Michael Collins was born at Woodfield (his father's farm), Clonakilty, near
Sam's Cross, a tiny hamlet in West Cork, named after Sam Wallace, a local highwayman on
October 16, 1890. Sam's Cross lies between Rosscarbery and Clonakilty.
In this beautiful valley locked between the river and sea, Michael spent his early years.
His father, Michael John Collins, at 60 years of age married a local girl, Marianne O'Brien,
then only twenty-three and produced a large family over the next twenty years. Michael the
younger was the third son and the youngest of the eight children. He was 6 years of age at the
time of his father's death. But during those six years, Michael was greatly influenced by his father,
who encouraged his children to learn patriotic ballads and poetry
Michael attended national school at Lisavaird, and the schoolmaster there, Denis
Lyons, was to have a large influence on his life. For this schoolmaster was an active member
of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret organization dedicated to ousting the British
from Ireland, by force if necessary. West Cork was the heartland of Fenianism, the Irish
nationalist movement founded in the 19th century. From Lyons and
the local blacksmith, James Santry, Michael was to gain a sense of pride of the Irish as a
race that would give meaning to his short life.
Michael had a keen mind, as well as a strong body and big for his age. And he
loved to read, familiar at a young age with Shakespeare and the great novelists of the 19th
century. When only 11, Michael began to subscribe to 'The United Irishman', edited by Arthur
Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein. Two years later, his mother sent him to Clonakilty to
study for the Post Office examinations and to live with his sister Margaret. He worked briefly
for his brother-in-law who owned the West Cork People, a newspaper of the area, learning
typesetting and writing articles on local sporting events. In July 1906, at the age of
15, he went to London where he lived with his sister Hannie, in West Kensington, and worked
for the Postal Savings Bank. Michael would spend the next nine years in London. He joined
the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), the Gaelic League, which promoted the revival of the Irish
language, and Sinn Fein. In November 1909, he was inducted into the Irish
Republican Brotherhood (IRB).
The election results of 1910, gave the IPP the balance of power and its leader,
John Redmond, called for the introduction of Home Rule. The Home Rule Bill was
put before the House of Commons in April, 1912, and met with stiff resistance from
the Ulster Unionists, who feared that the
Protestant culture would lose out to the Catholic nationalist majority. In 1913,
the Ulster Unionist leader, Sir Edward Carson, organized the Ulster militias
into the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and threatened to set up a provisional
government in Belfast if Home Rule were introduced. Nationalists in Dublin
responded by forming the Irish Volunteers. Redmond fought to gain control of the Irish
Volunteers and with the outbreak of the First World War, he proposed
in the House of Commons that the Volunteers and the UVF come together to defend
Ireland against invasion. With the question of Home Rule now deferred until
after the war, the Irish Volunteers split into two camps. The majority followed
Redmond's advice and joined the British war effort in the hope of gaining Home
Rule, while a minority dominated by the IRB stayed at home and plotted rebellion.
The failure of the Irish Parliamentary Party to achieve Home Rule through
constitutional means attracted younger members to the IRB. Shortly thereafter, Michael
left the Post Office and took up a post with a stockbroking company and later worked in
the Whitehall Labour Exchange. Before returning to Ireland, he worked briefly with an American firm,
the Guaranty Trust Company.
Arthur Griffith and Eamon De Valera
When Michael Collins arrived home in Dublin in early
1916, the situation was deteriorating and events moved forward toward an armed insurrection.
The IRB's military expert, Joseph Plunkett, Appointed as a staff officer working with Tom
Clarke and Sean Mac Diarmada in the IRB. The Easter Rising was a military disaster.
Confusion rose as Eoin MacNeill, the founder of the Irish Volunteers,
issued orders to abandon all plans for a rebellion which the IRB countermanded. Despite
the confusion, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army
succeeded in capturing some of the main buildings in the city. Michael Collins
fought in the GPO alongside the leaders of the Rising, Padraig Pearse and James
Connolly. After five days of fighting the Volunteers were forced to surrender. The Rising
was denounced in the newspapers of the time and members of the public were angry
about the destruction of the city. But the public mood changed quickly when the
leaders of the rebellion, including Clarke and Mac Diarmada, were executed over
a ten-day period. Connolly, who was the last to face the firing squad, had to be
strapped to a chair, as he could not stand upright because of his injuries.
In 1916, Michael returned to Dublin to take part in
the planned insurrection. He received a Volunteer's uniform and as Captain
Michael Collins he was second in command to Joseph Mary Plunkett in the
General Post Office during Easter Week. Collins made no secret that he admired
the realism of men like Sean Mac Diarmada more than the aesthetic Padraig Pearse.
And though he played a minor part in the Rising, his sense of duty and
clear-headedness were remembered.
Following the Rising, Michael, as a prisoner of war, was sent to Richmond
Barracks and later to Frongoch internment camp in Wales. He returned home to
Ireland in December 1916. But it was at Frongoch where Michael Collins' ability
as an organizer became recognized. And immediately following his release, he
rebuilt the IRB.
British troops stand in the charred remains of the GPO
Collins and his fellow Volunteers were rounded up and sent on a cattle boat
to English prisons. At first he was held in Stafford jail and then, at the end
of June, the prisoners were transferred to Frongach camp in Wales. The British
government, anxious to defuse the growing public sympathy for the rebels in
Ireland, released the internees on the 22 December, 1916. On returning home
Collins quickly found employment as secretary of the Irish National Aid and
Volunteer Dependants Fund. He used his position to revitalise the Volunteer
movement and attract new recruits to the IRB. But it was Sinn Fein, and not the
IRB, which had gained most from the fallout of the Rising, despite the fact that
Griffith had been opposed to it. Initially suspicious of Sinn Fein, Collins
realised that it was a radical nationalist party that could defeat the IPP. He
campaigned vigorously in a series of by-elections, first in Roscommon and then
in Longford. In the Longford by-election Collins nominated Joe McGuinness, who
was still serving a prison sentence for his part in the Rising. Using the slogan
"Put him in, to get him out", McGuinness was elected. The effect of
the by-election victories was almost immediate. The British released the
remaining 120 prisoners.
Among the prisoners released were two senior surviving officers, Thomas Ashe
and Eamon de Valera. De Valera had not been executed in 1916 because he was born in
the United States. Ashe was elected president of the IRB but was soon arrested
for making seditious speeches. Because he was refused political status, Thomas
Ashe went on hunger strike and died five days later when the British tried to
force feed him. The funeral arrangements were made by Michael Collins. At the
graveside a section of uniformed volunteers stepped forward and fired a volley.
Then Collins gave a brief oration: "Nothing additional remains to be said.
That volley which we have just heard is the only speech which it is proper to
make at the grave of a dead Fenian." Collins then wept in what was a very
rare public display of grief.
Collins now organized the election of de Valera as president of Sinn Fein in
a deal with Arthur Griffith. Sinn Fein's main aim was now the
"international recognition of Ireland as an independent Irish
Republic." The militants dominated Sinn Fein and Collins began organizing
an effective intelligence gathering operation. Among those he recruited, to spy
for him were Joe Kavanagh and Sergeant Ned Broy detectives in G division. The
G-men, as they were known, were at the heart of British intelligence in Ireland.
Having people on the inside was to prove an invaluable source of information for
Early in 1918 Collins was arrested for making a speech against conscription
in Legga, County Longford. During his many visits to Longford Collins would stay
at the Greville Arms in Granard, run by "four beautiful sisters and their
brother." Michael had fallen in love with Kitty , the second eldest sister.
His chief rival for her hand was his comrade in the IRB, Harry Boland. Collins
was jailed in Sligo but applied for bail. Once out on bail he went on the run.
All over the country anti-conscription campaigns took place. The British
decided to arrest the leading nationalists in an attempt to stop the
anti-conscription protests. Collins was tipped off about the planned arrests by
his informants and told de Valera and the Sinn Fein executive what was about to
happen. They decided that they would win an even greater moral and political
victory if they were arrested. Sean McGarry, the president of the IRB, was also
arrested and Collins quickly succeeded him as the president of The Organisation,
as it had become known.
The arrests only succeeded in fuelling nationalist resentment even further.
Collins and Harry Boland were now in effective control of the republican
organizations and they set about preparing Sinn Fein for the forthcoming General
Election. This came when Lloyd George called a snap election following the end
of the First World War. The elections were a triumph for Sinn Fein. They won 73
seats, compared with 6 for the IPP. Michael Collins was elected unopposed for
the South Cork constituency.
On 21 January 1919, Sinn Fein's newly elected candidates assembled in
Dublin's Mansion House to form the first national assembly in over a century.
This day also marked the beginning of the War of Independence, when a group of
Volunteers shot dead two policemen at Soloheadbeg in County Tipperary. The new
parliament was to be known as Dail Eireann and it began by passing a declaration
of independence. Only 27 of the 73 Sinn Fein TD's (members of parliament) could
attend. Collins and his fellow TD Harry Boland were absent. They were in England
organizing de Valera's escape from Lincoln Jail. Within five weeks the remaining
republican prisoners were released. When the Dail reassembled in April, Eamon de
Valera was elected its president. Cathal Brugha was appointed as Minister of
Defence and Michael Collins became Minister for Finance.
At the beginning of June 1919 de Valera left for America in order to raise
funds, and did not return until the end of 1920. He was joined by Collins'
close ally Harry Boland. Collins was now left with Cathal Brugha to manage the
war effort at home. Brugha's suggestion that the Volunteers take an oath of
allegiance to the Dail was agreed in August 1920. From now on the Volunteers
became increasingly known as the IRA (Irish Republican Army). In September,
Sinn Fein, the Volunteers and the Dail were all proscribed. The ban drove the
Dail underground and Collins concentrated his efforts on maintaining the
guerrilla warfare strategy, which was proving enormously successful. Collins'
spies, especially Ned Broy, kept him informed about all developments within
the British forces. Collins also established an IRA intelligence staff. The
main figures in this were Liam Tobin, Frank Thornton and Joe O'Reilly.
O'Reilly later became known as the "guardian angel" and was
effectively Collins' right hand man. One description gives some idea of his
relationship with Collins: "He was courier, clerk, messenger boy, nurse,
slave." Collins had also selected a group of Volunteers, known as the
Squad, for the purpose of executing British agents. One of these, a young man,
only 18 years of age, called Vinny
Byrne, carried out many of the executions. Before killing his victims from
close range Byrne would often say the words "May the Lord have mercy on
your soul." Det Sergeant Patrick Smith was the first victim of the Squad.
From then on the Squad carried out a series of ruthless killings which struck
terror into the British establishment in Ireland.
Vinny Byrne, head of Collins "12 Apostles" death squad.
Collins had become the most wanted man in Ireland, with a price of £10,000
on his head. Luckily, the police did not have a good photograph of him and
Collins was able to cycle about the city to one of his offices. If stopped, he
always kept a cool head and joked with the police or soldiers. Collins' most
important contact was now David Nelligan, who worked in Dublin Castle, the
seat of British power in Ireland. Nelligan was able to tell Collins about the
movements of British agents and the Black and Tans.
The Black and Tans, so-called because of the colours of their uniforms, were
recruited specifically to deal with the IRA.
The Black and Tans, so-called because of the
colors of their uniforms, were recruited specifically to deal with the IRA. They
quickly gained a reputation for viciousness. The War of Independence became even more
ruthless, with terrible atrocities taking place on both sides. Colonel Sir Ormonde Winter was
put in charge of the British Secret Service in Ireland. He brought in
undercover agents, who had been working in Egypt, and they quickly became
known as the "Cairo Gang".
The Cairo Gang. This photograph was sent to Collins by one of his spies; it numbers and names
Collins realized he had to work quickly to avert this threat.
By October 1920 he had the names of the Cairo Gang. On Sunday 21 November 1920
the IRA execution squads acted decisively. In hotels and boarding houses
throughout the city they shot British agents. The Black and Tan retaliation
was swift. That afternoon armored cars entered Croke Park where Dublin were
playing Tipperary in a Gaelic football match. They shot dead fourteen people.
It was one of the blackest days in Irish history and became known as
"Bloody Sunday". It was a difficult time for Collins. He had lost
many close colleagues, he was under constant pressure and the return of de
Valera on Christmas Eve 1920 didn't help matters. The two men were completely
different in temperament. Collins disliked de Valera's "brooding over
every word, like a hen over an egg." In turn Collins' forthright style
annoyed his older cabinet colleagues, Brugha and Stack.
De Valera supported more conventional tactics
in the war against the British.
The burning of the Custom House in Dublin resulted in the loss of many
Volunteers. Nevertheless, it had a demoralizing effect on the British. In the
elections of May 1921, Sinn Fein once again swept the boards. Collins was
elected in the six county area of Ulster, which had now been effectively
partitioned off under the Government of Ireland Act. In June Lloyd George
invited de Valera to London for talks without precondition. De Valera accepted
and a Truce was set for 11 July, 1921. When the peace talks were set for
October, Collins and Griffith were unexpectedly chosen to lead the Irish team
of negotiators. On Saturday 8 October, while the rest of the peace delegation
travelled to London, Collins became engaged to Kitty Kiernan. The peace
negotiations began on 10 October, 1921 and lasted into December. On the 6
December Lloyd George gave the Irish delegation an ultimatum: sign or
hostilities would resume. At 2.10am Collins signed. Lord Birkenhead remarked to Michael
Collins: "I may have just signed my political death-warrant", whereupon
Collins replied, "I may have signed my actual death-warrant".
It was to prove a prophetic statement. Collins had always suspected that de
Valera had sent him as a negotiator because it was a no-win situation. De
Valera now rejected the Treaty. Collins' opponents, Brugha and Stack, as well
as his comrade Harry Boland sided with de Valera. On the January 14th 1922,
Dail Eireann ratified the Treaty, establishing southern Ireland - 26 of the 32
counties - as a Free State with dominion status. The Dail was now split into
pro- and anti-Treaty camps. De Valera resigned and Michael Collins was elected
Chairman of the Provisional Government. The Provisional Government had now to
take over the evacuated British posts. The first occupation was Dublin Castle
itself, where Collins arrived seven and a half minutes late for the
changeover. Collins remarked to the British general "after seven and half
centuries we won't begrudge you seven and a half minutes."
Tension grew between the pro- and anti-Treaty sides throughout 1922.
IRA units had taken over the Four
Courts in Dublin in April. On the 28th June Free State troops began to
bombard the building. The Civil War had begun.
The shelling of the Four Courts building
In Dublin, it took a week of
intense fighting to dislodge the anti-Treaty forces. Cathal Brugha lost his
life. Harry Boland, who had been Collins' closest friend in the early days of
the struggle, was shot dead in the Grand hotel in Skerries on July 31st. The
news devastated Collins and he wept uncontrollably. The bitterness of the
conflict worsened with each day. Former comrades fought one another and
families were split on the issue. The Provisional Government began to retake
cities and towns held by the Republicans.
On August 22, shortly after the death of Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins
was on a tour of inspection in the Cork area. Returning in convoy from Bandon
he was ambushed at Beal na mBlath (The Mouth of Flowers) and died immediately
of a single gunshot wound to the head. De Valera, who was in the same area of
Cork at the time, was shaken by the news.
Slievenamon - the armoured car which accompanied Collins on his last, and
fatal, tour of inspection. It has been preserved in Plunkett Barracks, Curragh
Camp, County Kildare.
Thousands of people lined the streets of Dublin for the
funeral of Michael Collins in a display of public grief.
In 1966, while President of the Republic of Ireland, de Valera said:
"It's my considered opinion that in the fullness of time, history will
record the greatness of Collins and it will be recorded at my expense."
Thousands gathered at the roadside at Beal na mBlath on Sunday 24th August
1997 to commemorate the death of Michael Collins at this spot 75 years earlier.
Ever since the Civil War, there have been many heated debates on whether Michael
Collins had the authority to sign the Treaty Agreement with Lloyd George,
Winston Churchill and others at No. 10 Downing St. in London.
Michael Collins' own copy of the Plenipotentiary Document shows that Eamon
deValera signed his name to a document which gave the delegation the authority
to negotiate and conclude the Treaty.
In 1917, he was elected to the Sinn Fein executive. During 1917 and 1918, his
activities included: creating an intelligence network, organizing a national
loan to fund a rebellion, creating an assassination squad ("The Twelve
Apostles") and an arms-smuggling operation. By 1920, Michael Collins was
wanted by the British and had a price of #10,000 stg. on his head.
In 1919, Michael Collins personally, with the help of his friend Harry
Boland, another IRB man, went to Lincoln gaol in England to help Eamon de Valera
escape. And, during the time de Valera was in America trying to raise money for
Sinn Fein, Michael risked his life to regularly visit de Valera's wife Sinead
and their children. Michael had a life-long love for older people and for
In January 1919, the Anglo-Irish War began with the first shots being fired at
Soloheadbeg. Over the next year, the Royal Irish Constabulary became the target
of a Sinn Fein terror campaign. Michael Collins orchestrated this campaign. He
felt there would be much to gain by provoking England to war.
By mid-1919, the IRB had infiltrated the leadership of the Volunteers and
were directing its pace on the violence. Michael Collins had been made President
of the IRB Supreme Council. At the same time, he was Minister for Finance in the
Dail government and the commander of the IRA. In June of that year, de Valera
left for America and Michael Collins became acting President after Arthur
Griffith's arrest in December 1920.
Although Collins and de Valera co-operated, there were differences between
them. After the Easter Rising, de Valera had not rejoined the IRB. Cathal Brugha,
de Valera's Minister for Defence in the Dail, resented Collins' popularity and
his influence over the Volunteers. In an effort to assert control, Brugha had
the Volunteers declared the Army of the Irish Republic (IRA).
A NEW MENACE
Britain responded with violence. Special forces were sent over to impose curfews
and martial law on the Irish. These forces became known as the Black and Tans
after a popular Limerick hunt group, and because of their dark green and khaki
uniforms. Another force of veterans from the Great War, called the Auxiliaries,
joined them. Thus began a pattern of assassination and reprisal. The IRA
employed guerilla tactics, using 'flying columns' to attack British troops.
Their knowledge of the countryside made up for their lack of arms. The initial
distaste for the killing of RIC men by the IRA gave way to outrage at the
savageness of the Crown forces. The reprisals had the effect of identifying the
British as the oppressors of the Irish people.
On 21 November 1920, Michael Collins' squad assassinated 14 British officers,
effectively destroying the British Secret Service in Ireland. In reprisal, the
Black and Tans fired on a crowd watching a football match at Croke Park. Twelve
people were killed, including one of the team players. The day became known as
Bloody Sunday. News of this and other horrors became known throughout the world.
During this period, Michael,
who in the 1918 general election had been elected to Parliament representing
South Cork, and Harry Boland, the MP for Roscommon, each vied for the affections of a Longford
girl, Catherine Brigid, or more commonly, Kitty
Kiernan. From the latter half of 1921 until his death, Michael and Kitty
exchanged more than 300 letters. By year's end, Michael had succeeded in winning
the fair Kitty and they became engaged.
In May of 1921, the IRA set ablaze the Dublin Custom House, but Crown forces
arrived in time to capture nearly the entire Dublin IRA Brigade. After this
action, the IRA were desperately short of men and weapons, but at the same time,
the British were completely demoralised with public opinion increasingly against
continued repression. The commander of His Majesty's Crown forces in Ireland
advised David Lloyd George to 'go all out or get out.' This began the treaty
THE TREATY TALKS
On 12 July 1921, the day after a truce was signed, de Valera led a delegation to
London for exploratory talks with the British Prime Minister. These talks broke
down after irreconcilable differences developed over the issue of an Irish
Republic--a concession Lloyd George was not about to give.
In September of that year, de Valera was elected President of the Irish
Republic and he offered to negotiate as representative of a sovereign state.
Lloyd George refused. He would allow peace talks only with a view of how Ireland
might reconcile their national aspirations within a framework of the community
of nations known as the British Empire.
Knowing that neither a Republic nor a united Ireland could be won at such a
conference, de Valera refused to attend. Instead, he sent Arthur
Griffith and Michael Collins to head the Irish delegation. Neither Griffith
nor Collins wanted to go. Michael Collins declared that he was a soldier, not a
politician, but the issue went to the Cabinet and was decided by de Valera's
De Valera was the most experienced negotiator, but he chose instead, to send
others to parley against the far more experienced British team. They were no
match for the cunning Lloyd George, who was called the "Welsh Wizard."
One historian called it the worst single decision of de Valera's life.
Still, under tremendous pressure, the Irish delegation, with Collins and
Griffith as chief negotiators, pressed for a united Ireland. Differences within
the Irish delegation added to the difficulty, but Britain's refusal to consider
anything less than dominion status, excluding Ulster created additional
conflict. Michael Collins knew that a Republic that included Ulster was not
possible under the present conditions, but he hoped for a boundary commission
that would redraw the border to include much of Catholic Fermanagh and Tyrone in
the newly created Free State. This left the problem of the Oath of Allegiance.
A reworded oath might pass a Dail vote, Collins concluded, and though opposed
by de Valera, would pave the way for future concessions once a British troop
withdrawal was effected. Reluctantly, the delegation signed. Michael Collins
knew it would be received badly in Dublin, but he decided that a step toward
Irish independence was preferable to an all-out war that would ensure more
bloodshed. Michael Collins spoke prophetically when, after signing the treaty he
said, "...I tell you, I have signed my death warrant."
The vote in favor of accepting the treaty was 64 to 57. Two days later, de
Valera resigned his presidency and Arthur Griffith was elected in his place. A
provisional government was formed in January 1922. Michael Collins was elected
Chairman. Dublin Castle was surrendered to Michael Collins.
Across the country, the IRA split into pro-Treaty or anti-Treaty forces. Many
followed Collins, accepting that the Treaty gave the country the freedom to win
freedom. Richard Mulcahy, the Minister of Defence, transformed these loyal
troops into the Free State Army, while the anti-Treaty forces became known as
Collins made every effort to avoid a civil war. He drafted a new constitution
which he hoped would be acceptable to the Republicans. The rebels had been
Collins' comrades-in-arms and he desperately wanted to avoid such a tragedy, but
his efforts failed. In a move to dislodge Republican troops who had taken over
the building, on June 28th, Collins ordered the shelling of the Four Courts.
In a controversial move, he armed both pro- and anti-Treaty IRA members in
the North to defend the Catholic population, but by resorting to violence
against the Treaty terms in the North, he legitimized armed resistance in the
South. On 6 July 1922, the Provisional Government appointed a Council of War and
Collins became Commander-in-Chief of the national Army.
Opponents of the Treaty rallied to the cause. Fighting broke out in Dublin
and Cathal Brugha was killed. The ten-month civil war had begun. The first phase
was bloody and brief. By August, the better-equipped government forces had
driven the Irregulars out of the main cities and towns, but the Republicans
controlled much of the country area to the south and west.
On 12 August 1922, Arthur Griffith died of a massive hemorrhage. He had never
recovered from the strain of the Treaty negotiations.
BEAL NA MBLATH
Eight days later, though ill with the stomach trouble that had plagued him for
several months and suffering from a bad cold, Michael Collins left on a mission
to visit troops in his home county of Cork. Warned not to go, he told his
companion, "They wouldn't shoot me in my own county." As before, the
words proved prophetic. Depressed and ill, he set out, some say, to try to end
the fighting. At any rate, he visited several anti-Treaty men as well as
inspecting various barracks. On the last day of his life, 22 August 1922, he set
out from Cork in a convoy that passed through Bandon, Clonakilty, and
Rosscarbery on its way to Skibbereen. He stopped at Woodfield, and there in the
Four Alls, the pub situated across the road from the house where his mother had
been born, he stood his family and escort to the local brew--Clonakilty Wrastler.
On the return trip they again passed through Bandon.
Michael Collins had only twenty minutes more to live. Around eight o'clock, his
convoy was ambushed at a place known as Beal na mBlath--the mouth of flowers.
Only one man was killed--Michael Collins. It is thought that Irregulars did the
shooting, but some say that it might have been his own men. To this day, there
is controversy about what actually happened.
Stunned that anything could have happened to 'the Big Fellow' whose fame was,
by now, legendary, Collins' men brought his body back to Cork where it was
shipped to Dublin. His body lay in state for three days in the rotunda. The
Belfast-born painter, Sir John Lavery, painted Collins in death, as he had in
life. Tens of thousands filed past his casket to pay their respects, and even
more lined the Dublin streets as the cortege made its way to Glasnevin for the burial.
There have been many famous Irish patriots before him, and a few since, but
none conjures up as much emotion and mystery as the man who, in a span of six
short years, brought a country from bondage to a position where she could win
her freedom. There are few left alive who remember Michael Collins, but his
shape looms large on the Irish horizon.
cemetery has, for a long time, been a national institution and, as the final
resting place for more than a million Irish men and women, a real embodiment of
the nation’s more recent past.