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Eoin MacNeill Papers.

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In Collection: Eoin MacNeill Papers
Description: Papers of Eoin MacNeill; This collection is comprised largely of MacNeill’s correspondence with various Irish figures such as Douglas Hyde, who wrote to MacNeill regarding the Gaelic League, the Irish Revival and various literary matters, 1893-1934, some of these letters are written in Irish; MacNeill also received other letters and postcards from various correspondents such as Reverend Eugene O’Growney, Reverend Michael O’Hickey, Joseph Bigger, Ernest Blythe, Edward Spencer, Joseph Dolan, Peter Byrne, Lady Gregory, Padraic Pearse and various others, predominantly in regards to the Gaelic League, the Irish Revival, the Irish language and various other literary matters; c. 1893-1940. This collection is also comprised of documents concerning the sequence of events at Easter, 1916 and the court martial of Eoin MacNeill, 1916-1936, these include letters to Charles MacNeill and items in the hand of Eoin and Charles Mac Neill and a typescript of the court martial proceedings.

Eoin MacNeill (1867-1945) was born of middle-class Catholic parents at Glenarm on the Antrim coast. He was educated at St Malachy’s College, Belfast and gained a degree from the Royal University of Ireland. In 1893, together with Douglas Hyde and others he founded the Gaelic League. He was the first secretary of the Gaelic League, and edited its journal An Claidheamh Soluis (the Sword of Light) for a period. In 1909, he became professor of early and medieval Irish history at University College, Dublin. While primarily a scholar and cultural activist, in an article entitled ‘The North began’ in An Claidheamh Soluis (1 November 1913), McNeill advocated the formation of a national volunteer force on the lines of the Ulster Volunteer Force. The organisation was established in Dublin on 25 November, its ostensible purpose being to safeguard Home Rule; a number of the executive, however, were members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood who aimed at using the Volunteers to gain full independence, which indeed came to pass, most of the participants in the 1916 Rising being members of the Volunteers. MacNeill, also a separatist but moderate in tone and well regarded publicly, was given the role of chief of staff. Under MacNeill’s direction recruitment proceeded apace, the numbers eventually reaching 170,000. He also encouraged the creation of a complementary women’s force, Cumann na mBan, in April 1914. As chief of staff, he was involved in planning the importation of the Howth arms. Following the split in September 1914 and the defection of the vast majority of members to Redmond, the remaining Irish Volunteers, numbering about 10,000 and mainly located in Dublin, continued under MacNeill’s leadership. MacNeill’s strategy was to organise an insurrection when circumstances seemed favourable; in the meantime, the Irish Volunteers should be fully armed and trained. Some of the IRB faction in the leadership, however, planned an insurrection for the more immediate future. It organised routine manoeuvres for Easter Sunday 1916 as a cover for an insurrection throughout the country. Learning of this on Easter Thursday, MacNeill confronted Patrick Pearse, one of the IRB ringleaders, telling him that he would not allow ‘a half-armed force to be called out’. Later, however, Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Seán MacDiarmada allayed his fears, informing him of the imminent landing of a German ship with substantial quantities of arms at Fenit, Co. Kerry. When it transpired on Saturday evening that the ship had sunk and the arms were lost, MacNeill countermanded the order for manoeuvres the following day. As a result of MacNeill’s countermand, the 1916 Rising was almost entirely confined to Dublin.. MacNeill took no part in the Rising but he was tried by court-martial and sentenced to penal servitude for life; he was released under amnesty in June 1917. He was later elected to the First Dáil as a member of Sinn Féin and served various roles during his time such as Minister for Finance and Minister for Education. In his later years he devoted his life to scholarship and he published a number of books on Irish history. MacNeill died in Dublin of natural causes on 15 October 1945 , aged 78.
Main Creator: Mac Neill, Eoin, 1867-1945
Language: English
Extent: 17 boxes (circa 200 folders).
Call Number: MS 11,437 (Manuscripts Reading Room)
MS 10,881-10,901 (Manuscripts Reading Room)
MS 10,874-10,886 (Manuscripts Reading Room)
Rights: Reproduction rights owned by the National Library of Ireland.