The Path To Freedom

BY GENERAL MICHAEL COLLINS,

August, 1922

AFTER a national struggle sustained through many centuries, we have to-day in Ireland a native Government deriving its authority solely from the Irish people, and acknowledged by England and the other nations of the world.

Through those centuries through hopes and through disappointments the Irish people have struggled to get rid of a foreign Power which was preventing them from exercising their simple right to live and to govern themselves as they pleased which tried to destroy our nationality, our institutions, which tried to abolish our customs and blot out our civilization, all that made us Irish, all that united us as a nation.

But Irish nationality survived. It did not perish when native government was destroyed, and a foreign military despotism was set up. And for this reason, that it was not made by the old native government and it could not be destroyed by the foreign usurping government. It was the national spirit which created the old native government, and not the native government which created the national spirit. And nothing that the foreign government could do could destroy the national

But though it survived, the soul of the nation drooped and weakened. Without the protection of a native government we were exposed to the poison of foreign ways. The national character was infected and the life of the nation was endangered. We had armed risings and political agitation. But we were not strong enough to put out the foreign Power until the national conscious-ness was fully re-awakened. This was why the Gaelic Movement and Sinn Fein were necessary for our last successful effort. Success came with the inspiration which the new national movement gave to our military and political effort. The Gaelic spirit working through the Bail and the Army was irresistible.

In this light we must look at the present situation. The new spirit of self-reliance and our splendid unity, and an international situation which we were able to use to our advantage, enabled our generation to make the greatest and most successful national effort in our history. The right of Ireland as a nation under arms to decide its own destiny was acknowledged. We were invited to a Peace Conference. With the authority of Ireland’s elected representatives negotiations were entered into between the two belligerent nations in order to find a basis of peace.

During the war we had gathered strength by the NOTES BY GENERAL MICHAEL COLLINS II carried on the struggle. We had organised our own government, and had made the most of our military resources. The united nation showed not only endurance and courage but a humanity which was in marked contrast with the conduct of the enemy. All this gave us a moral strength in the negotiations of which we took full advantage. But in any sane view our military resources were terribly slender in the face of those of the British

Empire which had just emerged victorious from the world war. It was obvious what would have been involved in a renewal of armed conflict on a scale which we had never met before. And it was obvious had been alienated, if Ireland had rejected terms which most nations would have regarded as terms we could honourably accept. We had not an easy task. We were faced with a critical military situation over against an enemy of infinitely greater potential strength. We had to face the pride and prejudice of a powerful nation which had claimed for centuries to hold Ireland as a province. We had to face all the traditions, and political experience, and strength of the British nation. And on our flank we had a section of our own people who had identified their outlook and interests with those of Britain…..

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The Path to Freedom By General Michael Collins August 1922