Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

To say Michael Collins was a peacemaker is humbug: He was a cold-blooded killer

Michael Collins, stamp-collector; Michael Collins, composer of string quartets; Michael Collins, basket-weaver; Michael Collins, pacifist; Michael Collins, lace-maker; Michael Collins, teetotal Buddhist monk; Michael Collins, flower-arranger.

At this time of year we're used to an entire gallery of ludicrously fictional Michael Collins being mellifluously wafted out of the Bael na mBlath clay by some Irish voice or other, so I suppose there's no reason why some tame Englishman like Lord David Puttnam shouldn't have been invited to add to the heap of poppycock about the most fictionalised man in Irish history.

And naturally, he didn't disappoint, labelling Michael Collins "an icon for peace and reconciliation" and an example of " how people ought to behave in the service of their country".

Well, as it happens, at the time of his death, this "icon of peace and reconciliation" had already started a war against the Northern state, which, in the Treaty of the previous year, he had already agreed should come into existence.

And with what did he equip the IRA units he unleashed on the North?

Why, the very guns supplied by the British for the self-defence of the new Free State Army, which he had given his word of honour would not be allowed to be used against the Northern state. To " refresh" your memories - which probably have been misinformed by a criminally delinquent educational system, and by a general social consensus which prefers the annual farrago of falsehoods of the flowery meadow to the truth of the school of hard fact - let me remind you of the truth about Michael Collins.

It was he who, with his murders of the men of the G Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, introduced the concept of a campaign of assassination in support of a political cause: in doing so, he injected a toxin into Irish life that has never left it.

Bad as this was in southern Ireland, it had perfectly catastrophic consequences in the North.

After he organised the murder of DI Swanzy in Lisburn, massive rioting followed there and in Belfast, in which 22 people were killed, and almost all Catholic businesses in Lisburn destroyed.

The murderous chaos moved the Northern authorities to enrol a special constabulary, the Ulster Special Constabulary (USC), to restore order.

Contrary to republican myth ever since, this was not intended to be all-Protestant.

Some Catholics joined, but after one of their number, Special Constable McCullough was shot by the IRA, most left.

Collins's attitude to Northern unionists was perhaps best exemplified by events in February 1922, when he authorised the kidnap of 100 Northern Protestants by cross-border IRA gangs.

The raiders actually managed to abduct just 42 men from their homes, and these men were kept as hostages in IRA hide-outs in the Free State, incredibly, with the assent of Michael Collins, the leader of the Provisional Government.

Collins then authorised an intensified assault on the USC.

A train containing mostly unarmed special constables en route for Enniskillen was ambushed at Clones and four constables killed, with a dozen others captured.

The consequences were entirely predictable: riots in Belfast in which over 30 people, most of them Catholic, were killed.

That, however, did not slake Collins's appetite for blood, for he then ordered a further systematic assault on USC members.

Between March 10 and June 1922, and on Collins's general orders, 38 Northern police officers were killed.

Some of them - such Samuel Laird and George Chittick of Trillick, Co Tyrone - were assassinated in their homes. Two others, Sergeant Patrick Joseph Early, a Catholic from Roscommon, and his colleague, Special Constable James Harper, were calculatedly lured to their deaths in south Armagh by IRA men wearing uniforms taken from the Clones captives.

In Garrison, Co Fermanagh, Special Constable James Plumb was killed in an ambush and his body seized.

What followed had nothing to do with Collins's orders, but it is a salutary reminder of the consequences of a generalised authorisation to commit murder. Kiltyclogher IRA men lined up to beat the body into an unrecognisable pulp with rifle butts.

The return of Constable Plumb's shattered cadaver to his home off the Albertbridge Road in Belfast must have done wonders for community relations.

Now admittedly, Collins was now no longer in control of the Northern IRA, but he had equipped and formally unleashed it, with catastrophic consequences for all concerned. Meanwhile, elsewhere, the cult of murder, which Collins had done so much to promote, was now reaching its diseased apogee.

In Galway, two middle-aged RIC sergeants, Tobias Gibbons, from Mayo, and John Gilmartin, from Leitrim, who were gravely ill patients in St Brigid's Hospital, were shot dead in their sick-beds by the IRA.

The campaign against the Northern Ireland security forces was ended, not by Collins's orders, but effectively by the Civil War, which divided the Northern IRA.

So to call Collins an "icon for peace and reconciliation" is not just idiotic, but is to indulge in the depraved rhetoric of Irish republicanism.

This invariably sees "who" as "whom": perpetrators are victims, and unrepentant, jovial killers like Collins are peacemakers: thus the annual Bael na mBlath blather.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz