James McNeill

Last updated
James McNeill
2nd Governor-General of the Irish Free State
In office
1 February 1928 1 November 1932
Monarch George V
Preceded by Tim Healy
Succeeded by Domhnall Ua Buachalla
Personal details
BornTimothy James McNeill
(1869-03-27)27 March 1869
Glenarm, County Antrim, Ireland
Died 12 December 1938(1938-12-12) (aged 69)
London, England
Spouse(s) Josephine Ahearne
The Constitution Committee meeting at the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin. James McNeill is seated fourth from the right. IFS Constitution Committee Darrell F's book2.jpg
The Constitution Committee meeting at the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin. James McNeill is seated fourth from the right.

James McNeill (27 March 1869 – 12 December 1938) was an Irish politician and diplomat, who served as first High Commissioner to London and second Governor-General of the Irish Free State.

Ireland Island in north-west Europe, 20th largest in world, politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK)

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

Governor-General of the Irish Free State Representative of the Crown to the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1936

The Governor-General was the official representative of the sovereign of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1936. By convention, the Office of Governor-General was largely ceremonial. Nonetheless, it was controversial, as many Irish Nationalists regarded the existence of the office as offensive to republican principles and a symbol of continued Irish involvement in the United Kingdom, despite the Governor-General having no connection to the British Government after 1931. For this reason, the office's role was diminished over time by the Irish Government.


One of five children born to Archibald McNeill, a Roman Catholic working class "baker, sailor and merchant", and his wife, Rosetta (née McAuley) McNeill, James was the brother of nationalist leader Eoin MacNeill. James McNeill served as a high-ranking member of the Indian Civil Service in Calcutta. Although unconnected with the Easter Rising in 1916, McNeill was arrested and jailed by the British Dublin Castle administration.[ citation needed ]

Irish nationalism Political ideology asserting the nationhood of the Irish people and their right to sovereignty on the island of Ireland

Irish nationalism is a nationalist ideology which asserts that the Irish people are a nation and espouses the creation of a sovereign Irish nation-state on the island of Ireland. It grew more potent during the period in which the whole of Ireland was part of United Kingdom, which ultimately lead to most of the island seceding from the UK in 1921. Politically, Irish nationalism gave way to many factions which created conflict, often violent, throughout the island. The chief division affecting nationalism in Ireland was religious. The majority of the island's population was Roman Catholic, which is the part that seceded, but a portion of the northern part has a Protestant majority that elected to stay a part of the United Kingdom. Since the partition of Ireland, the term Irish nationalism often refers to support for the island's unification. Irish nationalists assert that foreign rule has been detrimental to Irish national interests. Irish nationalism also speaks to celebration of the culture of Ireland, especially the Irish language, literature, music and sports.

Eoin MacNeill Irish politician and scholar

Eóin John MacNeill was an Irish scholar, Irish language enthusiast, Gaelic revivalist, nationalist, and Sinn Féin politician who served as Minister for Education from 1922 to 1925, Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann from 1921 to 1922, Minister for Industries 1919 to 1921 and Minister for Finance January 1919 to April 1919. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1918 to 1927. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) for Londonderry City from 1918 to 1922 and a Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament (MP) for Londonderry from 1921 to 1925.

The Indian Civil Service (ICS), for part of the 19th century officially known as the Imperial Civil Service, was the elite higher civil service of the British Empire in British India during British rule in the period between 1858 and 1947

On release, he was elected to Dublin County Council, becoming its chairman. He served as a member of the committee under Michael Collins, the chairman of the Provisional Government, that drafted the Constitution of the Irish Free State.[ citation needed ] He was subsequently appointed as Irish High Commissioner (ambassador) to the Court of St. James's, meaning the United Kingdom. When the first governor-general of the Free State, Tim Healy retired in December 1927, James McNeill was proposed as his replacement by the Irish government of W. T. Cosgrave and duly appointed by King George V as Governor-General of the Irish Free State.[ citation needed ]

Dublin County Council was a local authority for the administrative county of County Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. It was established by the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898.

Michael Collins (Irish leader) Irish revolutionary leader

Michael Collins was an Irish revolutionary, soldier and politician who was a leading figure in the early-20th-century Irish struggle for independence. He was Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State from January 1922 until his assassination in August 1922.

Constitution of the Irish Free State

The Constitution of the Irish Free State was adopted by Act of Dáil Éireann sitting as a constituent assembly on 25 October 1922. In accordance with Article 83 of the Constitution, the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 of the British Parliament, which came into effect upon receiving the royal assent on 5 December 1922, provided that the Constitution would come into effect upon the issue of a Royal Proclamation, which was done on 6 December 1922. In 1937 the Constitution of the Irish Free State was replaced by the modern Constitution of Ireland following a referendum.

Procession for James MacNeill, as new Governor General, 1 February 1928 Procession for James MacNeill, newly sworn in Governor General of the Irish Free State.jpg
Procession for James MacNeill, as new Governor General, 1 February 1928

In office, McNeill clashed with the King's Private Secretary when he insisted on following the constitutional advice of his Irish ministers, rather than that of the Palace, in procedures relating to the receipt of Letters of Credence accrediting ambassadors to the King in Ireland. He also refused to attend ceremonies in Trinity College, Dublin, when some elements in the college tried to ensure that the old British national anthem God Save the King was played, rather than the new Irish anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann .[ citation needed ]

National anthem song that represents a country or sovereign state

A national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions, and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people. The majority of national anthems are marches or hymns in style. The countries of Latin America, Central Asia, and Europe tend towards more ornate and operatic pieces, while those in the Middle East, Oceania, Africa, and the Caribbean use a more simplistic fanfare. Some countries that are devolved into multiple constituent states have their own official musical compositions for them ; their constituencies' songs are sometimes referred to as national anthems even though they are not sovereign states.

God Save the Queen National anthem of the United Kingdom and royal anthem of many Commonwealth realms

"God Save the Queen" is the national or royal anthem in a number of Commonwealth realms, their territories, and the British Crown dependencies. The author of the tune is unknown, and it may originate in plainchant; but an attribution to the composer John Bull is sometimes made.

Amhrán na bhFiann Song (The Soldiers Song), the chorus of which is the Irish national anthem

"Amhrán na bhFiann", called "The Soldier's Song" in English, is Ireland's national anthem. The music was composed by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney, the original English lyrics by Kearney, and the Irish-language translation, now usually heard, by Liam Ó Rinn. The song has three verses, but only the choral refrain has been officially designated the national anthem.

When Éamon de Valera was nominated as President of the Executive Council in 1932, McNeill opted to travel to Leinster House, the parliament buildings, to appoint de Valera, rather than to require that he go to the Viceregal Lodge, the Governor-General's residence and the former seat of British Lords Lieutenants, to avoid embarrassing de Valera, who was a republican.[ citation needed ]

Éamon de Valera Irish statesman, longest-serving Head of Government of Ireland, later 3rd President; Republican and conservative

Éamon de Valera was a prominent statesman and political leader in 20th-century Ireland. His political career spanned over half a century, from 1917 to 1973; he served several terms as head of government and head of state. He also led the introduction of the Constitution of Ireland.

President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State Head of government of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1937

The President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State was the head of government or prime minister of the Irish Free State which existed from 1922 to 1937. The president was appointed by the Governor-General, upon the nomination of Dáil Éireann and had to enjoy the confidence of the Dáil to remain in office. The office was succeeded by that of Taoiseach, though subsequent Taoisigh are numbered from the first President of the Executive.

Leinster House Building housing the parliament of Ireland

Leinster House is the seat of the Oireachtas, the parliament of Ireland.

However, McNeill's tact was not reciprocated by de Valera's government, and some of its ministers sought to humiliate McNeill as the King's representative by withdrawing the Irish Army's band from playing at functions he attended and demanding he withdraw invitations to visitors to meet him. In one notorious incident, two ministers, Seán T. O'Kelly and Frank Aiken, publicly stormed out of a diplomatic function when McNeill, there as the guest of the French ambassador, arrived.[ citation needed ] In a fury, McNeill wrote to de Valera demanding an apology for this treatment. When none was forthcoming, apart from an ambiguous message from de Valera that could be interpreted as partially blaming McNeill for attending functions at which ministers would be present, he published his correspondence with de Valera, even though de Valera had formally advised him not to do so. De Valera then demanded that George V dismiss McNeill. [1]

Irish Army land warfare branch of Irelands military

The Irish Army, known simply as the Army, is the land component of the Defence Forces of Ireland. As of May 2016, approximately 7,300 men and women serve in the Irish Army on a permanent basis and 1,600 active Reservists, divided into two geographically organised brigades. As well as maintaining its primary roles of defending the State and internal security within the State, since 1958 the Army has had a continuous presence in peacekeeping missions around the world. The Army also participates in the European Union Battlegroups. The Air Corps and Naval Service support the Army in carrying out its roles.

Seán T. OKelly second President of Ireland

Seán Thomas O'Kelly, originally John T. O'Kelly, was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as the second President of Ireland from June 1945 to June 1959. He also served as Tánaiste from 1937 to 1945, Minister for Finance from 1939 to 1945, Minister for Local Government and Public Health from 1932 to 1939, Vice-President of the Executive Council from 1932 to 1937, Minister for Irish from 1920 to 1921 and Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann from 1919 to 1921. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1923 to 1945.

Frank Aiken Irish politician, multiple-times minister, previously Republican army commander

Francis Thomas Aiken was an Irish politician who served as Tánaiste from 1965–1969, Minister for External Affairs from 1957 to 1969 and 1951 to 1954, Minister for Finance from 1945 to 1948, Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures 1939 to 1945, Minister for Defence from 1932 to 1939 and Minister for Lands and Fisheries from June–November 1936.

The King engineered a compromise, whereby de Valera withdrew his dismissal request and McNeill, who was due to retire at the end of 1932, would push forward his retirement date by a month or so. McNeill, at the King's request, resigned on 1 November 1932. [2]


Josephine McNeill (1951) Josephine McNeill 1951.jpg
Josephine McNeill (1951)

James McNeill died in 1938 at the age of 69 in London. His widow Josephine was appointed Minister to the Hague by Seán MacBride, Minister for External Affairs in the coalition government of 1948.[ citation needed ]

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  1. http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/demonstration-of-independence-170828.html
  2. http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/demonstration-of-independence-170828.html

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
None - new post
Irish High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Timothy Smiddy