Thursday 18 January 2018

Conor Gearty: Michael Collins was civil warrior cast in the mould of George Washington

To Michael Collins, violence was always a last resort
To Michael Collins, violence was always a last resort

THE Irish War of Independence was, I would say, a civil war and Michael Collins led the Irish side. Does it therefore follow that he cannot have been a terrorist? The first answer is a confident 'yes'; Collins was a civil warrior, a freedom fighter, more a George Washington than an Osama bin Laden.

But it is not this simple. Consider the Black and Tans and their sacking of Granard: surely a classic example of terrorism. Here was violence as a communicative act, a reprisal as old as warfare.

The Germans did it in World War Two and the British did it as they fought a largely losing battle to keep their Empire in the decades after 1945.

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