this information to Dev, who was most anxious to meet Collins or Mulcahy at this time.
He met Mulcahy subsequently, in September, but no progress was made in their discussion. Unless this account is mistaken, it would be an act of extraordinary treachery for Deasy to have planned a meeting with Collins on the same evening that he was preparing to kill him in an ambush.
It is possible that researchers examining Ernie O'Malley's papers were mistaken.