Michael Collins paid a visit to Armagh on 4 September 1921, in what the ‘Irish News’ described as “his first official visit to the city.” The implication may well be that he had been in Armagh on IRA business in the past few years, but he was now a leading figure in the Dáil Éireann Cabinet. In fact, apart from appearances in the Dáil, this was the first time he had appeared in public since his name became known to the world as Commander in Chief of the Republican forces.
In May 1921, Collins had been elected member for Armagh, coming second to the Unionist Richard Best. He did not, of course, take his seat as neither did any of the other Sinn Féin men who were elected. Four months had elapsed since the election so Collins was scarcely intent on thanking Sinn Féin voters. More likely, he wanted to show, as the ‘Freeman’s Journal’ put it, “that if Sir James Craig and his colleagues want to do business, and, according to Lord Londonderry, peace is as vital for the North as the South, he is a man with whom business is possible.” Negotiations were going on at the time between Downing Street and Dáil Éireann and partition was still a tense subject, so Collins may have wanted to utilize his Northern status to make peace overtures, and get publicity for his (and presumably, the Dáil’s) viewpoint. The ‘Ulster Gazette’s’ view was that he was in Armagh “ostensibly for the purpose of addressing his ‘constituents’ of Armagh, but really the occasion was one for an elaborate demonstration of the strength of Sinn Féin in Mid-Ulster.”