Recently discovered love letters from Michael Collins to Kitty Kiernan reveal his internal struggles and strength of resolve

Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Two love letters that Michael Collins sent to Kitty Kiernan have recently been uncovered.

In the letters, Collins speaks of a secret regret about his decision to throw himself into politics and war rather than opt for a quiet life.

The decision ultimately cost Collins his life after he was assassinated in his home city of Cork after signing the Anglo-Irish treaty.

Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan. Image copyright Ireland Calling

While he is regarded by many as the ‘greatest ever Irishman’ – some people felt that he had compromised the dream of a free Ireland by agreeing to allow the six counties in the North to remain part of Britain.

It was a decision that sparked the Irish Civil War.

One of the uncovered letters was dated 31st March 1922 and Collins describes the difficulties and worries that were playing on his mind.

He said: “I am not very sanguine about the future from any point of view. We have however secured release of all the prisoners.

“But the news from Ireland is very bad and the ‘powers that be’ here are getting very alarmed and there may be a bust up any moment.

“Were it not for the awful consequences I’d almost welcome it.

“It would be so pleasant to be relieved of all responsibility — yet one has the responsibility it would be cowardly to shirk from standing up to it.

“The whole business is casting a gloom over me and in spite of what is a big human hope I cannot keep thinking that as a people we are destined to go on dreaming, vainly hoping, striving to no purpose until we are all gone.”

The second letter was written on 1st June 1922,when Collins met with Winston Churchill in London to discuss the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which he had signed the previous year.

Collins wrote: “Ireland will have cause to remember her present-day extremists.

“The whole thing is ghastly but I’ll tell you more about it when I see you. It was only after my scribble yesterday I heard of (fellow Sinn Féin politician) Joe McGuinness’ death.

“He is a great loss to us but apart from that I feel the personal loss much more keenly. He was the one most responsible for the recent peace. It makes the present position all the more tragic.”

Two months later Collins was killed by anti-treaty forces in Béal na Bláth, Co. Cork

Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling