Conlon, Malachy (Malachi) (1913–50), journalist and politician, was born 16 January 1913 at Lurgancullenboy, Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh, one of two sons and two daughters of Patrick Conlon, a farmer of Lurgancullenboy, and Mary (née Nally) Conlon. He was educated at the local national school, the CBS, Dundalk, and at St Malachy's College, Belfast. He entered journalism in 1930 and worked for the Examiner newspaper in Dundalk, eventually becoming its editor. He was dogged by ill-health throughout his short life which led him to retire from journalism. After his retirement, however, he contributed articles to various journals, and many of his articles at the time were noted for their humour. He also wrote a play in 1945, ‘Dunreavy no more’. Drawn from his deep interest in the Irish language and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Irish poets, the play told of the lives of an outlaw, Seamus Macmarthy, and the Gaelic poet, Peadar Ó Doirnín (qv), in eighteenth-century south Armagh. The drama was staged by the Mullaghbawn Players in various centres, including Dundalk. Conlon took the role of the poet in some productions.
He was first elected anti-partition MP for the South Armagh constituency in the Northern Ireland parliament in 1945. Together with Eddie McAteer (qv), he organised the first meeting of what became the Irish Anti-Partition League (IAPL) on 14 November 1945, in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, and he became the organisation's honorary secretary. His time as an MP was mainly taken up with his constituency work and his anti-partitionist activities; he became a regular speaker at IAPL branches in England and Scotland. He was reelected MP in the NI general election of February 1949, winning by a landslide. Along with Tom Barry (qv) and Senator J. G. Lennon (qv), he formed the IAPL delegation that toured the USA in November 1949, appealing to both the US government and the Irish-American community for their support in helping to end partition. His premature death ensured he never realised his full potential as an organiser, writer, creative thinker, and (by all accounts) an impressive orator. While it is easy to see him as an essentially parochial character and politician, his involvement with the IAPL provided him with a national, and to some extent, an international profile. The anti-partition campaign obviously failed, and indeed if anything, proved counter-productive, as the British response (in the form of the Ireland Act, 1949) copper-fastened Northern Ireland's status as part of the UK. Still, the IAPL, and Conlon's contribution to it, is historically significant as the high point of an organised, non-violent, anti-partition coalition in Ireland and throughout the English-speaking world. It led to all-party involvement in the south; mobilisation of the Irish diaspora; organised political pressure on the British government, not least in the form of the IAPL (unsuccessfully) entering five parliamentary contests in the British general elections of 1950 and 1951; and above all, a diplomatic onslaught by the Department of External Affairs, especially while Seán MacBride (qv) headed that department (1948–51). Moreover, Conlon's importance within the IAPL was underlined by the organisation's decision to hold a special meeting in Dublin at the time of his death and the postponement of the group's annual meeting in Ulster.
He had strong anti-Semitic views, clearly displayed by at least one of his electoral addresses. He appears to have lived his whole life in the Crossmaglen area, apart from when he studied in Belfast. Having returned from the IAPL tour of the USA in an exhausted state in late 1949, he was urged by doctors to take an immediate rest. A few months later, he entered the Mater Hospital, Belfast, with heart trouble and died there shortly afterwards on Monday 27 March 1950.
He married (22 August 1949) Kathleen, daughter of Joseph Higgins of Keenaught, Desertmartin, Co. Londonderry; they had no children.