Liam Neeson:

Michael Collins


Michael Collins

Ian Hart .... Joe O'Reilly
Julia Roberts .... Kitty Kiernan
Richard Ingram .... British Officer
Liam Neeson .... Michael Collins
Aidan Quinn .... Harry Boland
John Kenny (I) .... Patrick Pearse
Roman McCairbe .... Thomas McDonagh
Jer O'Leary .... Thomas Clarke
Michael Dwyer (I) .... James Connolly
Martin Murphy (I) .... Captain Lee-Wilson
Alan Rickman .... Eamon De Valera
Sean McGinley .... Smith
Gary Whelan .... Hoey
Frank O'Sullivan .... Kavanagh
Stephen Rea .... Ned Broy

Could you imagine a United States in which George Washington was killed in say Shay's rebellion or one of the other frequent disturbances of the critical period and his rival Benedict Arnold became the first US President?

victors That's the question the movie Michael Collins staring Liam Neeson poses.

Collins shaped the IRA out of a nest of informants, drunks and melodramatic would-be martyrs into a fighting force. But Collins was murdered by his own people using the very tactics he had mastered.

However the movie opens not with the formation of the underground army skilled in sleuth and carrying on a cloak and dagger war, but in failure: The failed attempt at uprising on Easter Sunday 1916. Among those taken prisoner was Michael Collins, not yet the `Big Feller' or `The Commandant,' only a lesserling.

The real life Michael Collins was born in County Cork in 1890, the youngest of eight children. West Cork was the heartland of Fenianism, the Irish nationalist movement. As a youngster Michael would hear stories of earlier failed Irish rebellions in 1798 and 1848. "My first tutors ***," Collins reflected, "infus{ed} into me pride of the Irish as a race."

Irish-born Liam Neeson stars as the Irish Patriot Michael Collins.

In Michael Collins Neeson has a hard act to follow, both in terms of persuasively bringing to life a complex warior and in competing with the eloquent portrait of a Rebel that American actor James Cagney created in the 1959 film Shake Hands With The Devil.

Neeson Although Neeson shares with real life Collins and American James Cagney who starred in Shake Hands With The Devil youthful laurels in the ring as a boxer. Neeson, unlike Cagney, appears to have been drawn to the stage without an interest in politics.

Neeson debuted in Belfast before moving on to Dublin's Abbey Theater where he would perform the classics. Although Neeson has starred in films with Celtic themes such as Excalibur (1981) and Rob Roy (1995), Neeson lacks Cagney's allegience to the Irish cause.In 1999 Neeson joined mountebank Ronald Reagan as an Officer of the Order of British Empire (OBE).

Michael Collin's times were without hope of tributes between the ancient enemies. Nationalist newspapers and Sinn Fein ("We Ourselves"), a nationalist party fueled the ferment in advocating Home Rule and revival of the Irish language. With the outbreak of the First World War, The Irish Party in the British Parliament proposed in the House of Commons that Irish Volunteers serve in England's Cause. Some Irish did join the British war effort, while others plotted armed rebellion.

On Easter Sunday 1916 the Irish Volunteers took over the main buildings in the city of Dublin. Michael Collins fought in the General Post Office alongside the leaders of the Rising. After five days of fighting the Volunteers were forced to surrender. The leaders of the rebellion were executed.

"They have died nobly at the hands of the firing squads. So much I grant. But *** the Rising *** looking at it from the inside .... [lost] many a good life. [to] panic decisions and a great lack of very essential organisation and co-operation."

Collins and his fellow Volunteers were rounded up and sent on a cattle boat to English prisons. Anxious to defuse public sympathy and confident that nothing more than the usual silly and flowery speeches would follow, the British released the remaining prisoners.

Michael Collins, at the graveside of a prisoner who starved to death in a hunger strike, orated:

"Nothing additional remains to be said. That volley which we have just heard is the only speech which it is proper to make at the grave of a dead Fenian."

However as a warrior Collins carefully weighed the risks, avoided rash moves, direct confrontation and pitched battle.

In the peaceful interlude, Collins organized an effective intelligence gathering operation and penterated G division of Dublin City Police. The G-men fronted for British military intelligence in Ireland.

In the war of words Irish politicans railed against conscription. The arrests which followed fuelled nationalist resentment. Uncompromising Sinn Fein dominated the snap election called at the end of the First World War. Only 6 seats were won by advocates of compromise. the Irish MPs met in Dublin's Mansion House as Dail Eireann (Irish Parliament) and declared independence.

The shooting war was not far behind. In September 1919, Sinn Fein, the Volunteers and the Dail were driven underground. Collins concentrated on a guerrilla war conducted by flying squads which carried out their mission and melted away. A select group of Volunteers, called `The Squad,'executed British agents. Demurely Collins cycled around British police and soldiers in the guise of a businessman.

Using an "invisible army" of plainclothes terrorists, Collins began systematic assassinations of key British figures. To quash collaboration, Collins imposed a death penalty on friends of the Crown.

As his power and successes grew, Collins threatened the position of the nascent Irish Republic's president, Eamon de Valera.

Alan Rickman plays Eamon de Valera the way Collins described him: a bespeckled nit picker, a marked contrast to the tough but unassuming Collins. De Valera supporters sharply criticize the movie for portraying De Valera as a weak though devious, mannered, sniveling prima donna, an Irish villain to balance British atrocities.

It is hard to ask the Irish to look clinically at the De Valera-Collins fall-out. Objective reality often differs from a romantic story.

But of course, can we blame the Irish alone for such a failing?

In the retelling of American history, we either pretend such things don't happen at least, "not here," or paint the loser as an evil reproachable villian.

The return of Eamon de Valera, nominal president of Ireland, on Christmas Eve 1920, brought conflict in the heirarchy. De Valera deplored the shot-in-the-back tactics favored by Collins. A plan was laid over Collins' objection for a raid on Dublin Castle. Collins who stessed hit and run and economy of lives predicted a failure on the proportion of the siege of the post office in 1916.

dublincastle From a military prospective Collins was right. The raid exacted a heavy toll on irreplaceable Volunteers. However de Valera correctly predicted that the raid would prove to be the final blow for British authorities. The burning of the customs house proved to the British that no target, however well defended, was immune from attack.

The Michael Collins, played in the Liam Neeson movie , accurately portrays a man devoted to the cause. His strength in fighting a well-entrenched enemy is concentrating on vulnerable points with minimal damage to his own men. When the enemy tires from battles, Collins proves not to be as expert in the war of diplomacy and political machinations.

Lloyd Geroge invited de Valera to London for talks. De Valera chose Collins and the moderate nationalist Arthur Griffith to negotiate. The treaty which ensued created an anomonolous relationship with Britain: Ireland was free or in the Empire depending on perspective. Faced with an ultimatum to sign or to resume hostilities, Collins told Lord Birkenhead: "I have signed my death warrant."

De Valera the crafty politican from American shores had duplicitly urged both a peaceful settlement with the Crown and continued war. Collins went to London as a hero who had out-foxed the greatest military power on earth and returned home as the scapegoat with a treaty creating a state nominally neither independent nor tied to The Crown, but somewhere in a grey zone in between.

Anxious to declare victory and restore peace, Dail Eireann (The Irish Parliament) supported Collins. Its ratification of the Treaty established an Irish Free state in southern Ireland which included 26 of the 32 Irish counties. As a Free State Ireland enjoyed dominion status together with Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Neeson As Chairman of the Provisional Government, Collins took command of evacuated British posts. At Dublin Castle, the symbol of British domination, Collins arrived seven and a half minutes late for the change of command, one minute for each century of occupation. Collins remarked to the British general "after seven and half centuries we won't begrudge you seven and a half minutes."

Not shown in the film is the Guardia's protest against the treaty: They refused to post their colors until the British left the stronghold, an official military insult.

Collins would have little time to bask in the moment.

Where the revolution ends, the civil war begins. Tension mounted between the pro- and anti-Treaty factions throughout 1922. IRA units had taken over the Four Courts in Dublin in April. Collins would have left the IRA fester. However faced with Churchill's threat to oust the IRA or face re-occupation, Free State troops (The Guardia) bombarded the building with British artillery. The Civil War had begun. The Provisional Government began to retake cities and towns held by the Republicans.

On August 22, shortly after the death of Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins under the cover of an inspection in Cork area was on his way to a peace parlay with the Rebel rebel DeVelera when his convoy was ambushed. Thousands of people lined the streets of Dublin for the funeral of Michael Collins. His adversary de Valera would later reflect:

"It's my considered opinion that in the fullness of time, history will record the greatness of Collins and it will be recorded at my expense."

From Da Valera's ascension to power until 1965 Collins remained un-person in the country he helped create. In the Jimmy Cagney movie of 1959, Collins is never named; he is referred to as `The Commandant' and seen only as a shadow. But no stone wall can contain such a legend.

The Director Neil Jordan could not have imagined anyone other than Liam Neeson in the lead role. Tall Neeson has the good-bad guy charm the American actor James Cagney believed necessary to such a role: the swagger of a street brawler, with the deceptive innocence of a boyish face. Neeson assumes Collins' passion, a man aflamed in his cause yet in fatalistic tears over the aftermath.

The film did draw some favorable reviews in American papers but was resoundingly bashed as "leprechaunic" by the semi-official voice of the pretend Establishment Anglos in the New York Times "- no culture so steeped in romantic failure and rigid Catholicism could ever truly conquer America -"

Not so, say their cousins (who are, despite pretensions, lets be truthful, in Israel, not Britain)! A leader of Israel's War for Independence (1946-1947) adopted the code name "Micah" as a tribute to the Irish Commandant.


@2001 by jd collins ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
FULLOSIA PRESS RPPS: Introduction to Fullosia The Arthurian Legend Cagney in Shake Hands With The Devil