Thursday, 23 August 2012

Michael Collins - things would have been no different had he lived any longer

The cult of the personality in history:

Had Archduke Franz Ferdinand not been assassinated, there might not have been a First World War.

Had Trotsky not been ousted by Uncle Joe, Soviet Russia would not have become the corrupt, Stalinist state it became.

Had Hitler not possessed a hypnotic stare that could seduce the masses - or been saved by Irishman Michael Keogh -  Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and the horrors of World War Two would not have occured.

Or closer to home:  if Michael Collins had not stopped a bullet from a fellow countryman adapting the same tactics he had used against "the British", Ireland would have been a paradise on Earth instead of the bankrupt little basket case it is today.  

All nonsense of course.

Whether it was the system of alliances built up prior to WW1 and the various countries' jealousy of others overseas possessions ;  a bureaucratic caste which formed in the Soviet Union after the revolution and cemented its own power ;  lots of unemployed soldiers, anti-Semites, and a fearful and ruined middle class in Weimar Germany ;  or a backward gombeen ruling class, using Catholicism and neo-Gaelicism as tools for its autonomy to take the reins of 1922 Ireland  -  the results would have, more than likely,  been the same in each case. 

Funny then, that Collins - if you read the papers, the blogs, or turn on the radio or TV - seems to be up there with Padre Pio (not to be confused with Paddy Pee) in the saintly stakes at the moment.  

All Collins did was provide a template and a pretext for generations of Lemming-like Shinners and Rah-heads.  Each one doomed to make the same mistakes as the ones that went before.  

Collins -  like de Valera, Pearse and the rest of them  -  was a narrow cultural nationalist. Nothing more. 

His death in Cork just made him the eternal poster boy for a certain strand of Irish nationalist what-might-have-been.  

That's all.

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John said...

I think Ireland would have been in WW2 if Collins had lived. On the economic side he had a more enlightened view on industry than Dev's. On the negative side, he was a conservative Catholic and it would be hard to see if he would have been any different than Dev in that regard. The big question would have been how would he have responded to the rise of Fascism in the 1930's???. Would he have become a dictator???

Anonymous said...

To lump Collins in with FF and Sinners is well wide of the mark.

Collins is the archetypal hate figure among republicans, the one who betrayed the movement and signed the treaty. I mean they fought a civil war after all.

Vincent Brown is hinting today in the Irish Times at some of the skeletons in Collins cupboard, noting that Michael D Higgins for instance is in no doubt the Collins was no democrat.

The very fact that Kenny is the First Taoiseach to attend Béal na Blá shows that even FG have had problems with Collins.

Béal na Blá was always a blueshirt outing and reflected the fact the Collins was a blueshirt first and foremost.

If he had lived would things have been different, well perhaps. There would certainly have been savage retribution for the attempt on his life. Would Dev have survived? Maybe not.

If Collins had been Taoiseach at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, would he have formally supported Franco? Perhaps. If he were Taoiseach when France fell in WWII, then a repeat of the tactics that worked for Hitler in Norway would have been an option in Ireland. You never know.


The Gombeen Man said...

@ Interesting questions, folks. Not all media commentary has been quite so critical, however. He is Ireland's great "lost leader" for many.

And even his civil-war-split opponents see him as a great exponent of guerilla warfare, the godfather of physical-force republicanism.

But it would have been interesting to see his reaction to the events of the 1930s and 40s.

anna said...

In 2001, someone I’ll call Easter Laddy got transferred from a Govt deprt I know well to Dept of Finance. Reason? He is an Irish history buff in his 50’s and heard there will be Big Easter Rising Commemorations in 2016- organised by Dept Finance ( must be Dept Finance doing it- they have the purse strings- so will be spending out last 2 billion on it) and he wanted to be there before the action started. My heart Sank. 1916 marked notable events in Irish history. –others being Famine& emigration , mass emigrations of mid- late 20th/21st C, child abuse scandals , penal laws, Act of Union of 1803, etc
You get my drift, i.e., one in a long line of great Irish tragedies. / Misadventures- not All caused by reckless Irish revolutionaries/ politicians, but also occurring by British powers. Point is: remember these solemnly and swear they won’t happen again: learn: move on: and look to brighter more grown up future. Yes 1916 marked the start of the State and a Very bad start it was , BUT the only event marking the start of the state which should be Commemorated was the date Government of Ireland Act 1922 became law- an internationally agreed law. When you take control of your country by bloody means, and pompously declare yourselves the only legitimate leaders, what kind of internal recognition do you have- or deserve to have?
ROI started as a 26 county state- as those are ALL the counties that Wanted to be in ROI at that time- or even Since ( seems even NI Catholics want to stay part of the UK now- as well as NI unionists). So HOW was MC a traitor – for not managing to bomb and kill enough to make ROI a 32 county state? One thing became Clear to me recently- WHY is there no Independence Day (like every Mature grown up former colony?). BECAUSE I read recently, commemorating the 1922 act (not the 1916 bloodbath) would have ‘annoyed’ Flanna Failers!!! DEEP SIGH. ....
If any one from Dept Finance is reading this (a bit remote, but you never know....). Forget 1916 commemorations- NI got to the Good Friday agreement- without commemorating the start of the troubles Every Year. Remember 1916 only as the sorrowful, bloody immature past. Celebrate what is good, lawful, internationally recognised and grown-up about this country. Set up a commission immediately to establish an Independence day- with joyful neutral celebrations every year- after all Norway’s Independence Day every year is one of their biggest public holidays –Why DO we have to commemorate the bloody past?

anna said...

sorry date that person got his transfer should read 2011- However this still means Dept Finance will be planning the joyous Easter Rising Centenary for Five yrs by the time it rolls around- it's heartening to see Government here Does put some putting into Some things....of Course I'm joking- I only hope the IMF pulls the plug on any expensive commemorations long before they happen.

Dakota said...

In one sense the death of Michael Collins only serves to show the complete and utter futility of Irish misplaced aggression. A clear articulation of that irish pastime of skulking in the long grass for the easy target. A physical projection of nothing more than spitting in the wind.

The Irish were never known for their deep thinking on matters outside misguided melencolic STUPIPITY.

Anonymous said...


A 1922 commemoration would be unlikely since the state that came into existence then (Saorstát Éireann) went out of existence in 1937.

What is really interesting about forthcoming 1916 commemorations is whether the southern political parties and media will update their thinking beforehand. The reaction to Martin McGuinness presidential bid showed that they clearly did not get the memo on the Good Friday Agreement.

It is a sensitive issue, so people don't crow it from the rooftops, but the fact that McGuinness is now Deputy 1st Minister is a tacit acceptance by the British Govt and all the political parties (apart from the TUV) that he was engaged in a legitimate struggle.

Will the southern government now accept this and reflect it in the commemorations, that 1916 began a process that continued until 1998?

If they don't then what they are suggesting is that two permanent members of the UN security council (Britain and the US) established a process whereby a group who were nothing more than criminals were inserted into positions of government. That is a position that is simply not tenable.


The Gombeen Man said...

"A 1922 commemoration would be unlikely since the state that came into existence then (Saorstát Éireann) went out of existence in 1937."

A pedantic point. It did not "go out of existence" (more is the pity) as much as it was refined and made more yet more oppressive. 1922 it the correct time to "celebrate" the foundation of the current state.

McGuinness is accepted because he took the democratic route, after years of murder (as loyalists did the same). The Officials did so long before he and the Provos.

The problem for those who worship 1916 is that the like of the RIRA, CIRA and the rest, can use it as a mandate for their "legitimacy".

The endless cycle of blood sacrifice republicanism. With innocent others paying the lion's share.

Living in Ireland, I certainly do not want it to start off all over again.

anna said...

I totally agree with GM's point of 26th Aug: WHY do Irish people believe that mindless 'blood sacrifice' to bring about a united Ireland Must be Unquestionably Accepted as a Great and Noble Cause? Not that those who believe this, want the 'blood scrifice ' to be of their own family and friends- so long as its on the UK mainland or usually in NI that's just fine- and it wasn't just NI unionists who needed to be murdered to see the error of their ways either- as John Hume said the IRA murdered MORE NI catholics than Security forces or NI loyalists put together. You do not force people into a united Ireland without consent- yes it Might come about some day- BUT not without consent. And don't forget, surveys show NI catholics are Far more likely now to want to stay in UK than they were in 1969. ROI has a bigger violent underclass than NI- as Brits put far more money in social support for poor and vulnerable than down here.NI has its lowest violent crime figures in decades- while it Escalates here. And this violent underclass, brought up in violence and needing to unleash it, are just the Vulnerable Uneducated class who carrry on believing that the Brits- who departred 100yrs ago -are the source of all their is the class where republican myths live on. For a Real Grown up future for this island? Start a Grown up Independence day. I also favour Dr John Robb's( new Ireland Forum ) view that an indepdendent Federal Ireland would be a Real possibility.( 1 central government + 2 regional ones for NI and ROI)

Anonymous said...