Michael Collins

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For the Apollo XI astronaut, see Michael Collins (Astronaut)

Michael Collins (1890-August 22, 1922) was an Irish nationalist leader, and the main commander of the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and of the Irish Free State Army during the Irish Civil War (1921-1923). He was one of the great masters of guerilla warfare.
He was a founder of modern Ireland and a hero to more conservative elements.

Collins was born into a middle-class family in County Cork, in the south-west of Ireland; on leaving school he moved to London where he passed the examinations for the British civil service and in 1906 joined the Post Office. While in London he joined the local branch of the Gaelic Athletic Association, a sporting organisation closely associated with Irish republican politics, and through his GAA links was inducted into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a republican secret society. He returned to Dublin in time to participate in the calamitous Easter Rising of 1916; his experience of the failure of that romantic gesture was to affect his leadership of the IRA during the War of Independence, characterised by ruthlessness and professionalism.

Collins was not the nominal head of the IRA: its Chief of Staff was Richard Mulcahy and the Minister of Defence in the underground Dail Eireann (republican Irish Parliament) was Cathal Brugha. However, Collins was able to dominate the movement through his forceful personality, his leadership of the IRB and the massive intelligence network which was at his command.

In 1921, Collins negotiated and signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty with Britain that saw the creation of the independent Irish Free State, but without the six counties of Ulster that became Northern Ireland. Eamon de Valera rejected the results of democratic elections, broke with Collins, and launched the Irish Civil War against the new nation. Collins led the newly constituted Irish Army to a decisive victory against the rebels. He column was ambushed on 22 August, and he was shot dead in the crossfire.

See also

Further reading

  • Coogan, Tim Pat. "Michael Collins; The Man Who Made Ireland."
  • Dwyer, T. Ryle. "The Squad and the Intelligence Operations of Michael Collins,"