Michael Collins is a semi-fictitious film about Michael Collins, the Irish patriot and revolutionary who died in the Irish civil war.

Though highly regarded in terms of its narrative form and structure, the film received wide-spread criticism from historians for its many historical inaccuracies and fictions.

The Film's Inaccuracies and Fictions

Fictional aspects that proved controversial include:

  • its coverage of Harry Boland, a close friend-turned-enemy of Collins: Boland's death did not occur in the manner suggested by film
  • the suggestion that Collins headed the delegation to London that negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty (Arthur Griffith led the delegation, with Collins as his deputy)
  • the misrepresentation of some of the content of the Dáil debates on the Treaty (in particular the impression that the partition of Ireland comprised a major issue in the Dáil debates when in reality it received scant mention),
  • its failure to mention that Collins in fact authored the controversial Oath of Allegiance
  • its claim that 'Inspector Broy' was murdered in Vaughn's hotel by the British (Broy in fact survived the Irish War of Independence and civil war, a decade later becoming police commissioner. Contrary to the explicit claim in the film, he lived to a ripe old age!),
  • its misrepresentation of the events on Bloody Sunday when the Black and Tans shot at spectators and killed a number including one footballer (not half a team) at a Gaelic football match in Croke Park in Dublin
  • its failure to mention that Collins at his death was in effect Ireland's first internationally recognised prime minister, and, most particularly:
  • its fictionalised account of the circumstances surrounding Collins' death, from the suggestion that he was deliberately shot by someone (all the evidence suggests a stray bullet) to the claim that he had travelled to Cork where he was shot to meet Eamon de Valera, who, the film implied, bore some responsibility for his death, given that the assassin was seen as someone who had been with de Valera that day. In fact which there is not one single shred of evidence for any of this. De Valera, for example, was nowhere near Cork. Indeed the film's treatment of de Valera was widely criticised as unfair.
  • its other most dramatic fiction involved the blowing up of a carload of hardline Northern unionist detectives sent to take over in Dublin Castle to 'deal' with Collins and the IRA. No such assassination took place in the main courtyard of Dublin Castle or anywhere. No such people existed.

Jordan's Defence

Neil Jordan defended his film by saying that it could not provide an entirely accurate account of events, given that it was a two-hour film that had to be understandable to a world-wide audience who would not know the minutić of Irish history in 1916 - 1922. His critics however alleged that the scale of the fiction introduced, the use of real names for 'composite characters' who like Broy did not die as suggested, and in particular the misrepresentation of de Valera, the manner of Collins' death and the introduction of the provocative assassination of a car-load of Northern Irish unionists who in reality never existed let alone were killed in that manner, seriously undermined the film's trustworthiness.

A statement in the film that the Irish Free State was formed at the start of 1922, following the Dáil's approval of the Treaty, has since appeared as fact on various websites, even though the Irish Free State did not come into being until December 1922.