He was the history professor from Antrim whose actions famously postponed the 1916 Rising. Read about Eoin MacNeill's road to Dáil.
Antrim-born scholar Eoin MacNeill was a founding member of the Gaelic League and editor of its paper An Claidheamh Soluis. In 1909, he was appointed Professor of Early Irish History at University College, Dublin (UCD) and was best known for his work on early Irish law and on St Patrick.
MacNeill's article 'The North Began’ in the 1 November 1913 issue of An Claidheamh Soluis was a catalyst for the formation of the Irish Volunteers.
Following the split in the movement in September 1914, he became chief-of-staff of the IRB-dominated Irish Volunteers. He disagreed with IRB plans for an armed rising involving the Volunteers, seeing military action without an immediate threat of disarmament, conscription or a clear prospect of success as ‘morally wrong’.
Following the capture of the German arms shipment off the county Kerry coast, he issued an order cancelling the general mobilization organised for Easter Sunday 1916. This forced the postponement of the Rising to the following day ensured it was stillborn in most areas outside of Dublin.
Despite not having taken part in the Rising, MacNeill was court-martialled and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released in the 1917 amnesty and, in the face of recrimination, stood successfully as agreed nationalist candidate for Derry City and as representative of the National University of Ireland in the December 1918 general election.