Michael Collins: The Patriot and Terrorism Essay

Michael Collins: The Patriot and Terrorism

            Having viewed the 1996 film, Michael Collins, the purpose of this report is to discuss who and what Michael Collins was, as well as, to assess his model of political violence and its similarities with later models developed by Che Guevara and/or Carols Marighella.  It will be argued that Collins, as a leader of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, was an urban guerilla fighter who used intelligence to track activities of the British in Ireland.  Collins utilized the information in order to target various military units for attack.  He also succeeded in utilizing a complex intelligence network to execute effective campaigns against the British – a position affirmed by Mike Burns (1996), who stated that Collins, the man, was instrumental in negotiating the Anglo-Irish peach treaty of 1921.

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            Collins is depicted in the film as a political activist who turned to terrorism in the belief that open and intentional violence in urban areas was needed to make it clear to the British that their tyranny would no be tolerated indefinitely by the Irish people (Blake, 1996).  Collins recognized it was pointless to attempt a defeat of the British in an open armed battle, because the British possessed a superior military with vast resources and the Irish lacked the support needed for this type of overt war.  Consequently, the model of violence developed by Collins relied heavily upon urban guerilla tactics.  These tactics included select bombings, kidnappings, midnight trial-less executions of British military officials, and hit-and-run attacks on vulnerable military convoys and installations.  Collins recognized that these guerilla warfare tactics would ultimately disrupt British government and in turn create a state of siege warfare that would make it difficult for the British to retaliate against the actual Irish terrorists-alternatively known as freedom fighters.

            As depicted in the film, Collins recognized that urban populated areas were most conducive to such attacks by the British, therefore he and his fellow Irish Republican Brothers were intent upon disrupting British authority.  Based on this theory, his model appears to have been appropriate.  Whether or not Collins was a villain or a patriot ultimately depends upon the political and ethical beliefs of the individual.  My personal belief based on the movie, is that he is a hero.  Collins, as depicted in the movie and in various biographies described by Blake (1996), considered himself, along with Eamon De Valera, to be a patriot and a freedom fighter.   However, the British invariably considered Collins to be a villain and a criminal terrorist worthy of treatment as such.

            At the 1922 conference, Collins became a key negotiator in which the Irish and British ultimately created the Irish Free State.   This allowed the Irish home rule while remaining subject to the British and also left the six northern Irish colonies under the control of Great Britain.  Collins, as a chief negotiator, was criticized by many of his Irish colleagues who accused him of selling out and the immediate result was a civil war.  According to Michael Mink (2005), Collins must be remembered as a key mover in the creation of the new Irish Free State and as a man who fought selectively to achieve the maximum political and psychological advantage.  The movie portrays Collins as a true hero in his own right.

            When one compares Michael Collins to Che Guevara and Carlos Marighella (1969), it becomes quite clear that it is Marighella who bares a closer resemblance to Collins.  Both Collins and Marighella (1969) emphasized the necessity of urban guerrilla warfare that was based on accurate enemy intelligence, the use of narrowly focused and targeted attacks to achieve mission objectives, and the deployment of countless  mechanisms that would bring about confusion and disruption in enemy activities.  Guevara, in comparison, was very much the advocate of rural attacks on society.  Therefore, Guevara’s political violence model did not resemble Collins model.  However, it is clear that Marighella (1969) was influenced to some extent by the Collins model developed more than half a century earlier.

Michael Collins (1890-1922) was killed by one of his former colleagues during the Civil War that followed the 1921 treaty.  Collins, nevertheless was a key figure in the Irish fight for freedom.


Blake, R.A. (1996).  Review: Michael Collins.  America, 175(15),


Burns, M.  (1996).  Review: Michael Collins.  Europe, 362,


Marighella, C.  (1969).  Mini Manual of the Urban Guerrilla.

            Available at www.marxist.org/archive/marighella-carlos


Mink, M.  (2005).  Michael Collins code of honor.  Investors

            Business Daily, March 17, A03.

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