Michael Collins was born in Cork in 1890. He attended school and then worked as a local journalist (writing sports reviews) before moving to London at the age of 15 to work for the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
In London Collins associated with the Irish community and became keenly aware of the history of Irish nationalism. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1909. By 1915 he had risen though the ranks of the London branch of the IRB and was aware of the increasing tension in Dublin between the various factions of republicanism. He returned home and helped in the recruitment that was necessary before any uprising could be successful. He also joined the Gaelic League, an organisation that stressed the use of the Irish language as another means of nationalistic expression.
Despite the extreme unlikelihood of any success, the Easter Rising went ahead and resulted in the destruction of large part of Dublin city centre as well as the execution of the seven leaders of the revolt. This was the mistake by the British that turned the tide in favour of the insurgents for the first time. Public sympathy towards the executed men increased so much that Collins, DeValera and the remaining leaders could see that nationalism was about to peak in the country.
Collins was imprisoned in Frongoch internment camp where his credentials as a leader were further recognised by his captured comrades. After his release Collins quickly rose to a high position in both Sinn Fein and the IRB and started to organise a guerrilla war against the British. He even broke DeValera out of prison in England. The War against the British continued on through 1920 and 1921 despite the introduction of the “Black and Tans” – mercenary soldiers introduced into Ireland by Churchill.
The British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, eventually compromised and offered a partition of Ireland and a “Free State”. Collins and Arthur Griffith had been sent to London as the Irish delegation because DeValera knew that the ultimate aim - independence - was not attainable.
The resultant civil war that broke out between the pro-treaty and anti-treaty factions was bloody indeed but Collins defeated his former comrades-in-arms only to eventually have his own life taken in an ambush in Cork in 1922.
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