General Election

Sinn Fein not first republicans to enjoy electoral success in Derry and South Down

Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion with Michelle O'Neill during the General Election count for Foyle. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

SINN Féin may have claimed a first in winning the Foyle and South Down seats at the general election but republicans have previously represented both areas.

Elisha McCallion and Chris Hazzard both said in their victory speeches that they were the first republicans to represent the respective constituencies as MPs.

But political historian Éamon Phoenix said republicans have previously been elected as MPs in both areas.

Eoin MacNeill, a co-founder of the Gaelic League and chief of staff of the Irish Volunteers, represented Derry city.

"Eoin MacNeill from the Glens of Antrim was elected as Sinn Féin MP for Derry city in 1918," he said.

"He was elected to Westminster but abstained and instead took up his seat in Dáil Éireann."

Mr Phoenix said the 1918 election, like last week, was also closely fought.

Professor MacNeill won the seat with 7,335 votes ahead of Irish Unionist Party candidate Sir Robert Anderson with 7,020.

Meanwhile, former Taoiseach and President Eamon de Valera also had a close association with South Down.

Eamon De Valera on the steps of No. 10 Downing Street in 1932. Picture by Press Association

As a Sinn Féin representative in 1921 he was one of eight MPs elected to the Northern Ireland Parliament to represent Down.

He came second in the poll, behind Ulster Unionist leader James Craig.

He was also elected to the parliament as a Fianna Fáil MP for South Down in 1933 and held the seat until 1938.

Former Sinn Féin MP for Derry city Eoin MacNeill

"He agreed to put his name forward for South Down in 1933 because he had been advised that it would strengthen his negotiating position with the British," Mr Phoenix said.

The historian said President de Valera had a long association with the county and opened the Co Down féis in Newcastle in the early 1950s.

General Election

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