Commander-in-Chief Michael Collins


National Army Commander-in-Chief Michael Collins of Portobello Barracks, Co. Dublin (Béal na mBlath)

Date of incident: 22 Aug. 1922

Date of death: same

Sources: CE, 24 Aug. 1922; List of FSS Cork Civil War Deaths; Hart (2006), xi, 21, 410-12; Michael Hopkinson, ‘Michael Collins’, Dictionary of Irish Biography, https://doi.org/10.3318/dib.001860.v1


Note: Full biographical treatment of Michael Collins will be found in the late Peter Hart’s book Mick: The Real Michael Collins (New York: Viking, 2006). Of the manner of the Collins’s death in the valley of Béal na mBlath, close to his birthplace near Clonakilty, Hart wrote: ‘By all accounts Collins was hit while standing, firing a rifle—making himself a little too prominent, in other words. This may have been owing to drink taken (he had visited several pubs and hotels during the day) or to inexperience in combat, or both. Despite the banality of his death, numerous writers have inevitably suggested a conspiracy lay behind it. Was it the British secret service? A republican double agent within the escort? Was it all arranged by de Valera, as was repeatedly charged by his enemies throughout his political career? Was it Collins’s own cabinet, who feared his radical intentions? All such charges are ridiculously unsubstantiated by any credible evidence, although that has done little to diminish their popularity. The [anti-Treaty] guerrillas were not trying to kill Collins in particular, and many of those involved were sorry to have done so. Except for the outcome it was just another ambush of opportunity in a war that would last another eight months. . . .’ (pp. 411-12). For a succinct but authoritative account of the life and career of Michael Collins, see also the article by the late Michael Hopkinson in the on-line Dictionary of Irish Biography. Hopkinson maintained that the death of Collins ‘was a prime factor in turning the civil war from a half-hearted affair to something resembling a national vendetta.’ See https://doi.org/10.3318/dib.001860.v

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