English-born lecturer to make case for Collins as Britain’s greatest foe

Hopes that Michael Collins will be named Britain’s greatest foe rest on the shoulders of an English-born history lecturer.

Gabriel Doherty, from Birmingham and born of Irish parents who emigrated in the 1950s, has been chosen to represent Collins at an all-day speaker’s event at the National Army Museum in London on Saturday.

He will have to make a compelling case in just 40 minutes to convince a live audience that the Big Fella was a greater adversary than four other military leaders: Ataturk, Napoleon, Rommel, and George Washington.

The event, in which the winning foe will be selected by secret ballot, follows last month’s online poll by the museum, in which 20 top enemy commanders were whittled down to five.

Collins’s supporters will be hoping the revolutionary leader goes one better than he did in the preliminary poll, when he came second with 2,787 votes to the founding father of Turkey, rebel army commander Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who bagged 3,090 votes.

Mr Doherty, who has lectured at UCC for 20 years, said he would be “blocking out the next few days” to read up on Collins and prepare a convincing argument as to why he should be named Britain’s greatest foe.

“My participation was confirmed this [Tuesday] morning after I was approached last Saturday, so I’ve a good bit of reading to do to prepare myself.

“I also need to do some research on the other four foes, who were all tremendous figures, to learn more about them.

“But Collins was much more than just a great military leader. He had many different hats and the political and administrative skills of Collins tend to be a lot more overlooked and less appreciated.

“You could argue that the single biggest contribution he ever made was on the financial side by raising money in the US for the Dáil loan.

“Also, the speech he gave in the Dáil following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty was superb, and better than de Valera’s. The political side of Collins was underrated.”

Mr Doherty added: “I don’t know exactly what angle I’ll be taking, but... by Saturday I’ll be prepared.”

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