MICHAEL Collins was not a terrorist and was "more a George Washington than an Osama bin Laden", according to one of Ireland's leading human rights academics.
onor Gearty, Professor of Human Rights Law at the London School of Economics (LSE) and a grandnephew of Collins' girlfriend Kitty Kiernan, says that the leader was a civil warrior and a freedom fighter.
But Prof Gearty, who will deliver a paper on political violence this evening at the National Library in Dublin, says that Collins was not part of an organisation devoted to violence of the sort we think as "terrorist" such as those who attacked the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre.
The paper, 'Was Michael Collins a Terrorist or Human Rights Worker?', will be delivered as part of the biannual Hugh M Fitzpatrick Lectures in Legal Biography series.
Prof Gearty, who reviewed witness statements from the Bureau of Military History, said that Collins "may have engaged in acts of terrorism" against the British but cannot be regarded as a terrorist in the way the term has come to be understood in modern times.
Writing in today's Irish Independent, Prof Gearty said that the modern assumption that all terrorism is wrong and that it can only be done by subversives rather than by states is "a trick of the mind".