Michael Collins, the Chairman of the Provisional Government of Ireland created under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, accepts control of Dublin Castle from Lord Lieutenant Edmund Bernard FitzAlan-Howard on January 16, 1922.
Once the Treaty is signed and ratified by Dail Eireann on January 7, the British quickly prepare to leave the Irish Free State and hand over this sprawling monument to British rule in Ireland. The new rulers of Ireland are advised to be ready to take over Dublin Castle in mid-January. The turn over symbolizes the end of British rule in Ireland, although the Irish Free State remains part of the Commonwealth until 1949.
Dublin Castle is first founded as a major defensive work by Meiler Fitzhenry on the orders of King John of England in 1204 and is largely complete by 1230. For centuries Ireland has been governed from “The Castle.” Everything British that moves and has its being in Ireland has emanated from the Castle.
It was from the Bermingham Tower in the Castle that the legendary escape of Red Hugh O’Donnell and Art O’Neill takes place in January 1592. Art O’Neill perishes in the Dublin Mountains but O’Donnell manages to make his way to the sanctuary of the O’Byrnes in Glenmalure, County Wicklow.
Just over two hundred years later, in 1907, the Insignia of the Order of St.Patrick, known as the Irish Crown Jewels, are stolen from the Bedford Tower in an audacious robbery that has never been solved.
The Castle could have fallen during the upheavals of 1641 but it did not succumb to rebel control. Robert Emmett could have taken it in 1803 but failed to do so. The Castle was even more vulnerable during the 1916 Easter Rising but the Volunteers failed to capitalize on it.
Considering the 700-year history of the Castle, Michael Collins, dressed impressively in his military uniform, must have savoured the moment when his staff car drives into the precincts of the complex of buildings whose fabric he has successfully managed to infiltrate during the Anglo-Irish war while, all the while managing to keep himself out of the clutches of its more sinister and homicidal operatives.
When Collins steps out of his staff car at the Castle, Lord Lieutenant FitzAlan-Howard is reported to say, “You are seven minutes late, Mr. Collins” to which Collins replies, “We’ve been waiting over seven hundred years, you can have the extra seven minutes.”