Michael Collins: An Irish hero?



Roberto Jordan

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If Collins was half as smart as he has been made out to be then he would not have signed that Treaty .

What would have been wrong with saying that it had to be brought home to be considered by DeValera and the other Leaders in Ireland .

Collins was much too young to be in such negotiations . Ok , DeValera shouldn't have sent him but he himself should have known not to sign that Treaty . Didn't two others of that delegation refuse to sign . Two very wise men .

The ones that signed lost the run of themselves and for whatever reason were daft to sign that treaty .

Perhaps the Treaty was as good as it was going to be but why sign it there and then and without consulting the Leaders in Ireland . Rash and Arrogant .
collins was only 8 years Dev's junior.

He was there because, like Dev, he was in the center faction of the movement with ties to & respect within the army. The idea was to keep rein on the "monarchists" while not letting the rabid militant wing who needed everything now destroy any concessions.

However Griffith and others played the negotiations badly failing to create a justifiable strategic sticking point around the north rather than the oath - political , public and international opinion would relatistically then have forced concession by one or both from the other side . But Griffith in particular screwed the ppoch , aided & abetted by Gavan Duffy early strop, leaving the negotiators with no where to budge. A more united , uniform irish negotiating party might have yielded better results.

Collins' subsequent acquiescence took his closest confidantes by surprise ( broy, dalton etc.). Lots of speculation over the years as to how and why this apparent volte-face came about. Some like Brian Murphy look at links, proven & speculative, to Cope & cp and see a long standing conspiratorial betrayal , others put it down to a strategic pragmatism and both extremes of that view do see undeniable evidence of progressive strain, fast aging and some putting on of the robes of office - these views, and any others, are muddied by the fact that the Collin-ite wing of teh pro treaty faction ,and later CnaG & FG , is entirely atypical and in the minority of the tradition - making it hard to set aside class, political, nationalist and sectarian disagreement & dislike of other strands of the same faction from an assessment of collins & his closest allies.
 

blinding

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" Old Men Not in a Hurry " is what have should have been sent to negotiate in those talks .

There should have been no reason to sign . They could have brought the treaty home .

Ireland had waited and has waited . They should not have been intimidated by threats .

Could the Brits have carried out the threats if the negotiators had said they had to go home to consult with the rest of the leadership .

It wouldn't exactly look good for the Brits if they had not allowed the delegation to go home and present the terms of the Treaty .

Some of the delegation lost the run of themselves and did something they should not have done . Irishmen losing the run of themselves is not an unknown phenomenon .
 

McTell

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If Collins was half as smart as he has been made out to be then he would not have signed that Treaty .

What would have been wrong with saying that it had to be brought home to be considered by DeValera and the other Leaders in Ireland .///

It was discussed by the cabinet, and the vote to approve was 4-3. Dev was in the 3.

There's an old propaganda theme that it was signed without Dublin checking it first, but that's not true.

Then when it was put to the Dail, Dev made the point that it was signed but not ratified; when the Dail ratified it he still wasn't happy. Some people are like that.
 

McTell

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..in fact the original instruction read as follows:

"In virtue of the authority vested in me by Dáil Eireann, I hereby appoint Arthur Griffith, T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs, Chairman; Michael Collins, T.D., Minister for Finance; Robert C. Barton, T.D., Minister for Economic Affairs; Edmund J. Duggan, T.D.; and George Gavan Duffy, T.D. as envoys plenipotentiaries from the elected Government of the Republic of Ireland to negotiate and conclude on behalf of Ireland, with the representatives of his Britannic Majesty George V. a treaty or treaties of settlement, association and accommodation between Ireland and the community of nations, known as the British Commonwealth. In witness hereof I hereunder subscribe my name as President.

Signed EAMON DE VALERA”"



All the disputing started here:

Dáil Éireann - 14/Dec/1921 DEBATE ON TREATY
 

owedtojoy

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Pretty much, without Collins there would have been no Treaty negotiations, and Ireland would have remained in the United Kingdom somewhat longer.

Dev lacked any military appreciation for what was going on. When he came back from the US, he got a bee in his bonnet about big engagements with the British using forces running to hundreds of men. The result was disasters like the Customs House operation.

But Collins main achievement may not have been military at all - it was he more than anyone else who straddled the military-political divide. As Minister of Finance, he arranged the Dail Loan that enabled the rudimentary Irish national institutions to function.

Collins issued certificates for every penny borrowed, and hid the money. He still had time to arrange for arms smuggling, Dev's escape from Lincoln jail, staying one step ahead of the authorities, and continuing the campaign of assassination. One man he had murdered was a magistrate who was on the trail of the Dail money via the Banks.

Collins was the indispensable man of the Irish Revolution, and without a doubt the most successful revolutionary in Irish history.
 

McTell

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//. A more united , uniform irish negotiating party might have yielded better results.///.

Well no.

It was clear by July 1921 that a republic for the 26 counties (never mind all 32) would not be agreed by Lloyd George.

The corollary (in all such negotiations) is that if Dev and Collins really minded about this, they would restart the (undeclared) war. They did not restart; meaning that they tacitly accepted no republic.

Our biiiig problem was that Dev and Collins didn't make this clear to the rest of us, but instead went around the country speaking to adoring crowds and giving the impression that we had won a war. Collins was even called "the man who won the war".

So when 6 months later the public got to know about the terms, it seemed that we had been let down. We had been misled by our leaders, end of.

So they made up a bit of a story about being threatened by Lloyd-G, who said (and only to Barton) that no signing meant an end of the truce. Because that's all we had, a truce in the war that we'd started.

Instead of telling us in July-December 1921 what was on the table - dominion status - Dev and Collins bent over backwards to pretend that the republic was on track. To admit that the whole "war" had been a complete waste of time, money and resources was impossible.
 
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In my opinion he most be the most over-rated and over-exaggerated figure in Irish history. During the so called War of Independence he led a small but effective counter-intelligence unit, assassins if you will. He adapted well to the urban guerillia war which was the only way possible to defeat superior military forces.

However he was wined and dined by the British elites, fell for their mind games and tricked by Lloyd George's rhetoric. While he clearly should have not been sent to negociate the treaty as he had neither the intellect nor the political experience, he still came back with the worst possible deal that could only lead to bitter civil war and partition. No treaty would have been better.

As soon as it became obvious that the majority of the people who fought against the tans and British army would not stand for it, the treaty should have been ripped up. Better to fight the imperialists than have brothers turn against eachother. Collins was utterly clueless in the time between the treaty being signed and the beggining of the civil war. He misjudged the revolutionary spirit of the IRA thinking they would accept such a blatant sell out because it was a "stepping stone". It's a pity he didn't have his brains blown out the minute he got back from England. The whole purpose of independence was so that the Irish people would have a better quality of life without British imperialism. The free state accepted British imperialism by continuing to pay British landlords rents for land we owned ourselves. The free state was no better economically for Irish people as it did nothing but replace British oppression with Irish oppression. Maybe they painted the post boxes green but they did nothing that would improve life for Irish people. In fact Ireland was worse off economically in 1930 than 1900.

And what did the treaty bring to Ireland? Nothing but poverty, the abandonment of our brothers in the north, civil war, executions, totalitarian government from people like Kevin O'Higgins, the continued dominance of the catholic church over our lives, oppression of women etc
Like a lot of things in Irish history, he was a symbol, one of the main figures heads of the physical fight for steps to freedom .

It says a lot when you listen to the story of Tom Barry who was in jail when news came that Collins was killed. He said that the bottom floor was full or Anti Treaty men on their knees saying the decade of the Rosary in Collins' honour

Someone mentioned Kevin O'Higgins. They have valid argument to make over that but, like McNeill, two hated figures of history. As for O'Higgins, I guest, Commissioner Gordon's closing speech at the end of the Dark Knight, might be slightly apt when talking about O'Higgins , especially if you are a Fine Gael or at least neutral

As for the so called whining and dinning. You display complete ignorance.

1. Arthur Griffith hamstring the team by readily admitting prior to the the talks getting heavy, that he would not let the Northern Question get in the way of a settlement

2. De Valera got no where with L George in July of 1921, who made it clear that the Republic was out. Even reading the terms of the invitation to talk in October made that clear. It is nonsense that Collins did not want to go to the talks, he was very much up for going in July of 1921 . Instructions given by De Valera were contradictory and mind boggling and his Document No 2 was not exactly too different to the final deal. If you are going to complain about Collins' lack of political experience or intellect, that is solely De Valera's fault for sending him in the first place

3. The reality is, while Collins was a "sell out", he was proven to be correct. Kevin O'Higgins has to take a lot of credit for this during the Empire Conferences in the 1920s' . Dev would later publicly admit that good work had been done by that Government . Secondly, De Valera himself admitted that he was not a dyed in the wool "Republican", whatever that really meant in an Irish Context, was rarely discussed.

4 " It's a pity he didn't have his brains blown out the minute he got back from England. "

Arthur Griffith led the talks! Two of De Valera's key men signed the Treaty (under pressure) and changed sides later. Civil War was guaranteed if Collins' head was blown off. All politicians were then easy and legitimate targets

5 "The whole purpose of independence was so that the Irish people would have a better quality of life without British imperialism"

Those issues were never seriously discussed and the fighting had to be done first. We saw that well after the Treaty, Ireland kept much of the same systems (which worked, so why change them)

6. "The free state accepted British imperialism by continuing to pay British landlords rents for land we owned ourselves."

Yes, and De Valera stopped paying them in the 1930s and took a brave stance in face of severe Economic War. People crib about this stance (ignoring the purpose) Ireland also had to pay the pensions of RIC men who did everything in their power to stop all attempts of Independence over the decades

7. "The free state was no better economically for Irish people as it did nothing but replace British oppression with Irish oppression"

I smell a Commie rant , thought they were wiped out years ago, time to get the boots boys back in. The Church was accepted by the people, and contrary to your grossly ignorant view, the Church already had the people by the balls long before 1916, look at how and why Parnell lost power. Few thought anything bad about Haughey sleeping around when his wife, daughter of the great Lemass, kept a brave face on it. Loads knew what he was at.

8. "Maybe they painted the post boxes green but they did nothing that would improve life for Irish people. In fact Ireland was worse off economically in 1930 than 1900" . Small country, had no rights to a navy to transport food and other exports, lacked many raw materials , country in bits after Civil War, Conservative thinking , people divided because of Civil War ................

9"And what did the treaty bring to Ireland? Nothing but poverty, the abandonment of our brothers in the north, civil war, executions, totalitarian government from people like Kevin O'Higgins, the continued dominance of the catholic church over our lives, oppression of women etc "

Bla bla bla bla , **** The North, they are all hunts up there. Northern Nationalists sat on their backsides and did sweet FA during the Tan War. Cork had a huge concentration of Unionists, RIC , British Army , Auxies and Black n Tans, they still fought! Donegal had similar terrain to conduct guerrilla war fare, but they sat on their asses in poverty feeling sorry for themselves. Beyond useless, much like the Donegal of today

Remarkable that with modern technology of motor cars and helicopters which in theory gave the British quicker and safer access to move to troubled spots and with a higher concentration of Unionists, the IRA in the 1960s onwards had little difficulty in operating in the North.

Sorry lads, the Nordies were 40-50 years too late.

"oppression of women"...boooo hoooo .
 
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The Dail voted for the treaty.

The people voted for the treaty in a referendum.

The end.
NO REFERENDUM WAS HELD ON THE TREATY , DIRECTLY

You are referring to the Free State Constitution, which indirectly voted on that. The Elections were held the same day, no debate was had about the Free State Constitution and the Collins - De Valera pact was broken in short notice
 

Lector

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As I wrote in my first post (buried in the section for newbies), I'm not Irish but I'm interested in the history of Ireland.

I have found this in the book "Churchill: A Study in Failure 1900-1939", by Robert Rhodes James:

"He [Churchill] had told the sub-comittee of the Committeeof Imperial Defence on 2 June [1922]:

... It was essential that we should give the Free State Government all the support that we could or that they would accept, as they are fighting for the establishment of a civilized government in Ireland...
We could not stand by with our military forces on the spot and see Collins and the Treaty policy for which he stood defeated... He[Churchill] considered that if things went badly with the Free State troops we should support them by opening fire upon the Four Courts with 6" howitzers in Phoenix Park without making any previous announcement of our intentions..."

And a note on the same page: "Collins was killed on 22 August in an ambush. His last message was: "Tell Wiston we could never have done without him". I don't know the source for the message [probably Michael Collins, by Rex Taylor, quoted somewhere else in the book], it may be apocriphal, but the meaning of that message is true enough.

Collins and the Free Staters where on the side of Wiston Churchill, the man who had unleashed the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries on Ireland and had supported a policy of "reprisals" (that is, terror). And Collins and the Free Staters were shelling their former comrades at the request of the British government, with guns provided by the British government.

And that to support a Treaty that provided for partitioning Ireland, keeping the Free State under the British Crown with a British Governor-General, making Irish representatives swear allegiance to the British King, burdening the Free State with "its" share of the British debt and letting the control of the Irish seas and as many harbours as the British government wanted in British hands.

I don't have relatives who fough on one or the other side in the Irish Civil War and I haven't been taugh one version or the other at school, but, from the distance, it seems betrayal.
 

blinding

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With the benefit of hindsight it is probable that not a lot more could have been achieved at the time .

But Lloyd George and company did want a speedy answers which is often a sign of shady dealings . The Irish delegation should have stalled for time . What was the hurry its not as if any side were going away . The Irish negotiators did not have the experience for these matters ( how could they )

In hindsight there should have been some sort of Upper house (Seanad / Other ) that kept some sort of tie between North and South .

Hindsight is very wise though .
 

NMunsterman

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1. With the benefit of hindsight it is probable that not a lot more could have been achieved at the time .

But Lloyd George and company did want a speedy answers which is often a sign of shady dealings . The Irish delegation should have stalled for time . What was the hurry its not as if any side were going away . The Irish negotiators did not have the experience for these matters ( how could they )

2. In hindsight there should have been some sort of Upper house (Seanad / Other ) that kept some sort of tie between North and South .

Hindsight is very wise though .
1. Correct - and De Valera knew this as is clear from his dealings with Lloyd George in the run-up to the negotiations which is why ho did not want to be the one to bring back the Treaty as he knew it would fall short of a 32 county Republic.

2. There was absolutely no chance of that then - the Unionists were totally opposed to any such move.
 

Lector

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Hindsight is very wise though .
Collins took the guns (and the orders) of the British government which had sent the Black and Tans to Ireland and he used those guns to shell the Irish patriots who had risked their lives fighting those Black and Tans.

Where is the hindsight there?

The provisions of the Treaty are a different issue. The Treaty was the price that the Free State ["the civilized government in Ireland" according to the man who organized the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries] accepted for the betrayal. And it was a really cheap price.
 

L'Chaim

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Collins took the guns (and the orders) of the British government which had sent the Black and Tans to Ireland and he used those guns to shell the Irish patriots who had risked their lives fighting those Black and Tans.

Where is the hindsight there?

The provisions of the Treaty are a different issue. The Treaty was the price that the Free State ["the civilized government in Ireland" according to the man who organized the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries] accepted for the betrayal. And it was a really cheap price.
Not really. 26 counties (out of 32) would suit most people, if their interest was a state of their own
 

Lector

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Not really. 26 counties (out of 32) would suit most people, if their interest was a state of their own
But it was not "a state of their own". The "Free State" was neither free nor a state. It was a dependency of the British Empire and the Treaty made that quite clear.

Lloyd George, Churchill and the rest of them did not want an independent Ireland, neither one with 32 counties nor one with 26. That's the reason they started a little dirty war, with their Tans and their Auxiliaries, and when attrition and national and international disgust with their methods forced them to change their strategy, they chose a group of Irish to enforce a Treaty that let the 26 southern counties under the loving tutelage of good old England. They used the Free State army (many of them former British soldiers) as a proxy army for that aim.

And had not other men took over in Ireland and a new constitution been drafted and voted, Ireland would have been dragged into another world war to prove the loyalty of her men to the English King. That's being "a state of their own" for you.
 


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