Unveiling of plaque recognises how living in London shaped Michael Collins as an Irish revolutionary

Memorial in Islington marks site where Collins was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood

Michael Collins began his journey as an Irish revolutionary when he was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in London in 1909 at the age of 19.

Collins was sworn into the IRB, a secret oathbound organisation dedicated to overthrowing British rule in Ireland, by Sam Maguire, who gives his name to the cup, at Barnsbury Hall, Islington, in November of that year.

Collins made his first speech as an Irish nationalist in Barnsbury Hall in 1912. It was, in many ways, the crucible for the ambitious young revolutionary to test his ideas and meet like-minded people. He left London early in 1916 and went on to participate in the Easter Rising.

Barnsbury Hall is long gone but the site it is located on now has a plaque to Collins which was unveiled by the leader of Islington Council, Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, on Friday.


The initiative came from the Terence MacSwiney Commemoration Committee which is active in London in remembering sites in the city connected with those involved in the pursuit of Irish freedom.

Among those present at Friday’s gathering was the former UK Labour Party leader and Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn, Collins’s great-nephew Aengus Collins, Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway-Walsh and Cork City Council deputy mayor Cllr Colette Finn.

The Irish ambassador to the UK, Martin Fraser, said the plaque is a reminder of how much living in London shaped Michael Collins’s political outlook “which in turn had great influence in the foundation of the Irish State. It is important to recognise those key moments in our history and the strong contribution of our Irish community here in London.”

Cllr Comer-Schwartz said the Irish community had done much over the centuries to contribute to the London borough.

“In recent months we have unveiled the mural at Navigator Square to celebrate our Irish community and this plaque for Michael Collins is another example of our recognition. Migrant communities make up so much of our borough so it is vital that we celebrate their contribution and our diversity,” she said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times