On June 24, 1973, Eamon de Valera, resigns as president of Ireland at the age of 90.

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The most dominant Irish political figure of the 20th century, Eamon de Valera was born in New York City in 1882, the son of a Spanish father and Irish mother. When his father died two years later, he was sent to live with his mother’s family in County Limerick, Ireland. He attended the Royal University in Dublin and became an important figure in the Irish-language revival movement.

In 1913, he joined the Irish Volunteers, a militant group that advocated Ireland’s independence from Britain, and in 1916 participated in the Easter Rising against the British in Dublin. He was the last Irish rebel leader to surrender and was saved from execution because of his American birth.

eamonn de valera 1916 rising. De Valera arrest 1916. Snippets of Irish History by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks

eamonn de valera 1916 rising. De Valera arrest 1916. Snippets of Irish History by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks

Imprisoned, he was released in 1917 under a general amnesty and became president of the nationalist Sinn Fein Party. In May 1918, he was deported to England and imprisoned again, and in December Sinn Fein won an Irish national election, making him the unofficial leader of Ireland.

Sinn Fein Standing Committee, March 1922. Left to right, front row: Mrs. Ceanant, Mr. E. Duggan, Dr. Kathleen Lynn, Arthur Griffiths, Eamon De Valera, Michael Collins, Harry Boland, Mrs. Sheehy Skeffington. Middle row: Mrs. Wyse Power, George Lyons, Farrell Figgis, Mr. Murnaghan, Mr. A. Stack, and Dr. Dillon. Top row: Sean Milroy, Walter Cole, Sean MacCaoilte, P. O’Hanrahan, P. O’Keefe.

Sinn Fein Standing Committee, March 1922. Left to right, front row: Mrs. Ceanant, Mr. E. Duggan, Dr. Kathleen Lynn, Arthur Griffiths, Eamon De Valera, Michael Collins, Harry Boland, Mrs. Sheehy Skeffington. Middle row: Mrs. Wyse Power, George Lyons, Farrell Figgis, Mr. Murnaghan, Mr. A. Stack, and Dr. Dillon. Top row: Sean Milroy, Walter Cole, Sean MacCaoilte, P. O’Hanrahan, P. O’Keefe.

In February 1919, he escaped from jail and fled to the United States, where he raised funds for the Irish Republican movement. When he returned to Ireland in 1920, Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were engaged in a widespread and effective guerrilla campaign against British forces. In 1921, a truce was declared, and in 1922 Arthur Griffith and other former Sinn Fein leaders broke with de Valera and signed a treaty with Britain, which called for the partition of Ireland, with the south becoming autonomous and the six northern counties of the island remaining part of the United Kingdom.

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In the period of civil war that followed, de Valera supported the Republicans against the Irish Free State (the new government of the autonomous south) and was imprisoned by William Cosgrave’s Irish Free State ministry.

William T. Cosgrave

William T. Cosgrave

In 1924, he was released and two years later left Sinn Fein, which had become the unofficial political wing of the underground movement for northern independence. He formed Fianna Fail, and in 1932 the party gained control of the Dail Eireann (the Irish assembly), and de Valera became taoiseach, or Irish prime minister. For the next 16 years, de Valera pursued a policy of political separation from Great Britain, including the introduction of a new constitution in 1937 that declared Ireland the fully sovereign state of Eire. During World War II, he maintained a policy of neutrality but repressed anti-British intrigues within the IRA.

Eamon de Valera 1932

Eamon de Valera 1932

In 1948, he narrowly lost reelection due to a negative public reaction against his party’s long monopoly of power. Out of office, he toured the world advocating the unification and independence of Ireland. His successor as taoiseach, John Costello, officially made Ireland an independent republic in 1949 but nonetheless lost the prime minister’s office to de Valera in the 1951 election. The relative Irish economic prosperity of the 1940s declined in the 1950s, and Costello began a second ministry in 1954, only to be replaced again by de Valera in 1957. In 1959, de Valera resigned as prime minister and was elected Irish president–a largely ceremonial post. On June 24, 1973, de Valera retired from Irish politics at the age of 90. He passed away two years later.

The family and relations of Irish republican leader Eamon de Valera (1882 - 1975) follow his tri-coloured covered coffin at his funeral service at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin, 4 September 1975. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images.

The family and relations of Irish republican leader Eamon de Valera (1882 – 1975) follow his tri-coloured covered coffin at his funeral service at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin, 4 September 1975. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images.

 

My post a year ago today: St. John’s Dance

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2 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    I never heard of this man. It was an excellent introduction and really showcases the big issues with Ireland and the passion to be free

    Like