John McCullagh June 2, 2005
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Eamonn de Valera led the Anti-Treaty forces and as such, was a prohibited person in the new statlet of Northern Ireland. The Republican grouping that organised the Newry meeting at which he was to appear put posters up all over the place indicating that, come hell or high water, their star guest would put in an appearance in the Town Hall. 

About ten days before the event a ring of steel appeared, with Special Constables who scrutinised every person and searched every car for their target. Day after day they drove bayonets into loads of hay and manure. They could hardly have done more to advertise the event. But it was impossible, one would have thought, for any man, let alone one whose appearance was so well known to penetrate the town.

As the time of the meeting approached, excitement rose. Great crowds gathered outside the Town Hall. Inside the meeting began without the star guest. The Hall was full with thousands outside. Policemen and Specials were everywhere among them. At a quarter to nine, forty-five minutes after the meeting began, a car moved slowly though the crowd. De Valera stepped out. Unmistakably it was De Valera; the tall dark-clothed figure, the long-jawed white face, the solemn enquiring eyes looking unblinkingly over the heads of those around him.

A great clamour arose and spread out from the centre to the furtherest limits of the crowd. Cheers and angry shrieks mixed and there was much laughter. The cameras flashed as District Inspector Fletcher put his hands on De Valera’s shoulder and led him to the waiting police car.

Next morning De Valera was taken to Adavoyle railway station, the last station before the border and given a single ticket to Dublin.

It was easy to determine just who had won the day.

 

British Pathe have a video of the occasion – click here

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