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Collins in the frame for general's murder

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Micheal Collins

Micheal Collins

General Wilson, assassinated in 1922

General Wilson, assassinated in 1922

Michael Collins

Michael Collins

Selection of the letters for sale

Selection of the letters for sale

Ian Whyte

Ian Whyte

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Micheal Collins

A letter described as "the closest thing to a smoking gun" linking Michael Collins to the post-Treaty assassination of a British General has been uncovered as part of a London solicitor's archive.

The documents belonging to JH MacDonnell - a lawyer who defended the two IRA men responsible for the killing - include a letter which one of the assassins sent shortly before his execution.

It is addressed to Oriel House, where Michael Collins had his secret intelligence office.

For years debate and conspiracy theories have surrounded Collins' involvement in the killing that helped to spark the Civil War. The fact that the killing was carried out post-Treaty would have been very embarrassing for the Irish Free State at the time.

Ian Whyte, of Whyte's auctioneers, told the Sunday Independent: "The letter is dated July 17, 1922 and the fact that this young man is writing to Oriel House is very significant. This was where Collins had his secret intelligence office at the time. The fact that he is writing to Collins' office rather than the anti-Treaty side, which others blamed for the killing, is crucial. It would indicate that he was more on Collins' side than those on the anti-Treaty side.

"This is the closest thing to a smoking gun as you are going to get. It links the head of the IRA in London and one of the men who carried out the assassination, Reginald Dunne, to Collins. He wrote the letter just before he was hanged for the killing."

The letter details the dramatic events that unfolded on June 22, 1922. Field-Marshall Henry Wilson had unveiled a war memorial at Liverpool Street Station, where he delivered a speech quoting the poetry of Rudyard Kipling before returning by taxi to his home at 15 Eaton Place in Knightsbridge when he was suddenly set upon by two men, Reginald Dunne (24) and Joseph O'Sullivan (24).

His murder came six months after the Treaty was signed between the provisional and British governments, which would lead to the creation of the Free State and took place only a few hundred yards from where the historical agreement was made.

Whyte added: "Originally the IRA command in Dublin ordered the assassination in early 1921. But when the Treaty between the IRA and the British Government was delivered in June 1921 the order to kill Wilson was put on hold. However, in 1922 the order was authorized once again. For a long time people have argued over who ordered the killing. Some said that while Collins signed the Treaty he still wanted revenge on Wilson for his actions during the War of Independence, though that could never be proven. Wilson brought in the 'Black and Tans' and people say he ordered a 'war of terror' rather than a 'war on terror'."

In addition to the letters, which are expected to reach between €5,000 and €7,000, a tricolour flag flown over one of the buildings occupied by the Irish Volunteers during the 1916 Rising is estimated to fetch between €30,000 and €50,000. The rare homemade cloth was recovered from Dublin Castle, where it had been dumped by British troops. It has the words 'Sinn Fein go deo' (Sinn Fein forever) above a spray of shamrock.

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The history and literature auction takes place on Saturday, November 8 at the Freemasons hall on Molesworth Street. The items can be viewed from Wednesday to Friday at Whyte's offices.


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