Joseph Devlin (1872-1934)
[Wee Joe]; b. Hamill St., Belfast, ed. Divis St. CBS; at first worked in a pub, then became a journalist with the Irish News; elected Nationalist MP for N. Kilkenny, unopposed, 1902; re-established Ancient Order of Hibernians, and served as its President from 1905, indefatiguably raising subscriptions against some degree of clerical opposition; elected Home Rule MP for West Belfast, 1906-18, following an interval of 15 years; controlled the United Irish League [UIL], and Board of Erin from 1905; supported Jim Larkins strike-call in Belfast, 1907; accepted Home Rule Bill for Northern nationalists, 1914; supported Redmondite enlistment in World War I;
he was offered chair of Irish Parliamentary Party but bowed out to John Dillon, 1918; defeated de Valera in Falls division of W. Belfast, 1918; acknowledged leader of Ulster nationalists therafter, signing agreement with de Valera not to contest Sinn Féin candidacies, May 1921; continued to sit in Westminster, leading the Nationalist party there, and did not enter Stormont until 1925, though refusing designation of official opposition; First President of National League of the North, est. 1928; elected MP for Fermanagh and Tyrone at Westminster, 1929, among the 11 seats won by Nationalists;
spoke in Waterford at centenary of Redmond's death, questioning the path of physical-force and intolerance in nationalist politics; led Nationalists out of Northern Ireland Parliament (Stormont) in protest against Unionist Govt., 1932; re-entered Stormont, Oct. 1933; founded a holiday home for working women nr. Belfast; d. Belfast, 18 Jan.; his death marked the end of an era for Northern nationalism; there is a portrait by John Lavery; called duodecimo Demosthenes by Tim Healy. DIB DIH FDA
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Eamon Phoenix, Northern Nationalism, Nationalist Politics: Partition and the Catholic Minority in Northern Ireland 1890-1940 (Ulster Hist. Foundation 1994). See also D. George Boyce, Nationalism in Ireland (London: Routledge 1982; 1991 Edn.), pp.276-77.
See also Joe Devlin: What Now - His Confrontation with the British Parliament, February 1919 (Belfast: Athol Books 2007). See also Devlins remarks on John Redmond [q.v.] at the 7th anniversary of his death - as infra.
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D. D. Sheehan, Carson, Ulster and Other Considerations, in Ireland Since Parnell (1921) [Chapter XXIII] - prints an exchange between Carson, Capt. Wedgewood-Benn and Devlin in Parliament [presum. from Hansard] regarding the reasons why Carson was not arrested when he threatened insurrection in Ulsters:
Sir E. Carson: I agree that these words are perfectly correct.
A Labour Member: Anyone else would have been in prison.
Sir E. Carson: Why was I not put in prison?
Mr Devlin: Because I was against it.
Note: Sheehan writes by way of comment: Well may Mr Devlin take all the credit that is due to him for preventing Sir Edward Carsons arrest, considering that he and his Order had been mainly the cause of bringing Carson to the verge of rebellion, and goes on to to dispute Devlin's role in the matter on the basis of an entry of 19 Nov. 1915 in Colonel Repingtons Diary of the First World War, reporting Carsons interview with the King and his threat of civil war; as attached.]
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St. John Ervine, Craigavon: Ulsterman (London: Allen & Unwin 1949): Joe Devlin, whether we like or dislike his Hibernians, kept his group intact. He was not as big a man as Craigavon; but there was quality in him. In any case, he belonged to us, an Ulsterman, and although we had sharp things to say about him, we would thank Southern Irishmen to keep their tongues off him. (p.539.)
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