EAMON DEVALERA: AN IRISH LEADER
Foreword: Eamon DeValera was one of the most important
figures in the history of Ireland. His relationship with the
people of the country was often strained and his attitude
and motives have frequently puzzled historians throughout
this century. The fact remains however, that without his
involvement in the Irish Nationalist movement the course of
Irish history would have been radically different.
He was born in New York on the 14th of October in 1882 to
Catherine Coll (a young Irish immigrant from County
Limerick) and Juan Vivion DeValera (an immigrant of
Little is known of his early childhood except that his
family moved from America in 1885 to Ireland where the
young Eamon studied at Blackrock College in Dublin and was
largely reared by his Grandmother. He studied languages
and mathematics and was, like Michael Collins, a student
of English Rule in Ireland. The early 1900s was a time of
the great Gaelic cultural revival in Ireland as literature,
drama, sport and the language of the Gaelic nation were all
The main spearhead of the revival was The Gaelic League
which he joined in 1908. He was greatly influenced by the
League and learned the Irish language whilst immersing
himself in the Gaelic culture. The Gaelic League was an
obvious recruiting ground for the various revolutionary
organisations of the time and it was not long before
DeValera became a member of the Irish Republican
Brotherhood. DeValera was second in command to Thomas
MacDonagh of the Dublin Brigade during the Easter Rising
The Rising failed and the seven leaders, MacDonagh and
Pearse among them, were executed, along with 9 other rebels.
DeValera was also sentenced to death as an organiser of the
revolt but was to escape the firing squad because of the
confusion surrounding his ancestry (the English authorities
did not want to risk the execution of an American citizen).
DeValera was elected as the leader of Sinn Fein upon his
release and set about the formation of an Irish parliament
(the Dáil). He was arrested in 1918 for subversion and
imprisoned in England in Lincoln prison. With the help of
Michael Collins he escaped to America to raise both funds
for and consciousness about, the Irish plight. In his
absence the War of Independence was being waged by Collins.
The English Prime Minister of the time was Lloyd George
who wanted to see an end to the violence.
DeValera returned to negotiate with Lloyd George and soon
realised that his ambition of a free and independent
Ireland would not be granted. He returned home and sent a
delegation led by Michael Collins to negotiate a settlement.
The subsequent Anglo-Irish Treaty was ratified by the Dáil
in 1922 but DeValera opposed both the partition of the
country and the Oath of Allegiance to the English crown that
the Treaty required. A bloody Civil War followed which saw
both the defeat of the Anti-Treaty side, led by DeValera,
and the death of Michael Collins.
DeValera was again imprisoned but released in 1926 when he
formed the Fianna Fáil party. He now attempted to achieve
his aims by the use of constitutional politics. By 1932 he
had removed the Oath of Allegiance and sought about
establishing an independent Ireland. He created an Irish
Constitution in 1937 but an Irish Republic was not declared
because of the partition of the country.
DeValera resisted both bribes and threats from Churchill
during the war years, ('the emergency'), and it was not
until the Costello led Government declared a Republic in
1949 that the effects of the Anglo-Irish Treaty were finally
removed from the Southern part of Ireland. Partition remained.
DeValera was Taoiseach of Ireland for much of the fifties
and on 25 June, 1959 he was inaugurated as President of
Ireland, a position he held for 14 years. He retired in
1973 and died shortly afterwards, on 29th August 1975 at
the age of 92.
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