Newry: A look back in time – Éamon de Valera arrested in Newry

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Friday, March 21st, 2014
Community, Old Newry

In our new column Newry Times columnist Sean O’Siridean takes a look back through the Newry of old. He takes a step back in time and looks at how history reported on Newry and the surrounding areas through past decades.

Today we look Ireland’s former Taoiseach and president Éamon de Valera and the day he came to Newry in defiance of an order banning him from entering the North.

Taken from The Providence News dated 8th February 1929 with the headline ‘Sinn Fein leader jailed’.

An exclusion order had been issued to de Valera banning him from entering the North, an exclusion order he rejected out of hand. He had previously been arrested in Newry Town hall 5 years before this.

Previously de Valera had been arrested after sneaking into the town hall amid massive B-Special and RUC presence and he was taken to Newry train station the next morning and told in no uncertain terms to return to Ulster, he quipped, ‘I’ll be back’.

Of course, de Valera had a point, he was standing for election in the south Down district having shunned the Dail, saying at a meeting in Ennis Co Clare that the Dail was a ‘Partitionist Parliament.’

One might be forgiven by thinking this was a well planned effort from de Valera as he was already making moves to enter Leinster House saying, ‘Things may be forced on us. We may temporarily have to submit to certain things, but our assent they never can gain. Dont forget for a moment that there is a vast difference between patiently submitting, when you have to, for a time, and putting your signature to a consent, or assent to these conditions.”

So, he was seemingly laying the marker for an entry to the treaty established parliament by his words, suggesting it was not impossible while also insisting that he would not sign his affirmation to the oath. Coincidentally he won the south Down seat and Sinn Fein’s vote went up across several by elections in the republic as a direct consequence.

On the Newry arrest however, in 1929 he was enroute to Belfast in order to open the Gaelic bazar. Word of his arrest spread quickly through Newry and by the time he reached the courthouse he was greeted by a large number of supporters.

When answering the questions put to him by the magistrate, de Valera answered only in as Gaeilge. When de Valera addressed the court as Gaeilge evidence was given on the magistrates request to confirm that de Valera understood English.

More Newry history articles:

Newry: A look back in time – Newry Theatre bomb

Newry: A look back in time – Newry’s ‘Ghost Town’ makes international news

Newry: A look back in time – Bessbrook Canon Golden Jubilee


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