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About Michael Collins
Micheál Ó Coileáin
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
After leaving school aged 15, Collins took the British Civil Service examination in Cork in February 1906, and was then employed by the Royal Mail from July 1906. In 1910, he moved to London where he became a messenger at a London firm of stock brokers, Horne and Company. While in London he lived with his elder sister, and studied at King's College London. He joined the London GAA and, through this, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret, oath-bound society dedicated to achieving Irish independence. Sam Maguire, a Church of Ireland republican from Dunmanway, County Cork, introduced the 19-year-old Collins into the IRB.In 1915, he moved to the Guaranty Trust Company of New York where he remained until his return to Ireland the following year.
Michael was introduced to the vivacious Kiernan sisters by his cousin Gearóid O'Sullivan, who was already dating Maud Kiernan. Collins initially fell for the captivating Helen Kiernan, but she was already engaged to someone else. He then turned his interests to Kitty Kiernan , who had already captured the interest of Collins' friend Harry Boland. It was Collins to whom Kitty became engaged, with plans to marry Collins in a November 1922 double ceremony to include the nuptials of Maud and Gearoid. Collins' assassination four months earlier resulted in a single wedding taking place.
The last known photograph of Collins alive was taken as he made his way through Bandon, County Cork in the back of an army vehicle. He is pictured outside Lee's Hotel (now Munster Arms) on 21 August 1922. On the road to Bandon, at the village of Béal na mBláth (Irish, "the Mouth of Flowers"), Collins's column stopped to ask directions. However, the man whom they asked, Dinny Long, was also a member of the local Anti-Treaty IRA.
On 22 August 1922 an ambush was prepared for the convoy when it made its return journey back to Cork city. They knew Collins would return by the same route, as the two other roads from Bandon to Cork had been rendered impassable by Republicans. The ambush party, commanded by Liam Deasy, had mostly dispersed to a nearby pub by 8:00 p.m., when Collins and his men returned to Béal na mBlath but the remaining five ambushers on the scene opened fire on the Collins convoy. The ambushers had laid a mine at the scene, which could have killed many more people in Collins's party, but they had disconnected it by the time the firing broke out
Collins was killed in the subsequent gun battle, which lasted about 20 minutes, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. He was the only fatality. He had ordered his convoy to stop and return fire, instead of choosing the safer option of driving on in his touring car or transferring to the safety of the accompanying armoured car, as his companion, Emmet Dalton, had wished. He was killed while exchanging rifle fire with the ambushers. Under the cover of the armoured car, Collins's body was loaded into the touring car and driven back to Cork. However the group became lost in the back roads of the area eventually taking the route of Beal Na mBlath - Crookstown - Cloughduv - Aherla - Killumney - Ballincollig - Victoria Cross to Cork City. On the way they sought last rites for Michael seeking out Canon Tracey of Crookstown having received directions at Belmont Mills, but taking the wrong turn they ended up in Cloughduv at the parish house. Here the priest Fr. Timothy Murphy was brought to the car and according to his own report upon seeing how distraught the men were he turned to fetch his oils. However some of the men thought he was refusing to administer last rites to Michael and one soldier, (Sean O'Connell) actually discharged a shot at Fr. Murphy but the gun was struck by Emmet Dalton and the shot missed. Eventually Michael received last rites at the Sacred Heart Mission Church at Victoria Cross. At the time of his death, he was engaged to Kitty Kiernan
There is no consensus as to who fired the fatal shot. The most recent authoritative account suggests that the shot was fired by Denis ("Sonny") O'Neill, an Anti-Treaty IRA fighter and a former British Army marksman who died in 1950. This is supported by eyewitness accounts of the participants in the ambush. O'Neill was using dum-dum ammunition, which disintegrates on impact and which left a gaping wound in Collins's skull. He dumped the remaining bullets afterwards for fear of reprisals by Free State troops.
Collins's men brought his body back to Cork where it was then shipped to Dublin because it was feared the body might be stolen in an ambush if it were transported by road His body lay in state for three days in Dublin City Hall where tens of thousands of mourners filed past his coffin to pay their respects. His funeral mass took place at Dublin's Pro Cathedral where a number of foreign and Irish dignitaries were in attendance. Some 500,000 people attended his funeral, almost one fifth of the country's population. Collins's grave.
Collins's shooting has provoked many conspiracy theories in Ireland, and even the identity and motives of the assassin are subject to debate. Some Pro-Treaty accounts claim that de Valera ordered an assassination. Others allege that Collins was killed by one of his own soldiers, Jock McPeak, who defected to the Republican side with an armoured car three months after the ambush. However, historian Meda Ryan, who researched the incident exhaustively, concluded that there was no real basis for such theories. "Michael Collins was shot by a Republican, who said [on the night of the ambush], 'I dropped one man'" Liam Deasy, who was in command of the ambush party, said, "We all knew it was Sonny O'Neill's bullet."
Eamon de Valera is reported to have stated in 1966:
"I can't see my way to becoming Patron of the Michael Collins Foundation. It is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time history will record the greatness of Collins and it will be recorded at my expense"
However, there is some doubt that de Valera ever made this controversial statement
Date of birth 12 October 1890 is taken from the information on Michaels gravestone in Glasnevin, dates differs 4 days with the date reported in other sources