MICHAEL COLLINS was vain and probably died a virgin according to a professor at University College Cork.
Speaking at the unveiling of a plaque in honour of Collins in Bandon, Emeritus professor of historyat UCC John A Murphy described the leader as “hardly a flawless hero,” adding that he was “universally attractive to public opinion.”
“He could be vain, ruthless, impatient of criticism, and increasingly autocratic,” said the professor.
“He was also conspiratorial, especially in his Northern Ireland policy, in early 1922. Yet there is no doubt he dominated both the civil and military sides of the independence struggle, that he masterminded the smashing of British intelligence, and swung the balance in favour of the Treaty settlement.”
Murphy called several writings and film depictions ofCollins “unhistorical and distorted” and said that Éamon de Valera was demonised as part of the Collins glorification process.
“Moreover, Collins has sometimes been wrenched from his proper historical context and forced into contemporary relevance. Thus, he is depicted as a very modern ‘macho’ man, cast in a late 20th-century mould, especially in the area of sexual permissiveness.
“However, his alleged womanizing remains mere speculation and there is no evidence he succumbed to the blandishments of his groupies.
“He was exclusively devoted to his fiancée Kitty Kiernan. He was a practising catholic after the manner of his day, even if occasionally anti-clerical in the Fenian tradition,” he said.
The unveiling of the plaque occurred days after commemorative events took place in Clonakilty and Cork City to recognise Collins’ birthday.
The last photograph of the rebel leader was taken outside the Munster Arms Hotel just before his death at Béal na mBláth in August 1922.