‘A special insight’: Five Michael Collins diaries loaned to State

Taoiseach says books from 1918-1922 of huge value to researchers as centenary of war leaders’ death nears

The Taoiseach has commended the family of Michael Collins for their generosity after a number of pocket diaries belonging to the War of Independence leader were handed over to the State for display in the National Archives.

Micheál Martin said the five work diaries, which cover the period 1918 to 1922, were of huge interest to historians and researchers, particularly with the centenary of Collins’ death in a republican ambush at Béal na Bláth set to be commemorated next year.

“These diaries tell the story of one of the most turbulent periods in our history through the political and personal day-to-day life of Michael Collins,” he said.

“There are many new discoveries that will be revealed through the diaries which will now become part of the national collection at the National Archives. This will allow the public, scholars and researchers learn much more about the events leading up to and following the foundation of the State.”


The diaries provide additional information relating to an important period in Collins’ life and that of the nation, spanning the War of Independence, the Treaty Negotiations and the Civil War, up to his death in August 1922.

Secret in nature

They contain details of meetings, events, appointments and other arrangements, often secret in nature, which have never been seen before, said Mr Martin as he accepted the donation from the family at Collins' ancestral home at Woodfield outside Clonakilty.

Collins' grandniece, Helen Collins, a solicitor based in Skibbereen, presented the diaries to Mr Martin and explained that they were given by their grandfather Johnny Collins (Michael Collins' older brother) to his son, their father, Liam Collins many years ago.

“We are delighted on his behalf to give these important records to the Irish people through the good offices of the National Archives. The family hope to involve Clonakilty in the public presentation of these diaries. This would be very important to our father,” she said.

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin said she was grateful for the loan of the diaries, which will be deposited in the National Archives to undergo conservation and preservation treatment, archival processing and digitisation to enable public access to them.

“We get a special insight into such a turbulent time in Irish history through these precious diaries,” she said. “They are an important legacy for the State in the context of the Decade of Centenaries marking such a significant figure in the history of the State.”

Renewed interest

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney, who gave the oration at the Béal na Bláth commemoration in 2004, said it was particularly appropriate that the diaries were handed over now as there was renewed interest in Collins given the centenary of his death at the age of just 31 was less than a year away.

“The Collins family have always been generous in sharing with the Irish people the cherished belongings, documents and mementos of their uncle and granduncle,” he said. “Where we are today, Woodfield, was previously gifted to the State by the family in the 1990s.”

National Archives director Orlaith McBride said staff would work with Cork County Council to provide local access to digitised copies of the diaries at the Michael Collins House in Clonakilty.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times