This new work about Michael Collins is generating some fierce arguments in online forums. For those who haven't heard, Collins is adulated by many as one of the founders of modern guerilla warfare. In any case, he was at the helm when Ireland, after 700 years of trying, finally forced the British to the negotiating table.
In 1922, shortly after signing a controversial treaty with England, he was shot to death. And that's where the debate begins. Was it a simple military action? Was it an assassination? Although my first question is "After ninety years, why doesn't anyone know?"
The more I tried to research whether this book is to be believed, the less I found anyone can tell us about exactly how Collins died. "Accident of war" is the argument which is hotly defended by some. Assassination buffs consider the suspicious factors too many to accept. Writers like Bernadette Devlin have called it "mysterious," even though he was in uniform, with an army convoy, in the midst of the Civil War, at the time.
Bitter wrangling continues as to who was true, who was a traitor, and what role the colonialistic English governours played in it all. Collins has taken a lot of hits by mud-slingers. Was he a martyr or a sell-out? Were his opponents the real revolutionaries? Or back-stabbing turncoats?
This book goes further than any other I've seen in minutely analyzing the evidence. Various witnesses' versions are itemized and cross-referenced. One can get a bit dizzy following the forty pages of "Contradictions and Corroborations" about the twenty-minute ambush. But it makes one point clear enough: someone lied.
The explanation offered as to exactly what did happen certainly contradicts the conventional wisdom. I don't want to give away the climax. But it's definitely different from any previous attempt. Most of what you thought you knew about it will probably be found on the scrap heap under "Debunking the myths".
If nothing else, it's refreshing to hear analysis of Collins by an author who's clearly no stranger to the history of revolutionary struggles. Sigerson places Collins in a wider context of other wars for self-determination, and the dangers they face.
It's a good read. Collins fans will probably enjoy it, and argue about it, from now on.