Michael Collins is shot dead in an ambush during the Irish Civil War (August 22, 1922) - History Key

Michael Collins is shot dead in an ambush during the Irish Civil War (August 22, 1922)

On the evening of August 22, 1922 the Commander-in-chief of the Irish Free State Army is shot dead. When the Irish Civil War seemed to end, the Chairman of the Provisional Government of Ireland is killed. His death remains a mystery because the only witnesses were the members of the Free State Army and their story may not be objective. Even more, there are no records of the people involved and the witnesses were not interrogated by the authorities.

Michael Collins addresses a crowd in Cork on Saint Patrick's Day, 1922
Michael Collins addresses a crowd in Cork on Saint Patrick’s Day, 1922 © US Library of Congress/ Image Source: Wikipedia

“My own fellow countrymen won’t kill me”

In December 1921, Collins had a major role in the negotiations of a treaty with Britain. The Kingdom, after 750 years of occupation, had agreed to withdraw from 26 counties of southern Ireland. However, in a few months a civil war started in Ireland. The Irish Free State Army supported the treaty while the Irish Republican Army (IRA) opposed the treaty because it didn’t include the northern counties.

Collins in London as delegate to the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations
Collins in London as delegate to the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations © Agence de presse Meurisse – Bibliothèque nationale de France/ Image Source: Wikipedia

So, in order to end the war, Collins went to Cork County which was up in the north. The interesting fact is that Collins was IRA’s director of intelligence, but he “changed sides”. The Pro-Treaty members notified Collins for the danger he will expose himself, but he replied: “my own fellow countrymen won’t kill me.”

Unfortunately, he was wrong. The poorly armed convoy headed toward Cork was ambushed by the IRA and Collins was killed in the ambush. That tragic moment is still being felt by the Irish.

Michael Collins's body lying in hospital after he was shot dead at Béal na Bláth
Michael Collins’s body lying in hospital after he was shot dead at Béal na Bláth © Image Source: Wikipedia

Despite the fact that he was seen as a hero from a point of view and a terrorist from the other point of view, Collins’ death is perceived as a tragic moment. He was a military genius and an important political figure for the Irish independence. Basically, he led groups of guerrillas to fight against one of the mightiest powers of the world at that time.

The tactics that he used made him “the father of the urban guerrilla warfare”.

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