Michael Collins

The film Michael Collins depicts the life and death of historic Irish revolutionary by the same name.  The controversy that surrounds the film has to do with many complaints that it was historically inaccurate, and those pertaining to Michael Collins as a man are grounded on the debate of his choice of actions against spies against Ireland when it was fighting for independence.  The debate centers on whether or not his actions can be viewed as terrorism or acts of patriotism, considering that he was fighting against the British while Ireland was essentially under British control.  The debate over whether or not Michael Collins was a terrorist or a patriot cant fully be addressed without first fully understanding the meaning behind the term terrorism.

In the film is is very clearly portrayed by Liam Neason that Michael Collins was apprehensive about using violence in war. It wasnt until the ideals he, as well as his fellow brethren, believed in were compromised due to leaks of information, and until many of his fellow Irish soldiers were slaughtered by the British that Collins devised more strategic tactic to assist Ireland in revolution against the British.  His insertion of Guerilla warfare into their battle regiments lead only to victory but to better Irish intelligence.  It alls lead to controversy, as the violent attacks Collins was leading were on people who seemingly were civilians.

The United States Department of State defines terrorism as premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents (Green, 2002).In this case, Michael Collins actions would not be viewed as terrorism since those he attacked were not civilians but working for British intelligence. Robespierres Great Terror (Reign of Terror) 1793-94Popularized the term terrorism and, for the first time recommended its systematic application in reaching the goals of a state. He noted terrorism, means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatan targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.  As Robespierre points out the understanding of whether or not an act a form of terrorism is entirely dependant on the political climate in which the action is dealt.  It what seen on multiple occasion throughout the film that politics can be manipulative and dramatically effect the public as well as historical perception of how someone is remembered.

The fickle and easily swaying nature of politics can be viewed on numerous occasions in the film specifically when assessing the events that lead up to the Civil War. There is a point in the film after Collins establishes the Irishs tactic of guerilla warfare against the British, and hunts down undercover British intelligence operatives working within the ranks of Irish units, the British become more open to compromise.  When Collins is sent by Sinn Fein President Eamon de Valera to London to negotiate a treaty, he returns with a settlement that essentially divides Ireland and displeases Valera.  Collins ultimately becomes vilified for being the barer of bad news despite his service to his brethren.  These events are ultimately what lead to Michael Collins death as well.

When assessing whether or not Michael Collins tactical acts of violence against the British was terrorism one must make sure there is no clear distinction between his actions and those of revolt.  As Salah Khalef notes, Salah Khalef, one of Yasser Arafats deputies, confounded the issue of terrorismand political violence by stating, By nature, and even on ideological grounds,I am firmly opposed to political murderNevertheless, unlike many others, Ido not confuse revolutionary violence with terrorism, or operations that constitute political acts with others that do not(Green, 2001).  Here he makes a clear distinction that one should not confuse terrorism with revolution. But this is tricky, but there is most definitely a thin line between the two.

In sum, the tradition of how some acts in history go from being viewed as terrorist acts to being seen as patriotic entirely depends on the evolution of power in a nation. Theoretically, George Washington would be viewed as a Terrorist if America had never gained their independence from the British, but he is now seen as a hero and Patriot to his nation. Likewise, Michael Collins is recognized historically as a staple of Irish independence. It is thoroughly understood that Michael Collins is the founding father of Fine Gael, The United Ireland Party Ireland, which is to this serves as the source of progression for Irish free enterprise.


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