Michael Collins’ assassination took place just over 90 years ago this month.
On that date, not only did one of Ireland’s legedary figures meet a fatal end, but also his connections with the county of Longford fell into the annals of history. These connections transcended his relationship with Kitty Kiernan of Granard, with the ‘Big Fella’ visiting the area on numerous occasions.
Collins canvassed vehemently for Sinn Fein candidate, Joseph McGuinness, in the south Longford constituency during the 1917 election. McGuinness was a prisoner at the time, but Collins led the campaign under the slogan, “Vote him in to get him out!”
Originally, Eamon De Valera opposed the idea of McGuinness running, and as a consequence McGuinness decided not to run. Collins, however, convinced him to stand for election, and McGuinness was elected narrowly - winning by just 37 votes. Collins also had a close relationship with another Longford native: General Sean MacEoin.
MacEoin was imprisoned in 1921, charged with the murder of R.I.C. District Inspector T.J. McGrath. He was subsequently released, at the insistence of Collins. Michael Collins was arrested himself in 1918, for an after mass rally he gave at Legga, near Granard.
At the time, the Longford Leader described the rally as “a big blow-out. Three hundred men, women and gossoons assembled to hear the new gospel preached.” He was adjudged to be guilty of an inciting rally and cajoling volunteers to steal guns.
Reading from a script, Collins had read out a Volunteer General Order warning members not to raid houses for arms. He departed from his script however, and added “when volunteers do raid for arms, they will go where they will find ones that will be of some use to them.” As a result, an outrage report was filed with the Longford County Inspector.
A warrant for Collins’ arrest was obtained, and Collins was arrested on O’Connell Bridge in Dublin on April 2 1918. Collins was transferred to Longford and put on trial, where he was found guilty and imprisoned in Sligo. Collins himself described the scene at the Longford Railway Station, where he was brought to be transferred to Sligo. He was met by “a crowd of sympathisers [and] friends there with Republican flags, singing rebel songs.”
Collins, after initially refusing the option, opted to be bailed for £40.