Delaney, Malachy (1758?–1807), United Irishman, was from Ballitore, Co. Kildare. Little is known of his family background, but Mary Shackleton Leadbeater (qv), also of Ballitore, described him and his brother Peter as sons of a prosperous catholic farmer. It appears he was forced to leave Ireland and enlist in the Austrian army to escape from a serious charge. His father's landlord, a Col. Keating, had claimed he had escaped punishment for a murder (possibly over turf-cutting rights) committed on his lands. After approximately six years’ service, probably in the infantry, he returned to Ireland c.1788. In 1793 he helped his brother to run a mill leased from Mary's brother, Abraham Shackleton (qv). He is mentioned by his first name frequently in her diary around the time of the 1798 rebellion, having by then become close to both Mary and her husband William. He called in at random times of the day and night, and the friendship was strong despite their strong quaker stance on non-violence, and his vocal radicalism. She depicted him with respectful admiration as a violent anti-aristocrat and a great talker, qualified to handle various subjects. He ‘confined himself to two – religion and politics . . . ranting at the clergy and abusing the government’ (Leadbeater, i, 198).
As a locally respected figure with previous military experience, Delaney emerged from March 1796 as a prominent United Irishmen in Kildare. Possibly designated by Lord Edward FitzGerald (qv) as a leader c.May 1797, he actively recruited and trained United Irishmen despite the presence of militia and regular troops stationed in the Ballitore area since 1795. By June 1797 tensions were mounting and the Delaney home, like others, was raided and searched for arms. When the Tyrone militia arrived in April, they disarmed the local yeomen, many of whom had been ‘seduced by Delaney's efforts’ (O'Neill, 161). Delaney was appointed to the military committee created in February 1798 under FitzGerald's command and, with the outbreak of rebellion on 24 May, commanded about 200 rebels in the Ballitore district. They engaged in three skirmishes with crown troops and militia, and Delaney, astride a white horse, led the ambush of the Tyrone militia on the Narraghmore road. In the loyalist depositions that followed, he was named with his brother as a local leader, but escaped the arrest of Kildare leaders on 21 July and appears to have remained in the Wicklow–Kildare border area in the aftermath of the rebellion.
When, in the spring of 1799, a new Dublin directory was reformed, Delaney's prior experience in a regular army proved vital and he was instructed by Surgeon Thomas Wright (qv) to assist Robert Emmet (qv) in compiling a manual on insurgent tactics. He was then designated by the United Irishmen as head of a clandestine mission to France, with Emmet as his secretary, and the two left for the Continent, arriving in Hamburg in August 1800. There they wrote a memorial which eventually reached First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte in Paris, explaining the discontent caused by the act of union and requesting an expeditionary force to be sent to Ireland. Delaney had travelled under the false name ‘Bowens’ but signed this memorial (written in virtually flawless French) with his real name. They had encountered the informer Samuel Turner (qv), and so requested false passports to travel to Paris. Delaney was considered the senior member of the delegation, and the chief secretary, William Wickham (qv) believed he was a man of considerable talents. In January 1801 they were warmly received in Paris by Talleyrand, the French foreign minister, who praised their precisely written memoir in his report to the first consul. They conferred with many exiled United Irishmen, and Delaney was sent to the naval port of Brest as part of a subterfuge to convince British agents in France of a planned invasion of Ireland. In October 1802 he returned to Ireland and was arrested shortly after for his actions in Ballitore in 1798. Eventually acquitted and protected by the amnesty act, he was free to venture into the Kildare–Wicklow borderlands in 1803, and was at Emmet's side during his failed uprising in Dublin in July. Staying in Dublin, he was arrested on 30 September and committed to Kilmainham prison on a charge of high treason. Eventually released (c.1805), he remained in contact with former rebels, including William Henry Hamilton (qv), and discussed the chances of an uprising, given renewed hopes of a French invasion. He died in March 1807, near Dublin.