Clerk, 1916 veteran, prison escape coordinator - Michael Collins's road to the Dáil

Twenty-eight-year-old Michael Collins was almost unknown to the Irish public when he was appointed Minster for Finance on 2 April 1919. Having left school at 15, the young west Cork man moved to London where he received an education in finance while working as a clerk in the post office and, later the Board of Trade. He was also an enthusiastic participant in Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and Gaelic League activities in the city, and in 1909 he was sworn into the IRB.

After joining the Volunteers in London, Collins returned to Ireland in January 1916 to participate in the planned rising, during which he served as aide de camp to James Connolly in the GPO. After his release from Frongoch internment camp at Christmas 1916, he was instrumental in rebuilding the IRB and would soon emerge as a leader of the reorganized Irish Volunteers, ascending to the position of Adjutant General in March 1918. Elected to the Sinn Féin executive in October 1917 Collins was elected to the constituency of Cork South in the 1918 general election. He assisted in the liberation of Éamon de Valera from Lincoln prison in February 1919 and he succeeded Eoin MacNeill as Minister for Finance in April.