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Newry’s political history preserved with archive donation to museum

November 11, 2013

Prominent politicians from both sides of the border will gather in Newry tomorrow (Tuesday 12th November) to witness a significant event in the preservation of the town’s political history.

A reception at Newry and Mourne Museum will mark the handing over of ‘The Eamon Donnelly Collection’, an important archive of notable proportions charting the leading Nationalist politician’s career with Fianna Fáil in the post-1916 political era.

The leader of Fianna Fáil, Michael Martin TD and Eamon O’Cuiv TD will attend this event, which marks the political career of a founding member of their party.

Born in Middletown, County Armagh, in 1877, Éamon Donnelly’s political career began as one of the first members of the Irish Volunteers in Armagh. A passionate believer in Irish independence, he broke with the Home Rule party after 1916 and became associated with Éamon de Valera and Michael Collins.

A prominent Nationalist politician in the 1920s and 1930s, Eamon Donnelly was elected Absentionist MP for Armagh in 1925 and became one of the founding members of Fianna Fáil in 1926 and served as Fianna Fáil TD for Laois-Offaly from 1933 until 1937.

Donnelly’s family lived in Newry for much of his political career. When he died on 29th December 1944, he was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Newry.

The Collection, which contains 400 documents including correspondence, speeches, lectures, photographs and contemporary newspaper cuttings, was generously donated to Newry and Mourne Museum by Donnelly’s grandson, Donal Donnelly-Wood. Additional documents were also donated by Sean Donnelly, another grandson.

Mayor of Newry and Mourne District Council, Michael Ruane said the Museum is delighted to receive this important Collection.

“We would like to pay tribute to Donal Donnelly-Wood and Sean Donnelly for their generosity in donating this material which is of national importance,” he said.

Commenting on the event, Dr Éamon Phoenix, political historian and author of Northern Nationalism 1890-1940 says he believes the Éamon Donnelly archive “sheds invaluable new light on the career of a leading figure on the Republican wing of Northern nationalist politics after 1916″.

“These letters chart Donnelly’s ardent anti-partitionism, his growing disillusionment with de Valera’s Northern policy by the late 1930s and his key role in the establishment of the Anti-Partition League after his death in 1944,” he said.

Encouraging local people to visit the museum and view the collection, Noreen Cunningham, Museum Curator, said: “We invite local people to visit the Museum and see some items from this Collection which are currently on display, including photographs of Donnelly’s funeral cortege along Hill Street and Chapel Street in 1944.

“We also look forward to the publication of a catalogue to the Collection in April 2014 which has been prepared by Dr Robert Whan as part of a bursary programme with the Museum.”

The presentation will take place on Tuesday 12th November at 2:00pm.

Newry and Mourne Museum is open to the public seven days a week with admission free of charge. For opening hours, information on events and exhibitions, other services and bookings please phone 028 3031 3178 or visit www.bagenalscastle.com.

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