viernes, 16 de noviembre de 2012


My admiration for Michael Collins is pure and sincere. He is the man who doubled cross the English for a long time, the hero who put the British Empire to his knees. This is, of course, a labour of recognition. On the opposite side to Collins in the Irish Civil War, I came to recognise the stature of genius of this powerhouse of the Revolution. His splendid tribute to the Big Fellow captures all the forces of his dynamic personality against the turbulent background of the times.

One cold bright morning in the spring of the year of fate, 1916, a young man in a peaked cap and grey suit stood on the deck of a boat returning to Ireland. He was in his middle twenties, tall and splendid built, with a broad, good-tempered face, brown hair and grey eyes. One interested in the study of behaviour would have noted instantly the extreme mobility of feature which indicated unusual nervous energy; the slight wager and remarkable grace which underlined the curve of the mouth, the smile which gave place so suddenly to a frown, and that appearance of having just stepped out of a cold bath which distinguished him from his fellow travellers; the uninterested would have passed him as a ordinary Irishman returning from England on holiday.

The boat crept closer to the North wall. He saw the distant mountains heaped above the city, its many spires, and its dingy quays. Everywhere the bells were calling to Mass. It might have been the same Dublin of years before, but beneath it was a different Dublin and a different Ireland. Michael Collins chummed up with two of them. Some time he felt that, instead of chatting with them, he would be fighting them.

Michael Collins was coming back to take part in a revolution which the intellectuals felt was their last stick. It must have been thrill enough for the soul of the young man when the ship came to rest and the gangways went down that faraway spring morning. The ten years of exile were over.

There is always something adorable in the picture of a genius like Collins, but there was a gruesome period when forced him to behave like one. As a boy clerk Collins behaved as thought he owned the Post Office. All he demanded of his pals was that they should recognise him as a great leader of men on his own.

He lived his life as a soldier. Though still full of ideas and enthusiasm. His greatest achievement was to build an intelligence network in Ireland. For the very first time in the history of Ireland, the Irish had a better intelligence service than the British. Collins had penetrated the English postal, telephone and telegraph systems. Letters and dispatches could be moved to various contacts by certain inspectors. The railway workers were organised so effectively that the military frequently had to move troops and stores by road. Using his IRB- Irish Republican Brotherhood- connections he managed to smuggled weapons to Ireland.

Collins also managed to convince the Detective Ned Broy of the DMP- Dublin Metropolitan Police- to work for him. Broy gave to the Irish leader a inside knowledge of the British police system in Ireland. He learned from him how the system worked and how the police were trained. Particular attention was paid to the special G division of the DMP, whose job it was to keep watch on any national movement. As well as Broy, Collins got in contact with others detectives based in Dublin Castle.

The result of Collin’s work was the absolute collapse of the British rule in Ireland. In a very short period of time, the British asked for a truce and then the Irish leader got the best deal ever would have got.  This led to a fiercely civil war and, ultimately, to Collins death. He was responsible for the Anglo- Irish treaty which was signed on 6 December 1921, which envisaged a new Irish State, to be named the “Irish Free State, from the Irish Language term Saorstát Éireann. The treaty left the six-country region in the northeast to opt out of the Free Stated. This was Collin’s death warrant.

After his death, Lloyd George sent a generous message of sympathy to his family. Seldom in the history of any country has a single unlucky bullet so utterly altered the course of events. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that Ireland suffers his consequences to this day. Had Michael lived, it is highly probable that he would have brought the civil war to a speedy conclusion and succeeded in healing the breach with the North, leading to the removal of partition which few British politicians, from Lloyd George and Churchill downwards, regarded as anything other than a purely temporary measure in 1922. Had Michael lived, the economic history would have been very different. His organisational and administrative skills, especially in the realm of finance, would surely have steered Ireland through the critical years of the 1920 and 1930s.

Today, three quarters of a century after Michael’s untimely death, Ireland is a very different place. It seems fitting that Michael lies here among the warrior dead of Ireland. In Glasnevin cemetery Michael is at rest in the plot reserved for the dead of Oglaigh na hEireann, the Irish armed forces, from the civil war right down to soldiers killed on active service with the UN peace- keeping forces in many parts of the world.

Sergio Calle Llorens

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