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Learning about Ireland – Learning about Michael Collins

Ireland, an island on the North Atlantic Ocean, has been known to be a land of saints and scholars.

Before moving to Ireland, I had no idea of how much Irish culture has influenced our western society. There have been numerous influential figures that have shaped our literature such as Bram Stoker, Oscar Wild, George Bernard Shaw, and James Joyce to name but a few.

While there have been many individuals that left a mark on Irish society and the world, it was only recently that I truly learned about the significance of two individuals that have shaped this society. One being Daniel O`Connell and the other being Michael Collins.

Born in 1890, Michael Collins came from a family of carpenters, who were living in western Cork. He was born in his family’s cottage and it was at his father’s death bed, only seven years old at the time when his father said that his son would have a significant and meaningful life.

From the Vikings to the British Empire, the Irish were no strangers to foreign invasions. But the most significant challenges that the Irish people faced were brought forth under the 700-year rule of the British.

Eventually, British rule came to an end. Having laid the foundation for the Catholic Emancipation, Daniel O’Connell refused to resort to violence in order to secure Irish independence in 1844. The years that followed his death were marked by the great famine which led to the death of one million Irish people. In addition to this, over two million Irish citizens immigrated to North America leading to a significant decrease in the Irish population living on the island.

While the Irish people slowly and surely grew more and more frustrated with British rule, a number of individuals became increasingly adamant to separate and become an independent state.

As such, the political party Sinn Fein was founded by journalist Arthur Griffith in 1905. The price to achieve their independence came at a high price.

In 1919, after growing increasingly impatient in their quest for independence, Sinn Fein formed the Dail Eireann, the Irish parliament. While demanding their liberty, Michael Collins and other members of the political party Sinn Fein resorted to attacks on British soldiers and officers.

And in 1921, the British government, after reassessing the damage and the lives that were lost due to the Irish quest for independence, decided to negotiate a treaty.

And on December 6th, 1921, Michael Collins alongside other Sin Fein members, signed the Irish Independence treaty.

Guaranteeing the Irish their own parliament, the only two requirements the British Empire demanded, were to have three navy docks as well as keep the British monarch as their king.

The land was divided between those who supported the treaty and those who did not. And while for some this treaty was a victory some felt betrayed by Michael Collins. Nearly 10 months after signing the treaty Michael Collins was shot dead on August 22nd, 1922.

And today, while there is peace, there remains division in the north of the country between those who wish to remain in the United Kingdom and those who want to join the republic.

By Adina Sarah Abraham

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