Michael Collins Minister for Finance
In 1919, the already busy Collins received yet another responsibility when de Valera appointed him to the Áireacht (ministry) as Minister for Finance. Understandably, in the circumstances of a brutal war, in which 'ministers' were liable to be arrested by the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British Army, the Black and Tans or the Auxiliaries at a moment's notice, most of the ministries only existed on paper, or as one or two people working in a room of a private house. Not with Collins, however, who produced a Finance Ministry that was able to organise a large bond issue in the form of a 'national loan' to fund the new Irish Republic.
In retrospect, the sheer scale of Collins' workload, and his achievements, is staggering. From creating a special assassination squad (The Twelve Apostles to kill British agents) to the arrangement of an internationally famous national loan, from running the IRA to effectively running the government (when de Valera travelled for a long period to the United States,) and an arms-smuggling operation, Collins became almost a one-man revolution. By 1920, when he was only thirty years old, Michael Collins was wanted by the British with a price of £10,000 (a vast sum in the 1920s) on his head. And he made enemies among nationalist leaders; two in particular, Cathal Brugha, the earnest but mediocre Minister for Defence, who was completely overshadowed by his cabinet colleague in military matters (even though Collins nominally was only Minister for Finance, with Brugha in Defence supposedly being the big player). Eamon de Valera, the President of Dáil Éireann, also bitterly resented his much younger colleague, all the more so when Collins' reputation reached new heights while de Valera, against Collins' advice, devoted a year to a fruitless search for American recognition for the Irish Republic. Their rivalry was even represented in their nicknames. The extremely tall de Valera earned the nickname the 'Long Fellow' while, to de Valera's fury while he was abroad, Collins won the nickname from his colleagues of the 'Big Fellow'.
The Russian Crown Jewels
Michael Collins' ability to raise a national loan so impressed the Russians that they sent a representative to Dublin to negotiate a loan. In August, 1920 Éamon de Valera instructed Dr Patrick McCartan to negotiate an interest free loan of $25,000 to the Soviet Union. McCartan was an envoy for the Irish Republic that had been declared. As part of the deal, items of the Russian Crown Jewels were used as collateral. A draft treaty accompanying the agreement provided for the training of Irish officers and the supply of weapons to the Irish Republic by Russia. - The treaty was never signed.
The transfer of the jewels was made in New York. The crown jewels were brought back to Ireland by Harry Boland. Before the outbreak of the Irish Civil War, Harry Boland gave the crown jewels to his mother for safe-keeping. He instructed her to keep them hidden until the Anti-Treaty forces came to power. Harry Boland was seriously wounded shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War.
He died on 31 July, 1922. Éamon de Valera’s Fianna Fáil party came to power in 1932. Mrs Boland handed over the Russian Crown Jewels to de Valera’s administration in 1938 The jewels were placed in a safe in Government Buildings and forgotten about. They were rediscovered in 1948 by Patrick McGilligan. Patrick McGilligan was the Minister for Finance in the first inter-party Government of 1948 – 1951. In 1950 the jewels were returned to the Soviet Union in return for the $25,000 that was loaned in 1920.