Michael Collins was born at Woodfield in West Cork in 1890, the youngest child in a family of eight children. He moved to London after leaving school, where he became involved in the GAA and the Gaelic League. He was sworn into the IRB in 1909 and joined the Irish Volunteers in 1914. He returned to Ireland in 1916 and acted as Joseph Plunkett’s aide-de-camp, following him into the GPO during the Easter Rising. Despite his lack of official standing, his charisma and strength of personality enhanced his stature in Frongoch prison camp, and he emerged as a leader in the years to come. Elected as a representative of Cork South in 1918, he served as Minister for Finance in the First Dáil, replacing Eoin MacNeill in April 1919, and briefly acted as President of the Dáil in 1920 before Éamon de Valera’s return from America. He also assumed a leading role in the IRB, especially when it came to the intelligence operations of the IRA during the War of Independence. He recruited a number of agents from the civil service and assembled the notorious Squad, a group of IRB gunmen who set about assassinating British intelligence officers. Highly sought after by the authorities, his popularity amongst the public and influence within the IRA grew exponentially as the conflict progressed. Upon the declaration of a truce, he formed part of the Irish delegation to negotiate the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London, which he supported as a means to establishing greater independence. He was made Chairman of the Provisional Government in 1922 and took command of the Army during the Civil War. He was killed during an ambush at Béal na mBlath in Co. Cork on 22nd August, 1923. He was buried at Glasnevin cemetery after a State funeral.
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