De Valera in Belfast

Posted By: September 15, 2017

On This Day [in Irish history]
 Irish News, September 15, 1917

Eamon Phoenix. Belfast. Friday, September 15, 2017

            A meeting called under the auspices of the ‘Belfast Central Sinn Fein Club’ was held last night in St Mary’s Hall, the chair being taken by Mr. Denis McCullough. On the platform, which was decorated by the Republican tricolor, were: Very Rev P Convery, PP, VF, St Paul’s; Rev John Hassan, CC, St Mary’s; Rev J McSparran, CC; Rev Daniel Mageean and some half dozen other clergymen. Also were Messrs Archibald Savage, PLG; Darrell Figgis [Dublin]; Eamon de Valera; John [Eoin] MacNeill; Arthur Griffith; Bernard Campbell, solicitor, and Dr. HR McNabb. Mr. P Finegan, LPSI [pharmacist], acted as secretary.          

            Mr. Arthur Griffith said, whatever the present Irish Convention proposed, they were going straight to the Peace Conference with the demand for Ireland’s absolute independence. The Unionists of Ulster must take one of two courses: they must accept the fact that they were part of the Irish nation and throw in their lot with it, or else stand out deliberately as the English garrison. If they did that, then they stood out as the enemies of the Irish nation and the Irish nation must deal with them.

            Mr. Eamon de Valera had by far the most enthusiastic reception of any of the speakers, being greeted with prolonged applause and the singing of ‘A Soldier’s Song.’ In the first place, he said, they were out to proclaim to the world Ireland’s traditional claim for sovereign independence – a claim for a free and independent Republic. Mr de Valera believed that they could defy some of the Defence of the Realm regulations. For instance, every man could take a crooked branch of a tree, shape it into a hurley and use it as a walking stick. If they made up their minds that they wanted freedom, they would get it.

     Mr. Eoin MacNeill devoted the greater part of his speech to criticise the Irish News reports of recent [Sinn Fein] meetings in Tyrone and Armagh. 

(This was de Valera’s first visit to Belfast as the senior surviving commandant of the  1916Rising. His platform included several defectors from the Home Rule party, including a local doctor, Russell McNabb, the veteran Parnellite priest, Archdeacon Pat Convery and a future Bishop, Fr. Daniel Mageean, a keen Gaelic revivalist.  The secretary, Patrick Finegan owned a chemist’s shop in Royal Avenue. The bulk of Belfast nationalists, however, remained defiantly loyal to Joe Devlin who would easily defeat de Valera in the 1918 general election in Falls.)