Domhnall Ua Buachalla and the First Dáil

Ciara Joyce, Archivist

May God send in every generation men who live only for the Ideal of Ireland A Nation’ James Mallon B. Co. III Batt. I.R.A. Hairdresser  “To the boy of Frongoch” with E. D’Valera Easter Week 22/12/16 Frongoch’.

                                                            MU/PP26/2/1/7 Autograph by James Mallon

Members of the first Dáil 1919

On the 21st of January 1919, the first meeting of Dáil Éireann took place in the Mansion House, Dublin. Elected in the 1918 General Election, the members of parliament refused to take up their seats in Westminster, and instead established the Dáil as a first step in achieving the Irish Republic.

Prominent elected members included Michael Collins, Constance Markievicz, Éamon de Valera, Cathal Brugha, W.T. Cosgrave, Eoin MacNeill and Arthur Griffith. A number of T.Ds, including de Valera and Markievicz, were serving sentences in British prisons at the time and were absent from the first meeting. De Valera would later become the Dáil’s Príomh-Aire or President, after a daring escape from Lincoln Jail.

Also present at the sitting of the first Dáil was Volunteer, Irish language advocate and Maynooth native Domhnall Ua Buachalla.

Domhnall Ua Buachalla  (1866-1963)

Domhnall Ua Buachalla was born on the 3rd of February 1866 in Maynooth, county Kildare. His father, Cornelius Buckley, a shopkeeper, was a native Irish speaker from county Cork. His mother, Sarah Jacob, was the daughter of Joshua Jacob, the founder of the ‘White Quakers’. Ua Buachalla took over the family business from his father and ran a successful shop on Main Street, Maynooth.

Ua Buachalla, himself a fluent speaker, became a well-known supporter of the Irish language and a member of the Gaelic League. He organised the Maynooth branch of the League and ran Irish language classes in the town.

In 1905, Ua Buachalla was prosecuted for having his name on the side of his delivery cart in Irish. He lost his case, and as he refused to pay the fine, the local sheriff had goods confiscated from Ua Buachalla’s shop. The goods were sold at public auction, after which the sole bidder returned the items to their owner.

Ua Buachalla was also a member of the Irish Volunteers and a friend of Patrick Pearse. On hearing that the Rising had begun in Dublin on the 24th of April 1916, he and 14 of the Maynooth Volunteers marched to Dublin to join in the fight. They first called to Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth to receive a blessing from its President, Monsignor John R.  Hogan.

Ua Buachalla’s Irish Volunteers membership form

After his subsequent arrest, Ua Buachalla was imprisoned in Knutsford jail before being transferred to Frongoch internment camp. He remained a prisoner until December 1916.

Ua Buachalla contested and  won the North Kildare seat in the 1918 general election. As a member of Sinn Féin, he attended the opening session of the first Dáil rather than go to Westminster.

He was elected unopposed in the 1921 election, again standing for Sinn Féin. He opposed the Treaty and fought with anti-treaty forces in the ensuing Civil War, resulting in his imprisonment in Dundalk in 1922. Undeterred after losing his parliamentary seat in the election of 1922 he successfully fought the 1927 election, standing as Fianna Fáil candidate in Kildare. He held this position until his defeat five years later.

Election Flyer

In 1932, Ua Buachalla was appointed chair of a commission to investigate conditions in the Gaeltacht. However, in November of the year de Valera asked him to take up the office of Governor General. This appointment was part of de Valera’s efforts to dismantle the Treaty and remove all reference to the King in the Irish Constitution. In his role as Governor General Ua Buachalla lived modestly and was rarely seen in public. His most notable acts while in office were the signing of the Constitutional Removal of Oath Act of 1933 and the Constitutional Amendment no. 27 bill of 1936, which abolished the office of Governor General.

He married Sinéad Walsh in 1897 and they had seven children. He died on the 30th of October 1963 and received a State Funeral with full military honours.

The Ua Buachalla Archive

In 2015 Maynooth University Library received the papers of Domhnall Ua Buachalla on short-term loan for use in the University’s 1916 commemoration. Ua Buachalla’s family, who still live locally, were keen to share this treasured collection for the commemoration.

This collection consists of a series of documents relating to Ua Buachalla interests and political career from 1900 to 1968.

The earliest material includes receipts and letters relating to Ua Buachalla’s involvement with the Gaelic League and Irish language classes in Maynooth, including a series of letters from Mícheal Ó hÍceadha, Professor of Irish, Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth and Vice-President of the Gaelic League.

The collection also contains documents relating to Ua Buachalla’s role in the Irish Volunteers in Maynooth, his internment in Frongoch in 1916, his involvement in Sinn Féin, the Dáil and general elections and his role as Governor General.

Documents of note include enrolment forms for members of the Irish Volunteers in Maynooth (MU/PP26/2/1/1), notice of order of interment issued to Ua Buachalla in 1916 (MU/PP26/2/1/3) and a letter from Countess Markievicz, T.D. regarding farmers in Maynooth allowing land to go fallow (26 February 1920) (MU/PP26/2/3/4). Ua Buachalla also kept an autograph book during his time in Frongoch, which is filled with autographs, poems and sketches by his fellow detainees. It includes the signatures of Micheál Ó Murchadha, J.M Stanley, Cathal Mac Dubhghaill, Liam Ó Briain,  James Mallon, Joseph Lawless, Sean Gogan, Páid Ua Braonáin, Brian Ó hUigínn, James Fitzgerald, Gearóid O’Beoláin, Séamus Ó Fearghail, Joseph Begley, P.J. McNamara, Patrick Cole and others. The final entry in the book is by William Sears, 74 Leinster Road, Rathmines, who writes on the 22nd of December 1916 ‘Last night in Frongoch Camp. The Boys going home in as good a spirit as when they were out on Easter Monday‘ (MU/PP26/2/1/7).  The collection also contains ephemera such as invitations, tickets, posters and flyers.

The collection has now been digitised and is available for consultation. For more information on the Ua Buachalla collection, please contact Special Collections and Archives.

2 thoughts on “Domhnall Ua Buachalla and the First Dáil

  1. telescoper January 19, 2019 / 6:33 pm

    Reblogged this on In the Dark and commented:
    This Monday, 21st January 2019, is the centenary of a momentous day in Irish history. On 21st January 1919 the first Dáil Éireann met and issued a Declaration of Irish Independence and so the War of Irish Independence began..

    This post from Maynooth Library describes fascinating archived material relating to Domhnall Ua Bramhall, who was elected to the First Dáil for Kildare North (which includes Maynooth).

    I’ll probably do a brief post on Monday to mark the centenary.

    Liked by 1 person

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