Collins, Michael

Collins, Michael
born Oct. 16, 1890, Clonakilty, County Cork, Ire.
died Aug. 22, 1922, Beal-na-Blath, Cork

Irish national leader.

He worked in London (1906–16), then returned to fight in the Easter Rising. Elected as a member of Sinn Féin to the Irish assembly (1918), he became the Irish republic's first minister of home affairs. He was general of the volunteers and director of intelligence of the Irish Republican Army in the Anglo-Irish War. In 1921 he signed the controversial Anglo-Irish Treaty, which gave Ireland dominion status, though with provisions for partition and for an oath of allegiance to the crown. He and Arthur Griffith then became leaders of the provisional government. When civil war broke out, Collins commanded the government forces fighting the anti-treaty republicans, and on Griffith's death he became head of the government. Ten days later he was killed in an ambush at age 31.

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▪ American astronaut
born Oct. 31, 1930, Rome, Italy
 U.S. astronaut, co-pilot of the Gemini 10 flight and Command Module pilot of Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission.

      A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., Collins transferred to the Air Force, becoming a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He joined the space program in 1963.

 Gemini 10, manned by Collins and John W. Young (Young, John W.), was launched on July 18, 1966. After a rendezvous with an Agena target vehicle, the two men used the Agena's engines to propel them to a record altitude of 475 miles (764 kilometres), where Collins left the spacecraft to remove equipment needed for a micrometeorite experiment from the aft end of the Gemini and attempted unsuccessfully to attach similar equipment to the Agena. He succeeded in retrieving an instrument from the Agena, but his activity was cut short because the Gemini craft was low on fuel. Gemini 10 returned to Earth on July 21.

      Collins participated in the Apollo (Apollo program) 11 mission with Neil A. Armstrong (Armstrong, Neil) and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. (Aldrin, Edwin Eugene, Jr.) On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon. Collins remained in the Command Module, circling the Moon at an altitude of 60 to 75 miles (97 to 121 kilometres). On July 21 Armstrong and Aldrin rejoined him, and the following day the astronauts left lunar orbit, landing in the Pacific Ocean on July 24. (His account of the landing, Carrying the Fire, was published in 1974.) Apollo 11 was his last space mission; later in 1969 he was appointed assistant secretary of state for public affairs. In 1971 he joined the administrative staff of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

▪ Irish statesman
born Oct. 16, 1890, Clonakilty, County Cork, Ire.
died Aug. 22, 1922, Beal-na-Blath, Cork

      hero of the Irish struggle for independence, best remembered for his daring strategy in directing the campaign of guerrilla warfare during the intensification of the Anglo-Irish War (1919–21).

      Collins was employed as a British civil servant in London from 1906 until he returned to Ireland in 1916. He fought in the Easter Rising, was arrested and held in detention at Frongoch, Merioneth, but was released in December 1916. In December 1918 he was one of 27 out of 73 elected Sinn Féin members (most of whom were in jail) to be present when the Dáil Éireann (Irish Assembly) convened in Dublin and declared for the republic. Their elected president, Eamon De Valera (de Valera, Eamon), and vice president, Arthur Griffith (Griffith, Arthur), were both in prison. Hence, much responsibility fell on Collins, who became first Sinn Féin minister of home affairs and, after arranging for De Valera's escape from Lincoln jail (February 1919), minister of finance. It was as director of intelligence of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), however, that he became famous. As chief planner and coordinator of the revolutionary movement, Collins organized numerous attacks on police and the assassination (1920) of many of Britain's leading intelligence agents in Ireland. He headed the list of men wanted by the British, who placed a price of £10,000 on his head.

      After the truce of July 1921, Griffith and Collins were sent to London by De Valera as the principal negotiators for peace (October–December 1921). The treaty of Dec. 6, 1921, was signed by Collins in the belief that it was the best that could be obtained for Ireland at the time and in the full awareness that he was signing his own death warrant. It gave Ireland dominion status, but its provisions for the partition of the country and for an oath of allegiance to the British crown were unacceptable to De Valera and other republican leaders. Collins' persuasiveness helped win acceptance for the treaty by a small majority in the Dáil, and a provisional government was formed with Collins as chairman; but effective administration was obstructed by the mutinous activities of the anti-treaty republicans. Collins refrained from taking action against his former comrades until IRA insurgents seized the Four Courts in Dublin and civil war became inevitable. W.T. Cosgrave replaced Collins as chairman when the latter assumed command of the army in mid-July 1922 in order to crush the insurgency. About five weeks later, while on a tour of military inspection, Collins was shot to death by anti-treaty insurgents in an ambush in west Cork.

Additional Reading
Biographies of Collins include Tim Pat Coogan, Michael Collins (1990; also published as The Man Who Made Ireland, 1992); James Mackay, Michael Collins (1996); and Colm Connolly, The Illustrated Life of Michael Collins (1996), with 100 photos.

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Universalium. 2010.

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