Blaney, Neal (Neil) (1889–1948), politician and businessman, was born 5 November 1889 in the family home at Rosnakill, Co. Donegal, fifth of six children of William Blaney, small farmer, and Anna Blaney (née Sweeney). Aged 12, he left school to work on the family farm, situated midway up the Fanad peninsula. Later he augmented his income as an agent for the New Ireland Assurance Co., and came into contact with Joseph O'Doherty (qv), a member of the headquarters staff of the Irish Volunteers and a Sinn Féin organiser.
In 1913 Blaney joined the Irish Volunteers in Rosnakill and in 1914 was appointed company captain. The first president of the Rosnakill branch of Sinn Féin (founded 1916), he was active in O'Doherty's 1918 general election campaign. In 1920 he was appointed officer in charge of the Fanad Battalion, 1st Northern Division IRA, and district judge of the dáil courts in Fanad and Inishowen. Captured by British forces in March 1921, he was court-martialled in Derry (19 April 1921) for possessing illegal documents and sentenced to five years imprisonment; he served ten months in Dartmoor prison and was released soon after the signing of the treaty. During the civil war Blaney was second-in-command of IRA Donegal no. 2 Brigade before being captured by Free State forces (December 1922). His death sentence (1923) for possession of a firearm was commuted after the ceasefire order, and he was released in July 1924.
A member of Donegal county council and its subsidiary bodies from 1925, he was initially opposed to the Sinn Féin split (1926) but was persuaded by Seán Lemass (qv) to join Fianna Fáil. Elected TD for Donegal (June 1927–37) and Donegal East (1937–8), he lost his seat in 1938 after allowing his local power base to be eroded by Henry A. McDevitt. A member of the seanad (1938–43), he was reelected for Donegal East (1943, 1948), topping the poll each time. A strident republican, he believed that physical force was the only way to secure the six counties and obtain complete independence.
Blaney was a director of the Milford Bakery Co., and also of the Donegal Bacon Co., Letterkenny, which he was instrumental in founding. A very sociable and personable man, he was known to be a heavy drinker. In early October 1948 he was diagnosed as suffering from cancer; he died in Letterkenny hospital 30 October, leaving an estate valued at £532.
He married Nora Sweeney; they had five daughters and six sons, one of whom was Neil Blaney (qv) (1922–95). The family lived at Rosnakill, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal; his Dublin residence was 54 Sandford Rd, Ranelagh.