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New light shed on death of Michael Collins

Recently studied IRA documents suggest that the ambush was “fortuitous”.

A PREVIOUSLY UNSEEN document penned by IRA members present at the assassination of Michael Collins suggests that his death occurred mostly by chance.

The Irish Examiner reports that a new book, named The IRA: A Documentary History 1916-2005, features previously secret internal IRA documentation that sheds new light on the death of Collins.

A report of the ambush at Béal na mBláth in West Cork was sent by the IRA’s 1st southern division headquarters staff to the chief of staff Liam Lynch two days after the attack on August 22, 1922, the newspaper reports.

Speculation about the exact circumstances surrounding Collins’ death have abounded since 1922.

The uncovered IRA report outlines that the fatal attack succeeded mostly due to chance, with most of the ambushing party having already withdrawn by the time Collins arrived at the scene. The guerrillas had believed that Collins’ party had changed direction.

Just six IRA members were in position to open fire on Collins’s 32-strong column.

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The report is contained in the book written by historian Brian Hanley. He said:

For years this first-hand report on Collins’s death lay hidden in the papers of former IRA chief of staff, Moss Twomey. These were donated to UCD in the 1990s and contain a vast amount of information on the organisation through the civil war into the 1940s.

Hanley added:

The Béal na mBláth ambush would seem to have been relatively straightforward and indicated Collins was somewhat naive in his approach by allowing his whereabouts to be easily known. As with many of the other reports, it indicates the very violent nature of the War of Independence and later IRA actions.

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