Donnelly, Eamon (1877–1944), republican politician, was born Edward John Donnelly on 19 July 1877 in Middletown, Tynan, Co. Armagh, son of Francis Donnelly, mason, and Catherine Donnelly (née Haggin). Probably educated locally, he joined the GAA, Gaelic League, and Sinn Féin, and was one of the first members of the Irish Volunteers in Armagh. On Easter Sunday 1916 Donnelly, and other volunteers from the north, assembled in Coalisland under Denis McCullough (qv) but dispersed once the countermanding order was received from Eoin MacNeill (qv). Despite the insignificance of Donnelly's role, he was arrested and interned in England. On his release he found employment as storekeeper at the Armagh asylum until his political involvement brought him into conflict with his employers and hastened his resignation. He then became a full-time organiser for Sinn Féin in Armagh, and Sinn Féin's director of elections in north-east Ulster in 1918 and 1921. His determination helped to convince Sinn Féin to contest every constituency in Ireland in the general election of 1918.
Opposed to the treaty, he served several terms of imprisonment north and south of the border. In June 1923 Donnelly and Nora Connolly O'Brien (qv) succeeded in obtaining their freedom through a habeas corpus action against the Dublin government. The court found that the state had not proved that a state of war continued to exist and hence its imprisonment of Connolly O'Brien and Donnelly was unlawful. Although they were released, a public safety bill was rushed through both houses of the oireachtas so as to prevent the court from ordering the release of many thousands of anti-treaty prisoners.
Returning to politics, Donnelly became director of elections for the reorganised Sinn Féin. However, on 18 August 1923, a week prior to election day, he was arrested and imprisoned yet again. Elected as a republican MP for Armagh (1925–9), he refused to take his seat, as he did not recognise the northern state. Later, the same government served him with an exclusion order (1925) permitting him to reside only in Co. Antrim. For ostensibly defying this ban he was imprisoned for a month in 1933 and again in 1938. A founding member of Fianna Fáil, Donnelly failed to bring about an agreement between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin in 1927. He unsuccessfully contested dáil elections in Monaghan (September 1927), Leitrim–Sligo (by-election of June 1929), and Laois–Offaly (1932) before being elected TD for Laois–Offaly (1933–7). Appointed the party's chief organiser in 1933, he argued unsuccessfully that Fianna Fáil be established in Northern Ireland, and in 1936 was to the fore in establishing the Irish Union Association (aka the National Council for Unity) to bridge the gaps between nationalists, republicans, and Fianna Fáil supporters.
In 1937 he advocated that Éamon de Valera (qv) should unilaterally declare an all-Ireland republic in the new constitution, and should also establish the right of Northern Ireland MPs to sit, act, and vote in the dáil. Such pressure from Donnelly and other Fianna Fáil republicans is said to have influenced the inclusion of articles 2 and 3 in the 1937 constitution. Incensed by de Valera's apparent indifference to Northern Ireland, he moved a dáil amendment that the constitution be deferred until the issue of partition was adequately resolved; he did not seek re-election to the dáil in July 1937. Returning to the north, he was elected to Stormont as an abstentionist republican MP for Belfast Falls (1942–5), and was appointed secretary of the Green Cross Fund, which raised £45,000 for the dependants of republican prisoners and internees in Northern Ireland. He was also secretary of the committee to secure a reprieve for Tom Williams (qv), who was hanged in September 1942 for shooting an RUC man. Donnelly died 29 December 1944 in a Dublin nursing home and was buried in Newry, Co. Down.
He was married with one son and three daughters; the family lived at Tighe Mhuire, Courtenay Hill, Newry, Co. Down.