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Dublin Opinion >>
Michael Collins - thinking the unthinkable
Who shot Michael Collins? There is one answer that sweeps away all the contradictions and anomalies at a single stroke.
In Catholic Ireland in 1922, suicide was the ultimate shame and disgrace, as well as being seen as almost an unpardonable sin, leaving surviving relatives and admirers in anguish at the possible fate of the suicide's soul.
DID MICHAEL COLLINS COMMIT SUICIDE BY HIS OWN HAND WITH HIS OWN GUN AT BEAL na mBLATH?
Background music if desired:
He saw the way the wind was blowing in Ireland.
He'd been through the Treaty Debate in January 1922 and he'd heard Cathal Brugha spouting the hateful filth that Dev wouldn't say to his face but got others to say. He knew there would be plenty more where that came from.
He'd been through the dirty election campaign.
He'd been through the futile Battle of Beleek - the first and last time the army of the southern state was sent accross the border to protect northern Catholics.
Michael saw what life was going to be like in twentieth century Ireland, north and south.
And he was conscious that he, more than anyone, had created this monster. He couldn't live with it.
He foresaw the *civil war politics* - endless, futile re-runs of the Treaty Debate in the southern parliament for several generations - with Fianna Fail in Cathal Brugha mode, Fine Gael in Arthur Griffith mode, and the few Labour members shouting "aw turn it off, will ye!"
And from that stagnation in parliament would flow economic stagnation and mass emigration.
And the Catholic Church as the real government of southern Ireland.
And isolation and aparteid for northern Catholics.
Michael was accustomed to winning his battles.
He did not relish the prospect of being a helpless bystander for the rest of his life, unable to do much to even modidy slightly the sad farce that was to ensue from half-independence in southern Ireland.
Michael would have been thoroughly miserable if he had lived.
His reckless behaviour at Beal na mBlath showed several indications that he intended and strongly desired the military equivalent of 'suicide by cop.' And when that failed.... he chose direct suicide by his own hand.
The convoy could have driven around the barricade and out of danger. Collins insisted they stop and fight. When he was shot he was exposing himself to fire, out in the open and running after the retreating irregulars.
Who shot him remains a mystery. Dalton and MacPeake have been fingered, along with speculation that they were under orders from the British Secret Service, still seething with embarrassment for Bloody Sunday 1920 and intent on revenge. But there is no proof against Dalton or MacPeake - not even unexplained wealth in the years that followed.
But there is that one possibility which - in my experience - has never been mentioned because it was and is UNTHINKABLE: the possibility that it was Michael Collins HIMSELF who fired that bullet into his brain with his own hand.
Apart from everything else that was unfolding, consider Michael's personal anguish in that moment as he was fired upon by his own IRA, which he more than anyone had created and which he loved.... and now they were trying to kill him.
It was a dumdum bullet that killed him - the type used in handguns and not in the rifles held by the irregulars.
There was no detailed autopsy report.
There was no official questioning of the people who were present.
That degree of avoidance is surely unique in the annals of the killing of a head of state.
Is this embarrassed silence and futile speculation the result of something so UNTHINKABLE and so abhorrent to all Catholics that no one could bring themselves even to look in its direction?
Emmet Dalton was nearest to him by some accounts. If Dalton saw Michael Collins commit suicide with his own hand, Dalton was never going to say so, because it was unthinkable and unsayable and he would not be believed. And so no proper autopsy, no questioning of those present.... just endless speculation and no mention of what was unthinkable and unsayable.
It was going to be downhill all the way in Ireland from 1922 to 1960.
He foresaw it. He was accustomed to winning his wars and he didn't want to spend the rest of his life in a losing battle against the futile *civil war politics* and the economic and societal stagnation and the rule by bishop in the south, and the silent seething cauldron waiting to eventually explode in the north.
He was spared a lifetime of misery in the half nation which he, more than anyone, had brought into being.
The speculation as to who shot Collins has tormented a nation for nearly a century.
Only now, as we approach the hundreth anniversary of his death, perhaps the Irish nation can belatedly think the unthinkable - the only answer which really makes any sense.
Michael's behaviour at the scene suggested strongly that he wished for the military equivalent of 'suicide by cop' at Beal na mBlath. When that didn't happen, and as the remnant of irregulars ran away, perhaps Michael decided to do the job himself. It would have been typical of him - a man who never did anything by half.
This is so abhorrent to Irish people, even today, that I'll spell it out again.
The only answer that makes any sense, the only answer that sweeps away all the contradictions and all the anomalies, is that Michael Collins - tormented by the tragedy that he saw unfolding in the long term, and more immediately tormented by the fact that he was now under enemy fire from the IRA he loved - in his unbearable anguish he committed suicide by directly shooting himself through the head with his own handgun at Beal na mBlath.