Sinn Fein In The Michael Collins Tradition

A piece written by William Johnston on the anniversary of Michael Collins who died in 1922. William Johnstone is a Ballymoney unionist with an interest in history and politics.

On this day in 1922, Irish Revolutionary and Commander-in-Chief of the Free State army, Michael Collins was ambushed and shot dead by anti Treaty IRA forces at Beal na Blath in County Cork.

His murder and the circumstances around it almost romanticised the final day of Ireland's most enigmatic figures. He was 32 years old when he died and in his short life had achieved more than any contemporary Republican figure today.

Collins was a complex and contradictory figure who was idolised and resented, reviled and worshipped, hated and loved by the different strands of Republicans. When he signed the Treaty, he remarked that he had signed his death warrant and so he had. The savage civil war that followed saw families torn apart and lifelong friends become deadly enemies.

The current Sinn Fein leadership would claim to have followed the militaristic path of the anti Treaty forces. They rejected partition, refused to recognise the sovereignty of the Northern Ireland and Dail parliaments and demanded nothing less than an independent 32 county Socialist Republic. In reality, they took the same path as Collins. They accepted the Treaty, recognise the legitimacy of both parliaments and accept the Good Friday Agreement as part of Collins' "Stepping Stone Theory". The Republican movement has split but the Shinners have attempted to 're write history and maintain that they are the legitimate heirs to Republicanism. They obviously are not - they are reinforcing the old Treaty every day in the Dail.

Beal na Blath is supposed to be a place of natural beauty. It was there that Michael Collins gave up his life for Ireland, not in a blaze of glory at the hands of the old foe, but at the hands of his former comrades. The loss to the fledgling Free State of its most charismatic leader cannot be adequately measured but at least the spirit of Collins can take comfort in the fact that 93 years later his policy and theories are being enthusiastically embraced and pursued by Sinn Fein.


  1. He also set the precedent in republican perfidy when it comes to negotiating with Unionists. Talking peace with Craig whilst arming the Northern anti Treaty IRA behind his back.

  2. Cuey,

    Collins was duplicitous about the arming of the northern anti-treaty IRA not just with Craig, but also with his government colleagues and the British with whom he was exchanging weapons. Its alleged that some of the munitions of the northern units were finding their way into those exchanges and British standard issue weapons then sent back in return.

    Possibly giving some credence to Michael Ó Cuinneagáin's 'Arm of Time' allegation that Emmet Dalton plugged him with a 'short' from behind.

    Wouldn't be an interesting forensic project ... to exhume Collins's remains!

  3. Cue ballix.
    Michael Collins was the Bigger man than you'll ever be.
    Also speaking of Perfidy.
    How are those Unionists Craig left behind in Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan.You know Ulster doing?

    Also Carson himself the architect of the Sick Counties left the stage a broken man admitting that unionism to been nothing other than patsies and dupes for the English ruling classes.

    As for having talks with unionists you got fooking nothing.
    He organised a trade embargo on the sectarian head banging scum in the wee North due to the fact that the tramps were conducting an ethnic cleansing burning out of people who happened to go to a different church.
    The same bastard ideology of sectarian Orange tramps is sadly still with us.
    And the tramps would not stop in 1922.
    But Collins hurt the cunts in the pocket.
    And unionists squirmed to get out of it.
    so your unionist Heroes don't come out well over dealings with Collins.
    Surprised you dare bring it up.. Other than the fact the you are A ) Unaware of the boycott that Collins brought in. Or B) you are aware of it but think others are not.

  4. Good articles should be accompanied by comments to match. People do not have to be measured in their comments. They do need to avoid being abusive.

  5. HJ,

    I had read somewhere that the armoured car gunner "Jock" was under suspicion for having shot him, but never heard Dalton in the frame before. Surely it would have been fairly easy to differentiate between a wound caused by a low velocity pistol bullet and a high velocity 303? Iirc "Jock" went on to join the anti treaty IRA.

  6. Ozzy,

    I am well aware of the sectarian boycott which Collins initiated, but I'm not sure what point you think you are making. Other than letting off steam about your hatred of unionists.

  7. Amazing how people 93 years later know so well everything that was going on in the mind of Ireland's most successful revolutionary leader. The same man who every night recieved copies of all the telegrams exchanged between Lyold-George and Craig during the Treaty talks.

  8. I apolgise Anthony.
    I don't have a problem with the article.
    The basic idea would be sound as far as it goes.
    Lots of others have made the point.SF are a later day lesser version of Collins. Fine no problem.
    Other than Irish Nationalism sees revisionism by every quarter and unionism is left in a bubble
    with all it's myths and lies intact.
    If I was a historian I would tackle this thing myself. But I ain't.
    Also, the likes of the Irish Times and Oirish independent are falling over themselves over 2016 to bury and kill off Irish history.
    So much so, that we should somehow be ashamed of resisting Tyranny. Or we should have just written a letter to our Mp's in 1918 and all would have been well.
    Or didn't the tyrant suffer for it's acts of being a tyrant?
    It's sickening so it is.

  9. Cuey

    nowadays a glance at the entry wound by a forensic pathologist and s/he would be able to make a fairly definitive call ... high velocity, low velocity, ricochet, dum-dummed or whatever combination.

    The factual certainties, or so we're led to believe, is that the wound was behind the ear and there was no exit wound ... the explanations offered that Collins was to the fore and was looking back over his shoulder to his own troops when the fatal ricochet hit him ... are perfectly plausible too.

    I'm not so much of a conspiracy theorist but I could still be persuaded to spend a night digging in Glasnevin cemetry if you were up for it!