A descendant of Captain Terence O’Neill, former NI Prime Minister, visited Derry for the first time last week intent on learning more about his grandfather’s legacy in the North.
William Devas was in the city as a guest of the Creavagh Women’s Group in Hazelbank, having initially met Marie Coyle, chair of the group, at a conference in Limerick and expressed an interest in learning about his grandfather’s impact on society the North.
Mr Devas said he knew relatively little about his famous grandfather, despite the fact that he played a key role in the political life of the North before the outbreak of the Troubles.
“I suppose I’m hoping for a better understanding of the times my grandfather was living in while in Northern Ireland in the 1960s and, also what life was like for people here during the Troubles and the pressures he would have been under,” Mr Devas told the ‘Journal’.
Captain Terence O’Neill was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland as tensions escalated between 1963 and 1969.
“My grandfather died when I was 14 years-old, and never really spoke to me about his political life and, to my shame, I’ve only started investigating in recent years,” 36-year-old Mr Devas said.
“I’m learning a lot and am very honoured that people have made such an effort to help me.
I’m also keen to hear about people’s visions for the future and how we’ll achieve that,” he added.
Marie Coyle of Creavagh Women’s Group said of the visit: “We were more than happy to host William’s visit and it was a brilliant day.
“We toured the Bogside area, the murals and the city’s walls, explaining what people had to endure in times past.”
The group also met with the Mayor, Alderman Maurice Devenney, in the Mayor’s Parlour during the visit.
They also attended a talk by civil rights veteran, Fionnbarra O’Dochartaigh at the genealagy centre in Bishop Street.
“It was an absolutely amazing talk,” Marie Coyle added. “William got a great sense of exactly why civil rights were so important.”