The Helmsman is gone

The Editorial – Daily Sketch (London) August 24th 1922


THE hand that struck down Michael Collins, guided by a blinded patriotism, has aimed a blow at the unity of Ireland for which every one of her sons is fighting. Collins was probably the most skilled artisan of the fabric of a happier Ireland. Certainly he was the most picturesque figure in the struggle; and in the rearing of a new State a popular ideal serves as the rallying point to draw the contending elements. The death of Collins leaves the ship of the Free State without a helmsman.

Other sons of Ireland have risen from lowliness to eminence in the struggle, but Michael Collins, by his valour, his sufferings, his elusiveness during the more turbulent periods of the past, and by his own personal charm, bound a spell round the popular imagination and wove a romance which endeared him to his friends and inspired respect in his foes.

Without Collins the architrave of the new structure is loosened; the whole erection tottered with the news of his death; even now one wonders can it ever be underpinned.

Since the historic hour in the early morning of December 6, when Collins and his colleagues who helped to fashion the treaty came from 10 Downing-street, tired but smiling, and Lord Birkenhead gave the news to the weary band of journalists who had waited so long and so anxiously, the progress of the new State has been dogged and delayed by a malignant Fate.

Of the five chief signatories for Ireland Mr. Robert Barton is the only one who remains in office. The tears that Michael Collins shed over the death of his friend, Arthur Griffith, we’re hardly dry when he himself was struck down. He knew when the turf was laid on his old colleague that his own turn would come, soon.

The next phase in the life of the Free State is veiled by the tragedy of the present. The helmsman has gone at a moment when no haven can yet be descried.

What is to happen now?