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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

22 August 1922: Michael Collins was shot dead on this day. He was killed in an ambush at Béal na mBláth (Mouth of the Flowers) near Macroom in Co. Cork by a party of the local IRA. Huge controversy surrounds the unfolding of events on that day. It is not certain if the ambushers knew that Collins was in the Free State Army convoy that they attacked or whether they even recognised him.

 Late in the evening as the light started to fade the column was stopped by rifle fire in a narrow road that was overlooked by the IRA. Instead of putting the boot down and accelerating out of this death trap Michael Collins decided to fight it out. When the first shots were fired at the convoy, Emmet Dalton had ordered the driver to "drive like hell" out of the ambush. Collins himself countermanded the order and said "Stop! We'll fight them"

He stepped out of the armoured car he was being escorted in, the Slievenamon, and opened fire on the assailants. This proved his Nemeses as he became an instant target and was fatally hit. The general consensus at that time was it was a ricochet that took him out but that has been challenged in recent years.

The most recent authoritative account suggests that the shot was fired by Denis ("Sonny") O'Neill, an Anti-Treaty IRA fighter and a former British Army marksman who died in 1950.

Collins's men brought his body back to Cork where it was then shipped to Dublin because it was feared the body might be stolen in an ambush if it were transported by road. His body lay in state for three days in Dublin City Hall where tens of thousands of mourners filed past his coffin to pay their respects. His funeral mass took place at Dublin's Pro Cathedral where a number of foreign and Irish dignitaries were in attendance. He was buried in Glasnevin Cemetary Dublin.