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Michael collins

(justified) Chris O'Kane

There are many conditions under which Ireland was divided into

two nations. Two main men were the main leaders of this split, Emon

de Valera and Michael Collins. Sinn Fein also played a large role. Their

differing visions for an Ireland free of British rule was the root

motivation for the split.

Born in New York City in 1882, Emon de Valera was described as

a 'tall, spectacled, schoolmasterly, of Jewish cast' as Tim Healy said.

Edward Norman, the author of A History of Modern Ireland, added that

de Valera was an 'austere theoretician' (Norman, 265). Michael Collins

was born in 1890 at Clonakilty, Co. Cork. Edward Norman said his

personality was to be to the contrary of de Valera's; he said Collins was

not an intellectual and was a man of violent impulses. He took that

statement further when he said the Collins would go as far to tumble his

colleagues on the floor and bite their ears in playful attention. Now that

de Valera's and Collins' personalities have been established, we can now

analyze the events and actual conditions under which Ireland was under

that led ultimately to her freedom.

All across Ireland people were repulsed by the executions which

they considered to be needlessly brutal. What they lacked was new

leadership to focus the restless energy of the Irish into effective political

action, but it was not long in coming. At Christmas 1916 all rebel

prisoners who had been interned without trial, those that the British had

considered insignificant, were released as a goodwill gesture to the

United States which had been very angry by British conduct regarding

the rebels. This proved to be a costly mistake. Among those released

was a cadre of IRB men who had spent their time in prison educating

and organizing themselves into what came out to be a formidable

political and military force. The leader of these efforts in prison was

Michael Collins, who was still a little known Volunteer at the time.

Despite martial law, Collins contacted the members of his secret

organization throughout Ireland and set in motion a clever plan to obtain

political power. Using Sinn Fein as cover, the IRB began to run its

members as candidates for parliament. Their successes throughout 1917

against Redmond's Irish Parliamentary Party candidates shifted power to

Sinn Fein and caused a turmoil of public support for the republican

movement throughout Catholic Ireland. After Collins release in June,

1917,Eamon de Valera, the oldest of the surviving 1916 rebels, joined

Collins. De Valera was lucky for he had been spared by the British

because of his American citizenship. De Valera was a hero to the Irish

and he was elected as MP in July. In October he was elected president

of both Sinn Fein and the Irish Volunteers. Sinn Fein became popular

amongst the people.

In September the death of Thomas Ashe, a released 1916 rebel and

close associate of Collins who had again been arrested for sedition, had

also contributed to Sinn Fein's popularity was. Ashe went on a hunger

strike while in British prison and had died from injuries he received when

prison authorities tried to force feed him. Collins turned Ashe's funeral

into an enormous production that glorified the republicans and

demonized the British. This in turn established a tradition of using

funerals as propaganda ceremonies.

In 1918, two British 'fools', as put by Tim Pat Coogan, handed

Sinn Fein more political capital than the 'propaganda bonanza' of Ashe's

funeral. As World War I was continuing, Britain needed more troops to

send off to fight in Europe. Unable to recruit or draft enough men from

the rest of the Empire, the British announced in April that she would

extend conscription (drafting Irish people to fight) to Ireland. The Irish

were outraged. Huge protests erupted. Trade unions called for a general

strike, all political parties, except for the Protestant Unionists, spoke

against the draft, and the Irish Parliamentary Party MP's withdrew from

the House of Commons. The British dropped the Irish draft, but did so

too late to satisfy the republican and nationalist feelings. Having

miscalculated on the draft, the British further alienated republican

sentiment when it appointed a military 'viceroy' to govern Ireland under

martial law, claiming the it was legit with nebulous evidence that Sinn

Fein was conspiring with Germany. Sinn Fein was outlawed and

hundreds of Irish nationalists, including de Valera, were arrested. This

was more than the Irish could handle.

In an unhappy coincidence for the British, the first General

Election to be held in 8 years was scheduled for December, 1918. Sinn

Fein ran a full slate of candidates for the 105 open seats. Through a

combination of successful campaigning, hard work, chicanery, voter

fraud, and genuine heartfelt support, Sinn Fein won an outstanding 73

seats in Parliament. Among the newly elected MP's were men who were

held in prison and others who were on the run as wanted men. Rather

than go to Parliament, however, the 27 MP's who were not in jail

gathered in Dublin on January 21, 1919, where they constituted

themselves as the Dail Eireann, the Assembly of Ireland, and then

declared the formation of an independent Irish Republic. On that very

day, the first two murders of Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) members

by Volunteers took place in County Tipperary. From then on for the next

few years ruthless violence would be brought along with the creation of

the Republic.

At the second session of the Dail, Collins was elected Minister of

Finance and de Valera, only recently freed from jail in a daring escape

masterminded by Collins, was elected President. While Collins remained

in Ireland to oversee the management of the infant Republic, de Valera

traveled to America to raise desperately needed funds and to try to

influence the United States to formally recognize the Republic. In

September during de Valera's absence the British outlawed the Dail and

began to crack down on Sinn Fein in a futile but bloody attempt to

regain control over Ireland. Collins responded to this by reconfiguring

the Volunteers into the Irish Republican Army, the IRA. Not clearly

under control of the Dail, but definitely following the orders of Collins,

the IRA carried out a program of terror and assassination directed at the

RIC. The RIC struck back with great ferocity but the IRA kept

intimidating the RIC so the British began to lose control of the situation.

Determined to prevail, the British responded by reinforcing the rapidly

thinning RIC ranks with British troops whose hastily supplied and

mismatched uniforms gave them the unforgettable name of the Black and

Tans. To supplement these new RIC members, Britain also began

recruiting decommissioned British war veterans to form a special

Auxiliary Force. Eventually the British forces assembled against the

republicans whom had 50,000. Together these proved lethal opponents

to the IRA in what rapidly degenerated into a bloody guerrilla war in

which hundreds died on each side from bombings, shootings, burnings,

and torture. Relations between the British and the nationalist Irish were

permanently scared by a nasty cycle of attacks in which intentional

brutal massacres of combatants were punctuated by episodes of inhuman

treatment of non-combatants as well. The level of violence inflicted

during 1920 was so extreme with neither side able to prevail that both

the British and the Irish began to recognize they were trapped in a

bloody stalemate. Thus, Ireland was granted her initial wish of existing

free of British rule. Consequently, the nation was divided into two


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