The Éamon Donnelly Collection

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Eamon Donnelly and family at home in Newry

Eamon Donnelly and family at home in Newry

The Éamon Donnelly Collection comprises over 400 documents dating from 1881 to 1972, but mostly from the 1930s and early 1940s. They are the personal and political papers of the Nationalist and Republican politician, Éamon Donnelly (1877–1944). Donnelly was elected by constituencies in both the north and south of Ireland: Armagh (1925–29), Laois-Offaly (1933–37) and Belfast Falls division (1942–44). Originally a member of Sinn Féin, he joined Fianna Fáil after its formation in 1926. A great organiser, Donnelly served as director of elections for both parties. As a result of his political convictions and activities he was imprisoned on a number of occasions.

After Éamon Donnelly’s death his surviving papers were, in the main, retained by his eldest child, Nellie (Eleanor Marie). Nellie had worked with her father in some of his political activities, seeking his release from imprisonment in 1923 and sending a series of telegrams updating the rest of the family on the 1925 election, when Éamon Donnelly was elected to represent Armagh constituency. Nellie had an ambition to write a biography of her father but this was, unfortunately, never achieved. The papers lay dormant until they were made use of by Éamon Phoenix when carrying out research in the 1970s for his Ph.D. thesis and subsequent book, Northern Nationalism: Nationalist politics, parties and the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland 1890–1940 (Belfast, 1994).

The collection was donated to Newry and Mourne Museum in 2011 by Éamon Donnelly’s grandsons, Donal Donnelly-Wood and Sean Donnelly, subsequent additions were made to the collection in 2014 and in 2016, including books, photographs and political material.




Content and Significance

The Collection contains correspondence, speeches/lectures, photographs and contemporary newspaper cuttings. The correspondence is from leading figures in Irish nationalism (male and female), including Éamon de Valera, Michael Collins, William O’Brien, Cahir Healy, Maud Gonne MacBride, Mary MacSwiney, Kathleen Clarke and, the contemporary author of The Irish Republic, Dorothy Macardle. The predominant correspondent in the collection is Cahir Healy, whose letters to Donnelly constitute an important archive on Northern Nationalism, in the 1930s and early 1940s. The Healy letters are given added significance as the other side of the correspondence can be viewed among the Healy papers in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, just as the other side of the Donnelly-MacSwiney correspondence can be consulted in the MacSwiney papers held at University College Dublin Archives.

As a whole the collection provides an insight into what it was to be a northern nationalist involved in Irish politics in the early twentieth century. It sheds invaluable light on the career of Éamon Donnelly and deals with important topics from the period such as the debate over abstentionism and the campaigns for nationalist unity and anti-Partition. Among the collection are items of local and national significance. There is an interesting list recording members of the I.R.A. and Cumann na mBan killed between 1916–1960, a handwritten police description of Michael Collins, an autograph book belonging to Donnelly, and material relating to the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix, who was refused entry to Northern Ireland in 1925. Donnelly’s Exclusion Order and related train ticket, telegrams connected to his various elections in the north and south of Ireland, and his 1933 ‘jail journal’ also form part of the collection. The latter, in particular, is significant because of the insight it offers into what he read, containing quotations from books on various revolutions throughout the world, as well as displaying his interest in classical history, science and religion.

Physical characteristics

The collection contains over 400 items, most of which is digitised.






Custodial History

The collection was donated to Newry and Mourne Museum.

Accrual Policy
Accrual Method
Accrual Periodicity

The collection was added to in 2014 and 2016.

Added by Newry and Mourne Museum | Last updated on: 13 December 2018
Collection Available Online