17 Mar Michael Collins and the Eight Hundred Year Occupation: Did A Non-State Soldier Defeat a Global Empire on Bloody Sunday on 21 November 1920? by Bill Buppert
In this celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, we should reflect on the liberation of Ireland at the beginning of the twentieth century as a demonstration project of how it is done. Michael Collins would play a larger than life role in bringing this divorce in the court of world opinion and rubbing the English nose in it. He would be an unknown contemporary of other giants like T.E. Lawrence and Paul Emil von Leetow-Vorbeck at the turn of the collectivist century.He would stare down one of the other giants, the statist and war-loving Winston Churchill and win. -BB
“Realists appealed to Collins. There would be no more glorious protests in arms, he decided. He built a cadre of realists around him, first in the IRB, then at Volunteer headquarters, where he took over Pearse’s old post as Director of Organization before becoming Director of Intelligence, finally in Dáil Eireann, as the underground government’s very effective Minister for Finance. Collins was a doer. Essentially a well-informed opportunist with very few scruples, his entire ideology could be stated in five words: ‘The Irish should govern themselves.’”
– Sean Cronin, “Irish Nationalism: A History of its Roots and Ideology”
“The characteristics which mark Collins out as a remarkably successful Director of Intelligence during the War of Independence include his evident appreciation of the importance of the collection and assessment of information as primary elements of intelligence operations which should precede action; his partial penetration of his adversary’s own intelligence system; the efficiency and ruthlessness with which action based on good intelligence was taken; and his success in preserving the security and efficiency of his own organization both in Dublin and in Britain despite the pressures it operated under because of the constant threat of raids, arrests and the capture of documents.”
– Eunan O’Halpin, “Collins and Intelligence: 1919-1923 From Brotherhood to Bureaucracy” (in the anthology Michael Collins and the Making of the Irish State)
Michael Collins was a tough young Irish operative during the seminal years of Eire’s final divorce from the United Kingdom at the beginning of the twentieth century. This essay will attempt to discover if Collins was the culminating point that brought Number Ten Downing Street to the negotiation table, stared down Winston Churchill and came home with the solution for Irish independence from the British Crown.
Ireland was invaded and occupied the British crown in 1169 and suffered a brutal occupation punctuated by indigenous risings, rebellions and pockets of resistance. Sinn Féin emerged in 1905 to formalize a political vehicle to liberate the Irish from the British occupation. These sophisticated rebel organizations started to emerge in the in the 19th and 20th century, culminating in the 1916 Easter Rising which led to the mismatch and overreach that would be the undoing of English rule over the Irish.
Michael Collins would emerge as the premier guerrilla leader during the crucial struggle between 1916 and 1922. He embodied the early germination of the non-state soldier as a twentieth century variation on the age-old warrior in history and fought in Ireland under a variety of covers and positions within the political hierarchy of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). Collins would fight for the next four years culminating on Bloody Sunday on 21 November 1920.
The Rising in 1916
During the Easter week of 24-30 April 1916, the IRB fielded the Irish Volunteers and smaller elements of Irish nationalists rose in armed rebellion in Dublin against the British crown. The violence was a tremendous shock to the authorities in London and they reacted with enormous disproportionate use of military and constabulary forces to quell the rebellion. “The British Army reported casualties of 116 dead, 368 wounded and nine missing. Sixteen policemen died, and 29 were wounded. Rebel and civilian casualties were 318 dead and 2,217 wounded. The Volunteers and ICA recorded 64 killed in action, but otherwise Irish casualties were not divided into rebels and civilians.”  Executions and reprisals followed and Collins started to rise in the ranks to prominence in the aftermath of the Fort Sumter of the twentieth century Irish revolution against the Crown and eventually a bloody civil war that would pit Irishman against Irishman.