Michael Collins title

The Assassins
The fifteen men accused of shooting Collins

Despite 25 books, half a dozen TV documentaries or dramas, and over 200 newspaper articles on the subject, there is great confusion over the events of August 22, 1922, the course of the battle at Bealnablath and the identity of who killed Collins. Eoghan Corry lists some of the most famous of the dozens of suspects:

A colleague of Collins wrongly accused of shooting Collins through drink, incompetence, or because he was a British agent, in fact during the ambush he left his Webley .45 revolver on a fence where it was retrieved the following day with all six chambers unfired.

Claimed to have been the man who shot Collins when he arrived in the USA in 1925, but in 1987 claimed just to have heard a gun go off and have seen Collins fall.

A Glenflesk man who joined the action as he was returning home from Cork, he claimed in 1985 he had not shot Collins but he had seen the man who did. According to research in Patrick J Twohig's book, ''The Dark Secret of Bealnablath,'' his colleagues might have included James Healy, Mick Murphy, John McGillycuddy, Con Quill, Mick Lynch, or Stephen McGrath, among others.

He had been patrolling the hill on horseback and galloped in to the action when the shooting started. He brought the word to the anti-Free State meeting in a nearby house that Collins had been shot, and later claimed to have shot Collins himself.

Leader of the ambush party and brother of the Free State commander accompanying Collins, he appears to have been making his escape when Collins was shot.

Fired a Mauser at the car in which Collins was travelling, shattering the windscreen and stopping the clock, and giving Emmet Dalton the impression they were under machine gun fire. Some maintain Collins was killed by a Mauser bullet, but Hurley is said to have left the ambush by the time Collins was hit.

With six colleagues he chanced on the action on his way back to Newcestown. He told a priest before he died that he thought he had shot Collins, and recalled firing a single shot at a man on the road during the ambush. He was positioned elsewhere by other witnesses, also firing the fatal shot. After the war he went to America and returned to business in Dublin where he died.

The man blamed by Garda Sergeant John Hickey in his official enquiry for the killing of Collins, he fired the warning shot when Collins' convoy approached and inadvertently started the battle before the road-block had been reached. He claimed he did not shoot at, only towards the enemy on the day, and instead blamed British agents for shooting Collins.

The machine gunner on the Slievenamon fought on Collins' side during the ambush, but became the object of suspicion when he later defected to the Republicans. After a short period his machine gun no longer worked and he had to fire off single shots like a rifle. He was arrested and spent six months in prison for the theft of the Slievenamon but was an unlikely assassin.

A Lissarda man from another brigade was firing slantwise from a position at the next bend when Collins was killed. He brought the news of the killing to a local house, and said on the evening of the ambush that he thought he might have shot Collins.

Limerick-man Maurice MacNamara recalled how, as an anti-treaty IRA arbitration court judge, he had presided over the court martial of a a man accused of shooting Michael Collins. Dan O'Connor from Glenflesk was dismissed from the anti-treaty forces, went to the USA in 1925, and returned two years later to live in Rathmore.

The current favourite suspect in a 1988 television documentary and two of the last three books on Collins. An ex British army marksman, He told Jim Kearney the morning after the ambush that it was he had shot Collins, and ten years later told a female friend, Kitty Teehan, that he had shot Collins. The testimony was delivered to revolutionary and Irish Press journalist Maire Comerford, and featured in Colm Connolly's television documentary, although others claimed that he was not engaged at the time Collins was shot. He died in 1950.

A Lismore man, he came in from the south-west with a Waterford group when he heard the firing ''in the hope of capturing a truck.'' He claimed in New York in 1926 that he fired directly at Collins with a Lee Enfield and saw him fall.

A clerical student who was with Bobs Doherty when Doherty heard the fatal shot, he disappeared after Bealnablath and went to live in the USA before returning to Knockatagil, Kilcummin, Kerry, where he died in 1985.

Reinforcing a theory that first emerged within days of the shooting, evidence that British agents had killed Collins which will become available when an unnamed source has passed them on is mentioned in Tim Pat Coogan's 1990 biography of Collins. The results of the official investigation into the shooting were destroyed by the outgoing Free State government in 1932

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