Profession: Revolutionary, soldier, and politician
Why Famous: Michael Collins, also known as ‘The Big Fellow’, emerged as a leading figure in the early 20th century Irish struggle for independence. He fought in the Easter Rising of 1916, and spent time in a British internment camp. He was Minister for Finance for the First Dáil, and later Director of Intelligence for the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Collins excelled at guerilla warfare during his time at the helm of the IRA’s intelligence operations. Most notably, Bloody Sunday in 1920 saw Collins organise an operation to assassinate the ‘Cairo Gang’ — a team of undercover British intelligence agents in Dublin.
Collins, along with Arthur Griffith, was sent to London by Éamon de Valera to negotiate a peace with Britain. He saw the resulting Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 as offering Ireland “the freedom to achieve freedom”. Collins would serve as the first Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State.
Yet, not everyone shared Collins evaluation of the Treaty. Indeed, on signing the Treaty, F. E. Smith remarked that he may have just signed his political death warrant; to which Collins responded, “I may have signed my actual death warrant”. Ultimately, Collins comment was prescient. Anti-Treaty sentiment set off the Irish Civil War in June 1922 — Collins would be ambushed and killed by anti-Treaty forces that August.
Historical Events in the Life of Michael Collins
- 1921-12-06 Anglo-Irish Treaty signed; Ireland receives dominion status; partition creates Northern Ireland
- 1922-01-07 The Anglo-Irish Treaty is ratified by Dail Eireann by a 64-57 vote
- 1941 Germany advances within 60 miles (96 K) of Moscow
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