Belfast blue plaque for man who tried to call off Easter Rising

Gaelic scholar Eoin Mac Neill was a student at St Malachy's College in Belfast
Gaelic scholar Eoin Mac Neill was a student at St Malachy's College in Belfast

A blue plaque will be unveiled today in Belfast to the Irish Volunteer who tried to ‘call off’ the Easter Rising.

The Ulster History Circle will commemorate Eoin Mac Neill, who lived from 1867 to 1945 and was known as a Gaelic scholar, historian and politician.

He was born John McNeill on May 15, 1867 to parents, Archibald and Rosetta, in Glenarm village.

He boarded in St Malachy’s College from 1881 until 1887 and according to the archivist at the college, was a brilliant student. At St Malachy’s and Queen’s College, Belfast, he studied for degree exams of the Royal University of Ireland and obtained a BA in jurisprudence, constitutional history and political economy.

Mr Mac Neill was a passionate advocate for the Irish language and in 1893 together with Dr Douglas Hyde, he co-founded the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilige).

As chief of staff of the Irish Volunteers he famously attempted to ‘call off’ the Easter Rising of 1916 and later became one of the key builders of the Irish Free State.

He made major contributions to Irish scholarship, particularly as president of the Irish Manuscripts Commission. He was also president of the Irish Historical Society, the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy.

The plaque will be unveiled at 11.30am at St Malachy’s College on Antrim Road. Guest of honour will be Mr Mac Neill’s grandson, Senator Michael McDowell, a member of the Oireachtas and former tanaiste.