A suite of microconglomerates is recognized in Silurian rocks which occur on both sides of the proposed line of the Iapetus suture in Ireland. Clast composition and palaeocurrent data show that these conglomerates, which grade into the typical quartz-rich Silurian turbidites, were derived from two compositionally similar magmatic arc terranes which lay on either side of the present Silurian outcrop. In the Llandovery, derivation was from both the south and the north. In the Wenlock, derivation was from the north and sedimentation prograded southwards across the ‘suture’ and onto the southern margin. The source terrain in the south was probably the Ordovician Wexford–Lake District arc. We identify the northern source as another arc (Cockburnland) which has since been cut out by sinistral strike-slip against the Ordovician Northern Belt. These data imply that arc activity ceased synchronously on either side of Iapetus during the late Ordovician and this leads us to speculate that subduction of oceanic crust ended at that time. Closure was associated with deformation and uplift of the bounding Ordovician terrains. These rocks then contributed detritus to the Silurian infill of a successor basin. Regional sinistral transpression finally deformed and reorganized these units between the end Silurian and the early Devonian and led to the complete closure of the remaining Silurian seaway.