Tuesday 27 September 2016

MacNeill was not 'a dotty professor opposed to violence'

Published 23/01/2016 | 02:30

Eoin MacNeill, chief of staff of the Irish Volunteers, addresses a Sinn Féin meeting at College Green, Dublin, in 1919
Eoin MacNeill, chief of staff of the Irish Volunteers, addresses a Sinn Féin meeting at College Green, Dublin, in 1919

Eoin MacNeill, the man remembered for seriously curtailing the 1916 Rising, was not a "dotty professor'' opposed to violence.

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That is the view of his grandson, former Attorney General and Justice Minister, Michael McDowell.

The former Progressive Democrat leader told a seminar on the 1916 Rising at Leinster House that his grandfather was far from being a pacifist. He believed Irish people had a moral right to use violence against Britain - but it had to have a real chance of success.

Arguing that MacNeill's actions at Easter 1916 are often misunderstood, Mr McDowell said he opposed holding the Rising because he believed it would fail.

McDowell said his grandfather was a realist and felt there was no prospect of success in Easter 1916. He knew the Volunteers had approximately 1,100 weapons and were poorly organised, except in Dublin.

In essence MacNeill believed an insurrection in those circumstances would be morally unsustainable.

Mr McDowell said Mac Neill's countermanding message in the 'Sunday Independent' confined it to the Dublin area.

Mr McDowell said MacNeill was a great patriot who played a leading role in founding the new Irish State.

Irish Independent

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