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Éamon de Valera (born with the name Edward George de Valera[1]), (14 October 1882 – 29 August 1975), was one of the dominant political figures in 20th century Ireland. He served in public office from 1917 to 1973, holding the various Irish prime ministerial and presidential offices. A significant leader of Ireland's struggle for independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in the early 20th century, and the Republican anti-Treaty opposition in the ensuing Irish Civil War, de Valera was the author of Ireland's constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann.
At various times a mathematician, teacher and a politician, he served three times as Irish head of government; as Príomh Aire, as the second President of the Executive Council and the first Taoiseach. He ended his political career as President of Ireland, serving two terms from 1959 until 1973. He was also the Chancellor of the National University of Ireland from 1922 until 1975.

Éamon was born in the New York Nursery and Child's Hospital in New York City in 1882 to an Irish mother, he stated that his parents, Catherine Coll de Valera Wheelwright and Juan Vivion de Valera, a Spanish-Cuban settler and sculptor, were married in 1881 in New York. However, exhaustive trawls through church and state records by genealogists and by his most recent biographer, Tim Pat Coogan (1990) have failed to find either a church or civil record of the marriage. Furthermore, no birth, baptismal, marriage or death certificate has ever been found for anyone called Juan Vivion de Valera or de Valeros, an alternative spelling. As a result, it is now widely believed by academics that de Valera was illegitimate. While this would be irrelevant to many nowadays, one result of illegitimacy in the late 19th/early 20th century was that one was barred from a career in the Roman Catholic Church. Éamon de Valera was throughout his life a deeply religious man, who in death asked to be buried in a religious habit. There are a number of occasions where de Valera seriously contemplated entering the religious life like his half-brother, Fr. Thomas Wheelwright. Yet he did not do so, and apparently received little encouragement from the priests whose advice he sought. In his biography of de Valera, Tim Pat Coogan speculated about whether questions surrounding de Valera's legitimacy may have been a deciding factor.
Whatever his parentage, in 1885 following his father's death, de Valera was taken to Ireland by his Uncle Ned at the age of two. Even when his mother married a new husband in the mid-1880s, he was not brought back to live with her but reared instead by his grandmother Elizabeth Coll, her son Patrick and her daughter Hannie, in County Limerick. He was educated locally at Bruree National School, County Limerick and Charleville Christian Brothers School, County Cork. At the age of sixteen, he won a scholarship to Blackrock College, County Dublin.
Always a diligent student, he won further scholarships and exhibitions and in 1903 was appointed professor of mathematics at Rockwell College, County Tipperary. He graduated in mathematics in 1904 from the Royal University of Ireland and then went back to Dublin to teach at Belvedere College. In 1906, he secured a post as professor of mathematics at Carysfort Teachers' Training College for women in Blackrock, County Dublin. His applications for professorships in colleges of the National University of Ireland were unsuccessful, but he obtained a part-time appointment at Maynooth and also lectured in mathematics at various Dublin colleges. [edit]
Early political activity
An intelligent young man, he became an active gaeilgeoir (Irish language enthusiast). In 1908 he joined the Ardchraobh of Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League), where he met Sinéad Flanagan, a teacher by profession and four years his senior. They were married on 8 January 1910 at St Paul's Church, Arran Quay, Dublin.
While he was already involved in the Gaelic Revival, de Valera's involvement in the political revolution began on 25 November 1913 when he joined the Irish Volunteers. He rose through the ranks and it was not long before he was elected captain of the Donnybrook company. Preparations were pushed ahead for an armed revolt, and he was made commandant of the Third Battalion and adjutant of the Dublin Brigade. He was sworn by Thomas MacDonagh into the oath-bound Irish Republican Brotherhood, which secretly controlled the central executive of the Volunteers.[edit]
Easter Rising
On 24 April 1916 the rising began. De Valera occupied Boland's Mills, Grand Canal Street in Dublin, his chief task being to cover the south-eastern approaches to the city. After a week of fighting the order came from Pádraig Pearse to surrender. De Valera was court-martialled, convicted, and sentenced to death, but the sentence was immediately commuted to penal servitude for life. It is often thought that he was saved from execution because of his American citizenship. That is technically incorrect. He was saved by two facts: firstly, he was held in a different prison from other leaders, thus his execution was delayed by practicalities; had he been held with Padraig Pearse, James Connolly and others, he probably would have been one of the first executed; and secondly, his American citizenship caused a delay, while the full legal situation (i.e., was he actually a United States citizen and if so, how would the United States react to the execution of one of its citizens?) was clarified. The fact that Britain was trying to bring the USA into the war in Europe at the time made the situation even more delicate. Both delays taken together meant that, while he was next-in-line for execution, when the time came for a decision, all executions had been halted in view of the negative public reaction; so timing, location and questions relating to citizenship saved de Valera's life.
De Valera's supporters and detractors argue about De Valera's bravery during the Easter Rising. His supporters claim he showed leadership skills and a meticulous ability for planning. His detractors claim he suffered a nervous breakdown during the Rising. According to accounts from 1916 de Valera was seen running about, giving conflicting orders, refusing to sleep and on one occasion, having forgotten the password, almost getting himself shot in the dark by his own men. According to one account, de Valera, on being forced to sleep by one subordinate who promised to sit beside him and wake him if he was needed, suddenly woke up, his eyes "wild," screaming, "Set fire to the railway! Set fire to the railway!" Later in the Ballykinlar internment Camp one de Valera loyalist approached another internee, a medical doctor, recounted the story and asked for a medical opinion as to deV's condition. He also threatened to sue the doctor, future Fine Gael TD and minister, Dr. Tom O'Higgins, if he ever repeated the story. [2]
After imprisonment in Dartmoor, Maidstone and Lewes prisons, de Valera and his comrades were released under an amnesty in June 1917. Shortly afterwards he was elected member of the British House of Commons for East Clare (the constituency which he represented until 1959) in the 1918 general election as well as president of Sinn Féin, the previously small monarchist party which had wrongly been credited by the British for the Easter Rising and which the survivors of the Rising took over and then turned into a republican party. The previous president of Sinn Féin, Arthur Griffith, had championed an Anglo-Irish "dual monarchy", with an independent Ireland governed separately from Britain, their only link being a shared monarch. That had been the situation with the so-called Constitution of 1782 under Henry Grattan, until Ireland was subsumed into the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1800. [edit]
President of Dáil Éireann
Sinn Féin won a huge majority in the 1918 general election, largely thanks to the executions of the 1916 leaders and the threat of conscription. They won 73 out of 104 Irish seats, with about 47% of votes cast. However, such was the level of support for the party, many seats were uncontested and so this percentage is lower than it would have been had this not been the case. In January 1919, those Sinn Féin MPs, calling themselves Teachtaí Dála, assembled in the Mansion House in Dublin on 21 January 1919 and formed an Irish parliament, known as Dáil Éireann (translatable into English as the Assembly of Ireland). A ministry or Aireacht was formed, under the leadership of the Príomh Aire (also called President of Dáil Éireann) Cathal Brugha. De Valera had been re-arrested in May 1918 and imprisoned and so could not attend the January session of the Dáil. He escaped from Lincoln Gaol in February 1919. As a result he replaced Brugha as Príomh Aire in the April session of Dáil Éireann. However the Dáil Constitution passed by the Dáil in 1919 made clear that the Príomh Aire (or President of Dáil Éireann as it came to be called) was merely prime minister - the literal translation of Príomh Aire - not a full head of state.
In the hope of securing international recognition, Seán T. O'Kelly was sent as envoy to Paris to present the Irish case to the Peace Conference convened by the great powers at the end of the World War I. When it became clear by May 1919 that this mission could not succeed, the President decided to visit the United States. The mission had three objectives: to ask for official recognition of the Irish Republic, to float a loan to finance the work of the government (and by extension, the Irish Republican Army), and to secure the support of the American people for the republic. His visit lasted from June 1919 to December 1920 and had mixed success. A loan of $6 million was raised, a sum that far exceeded the hopes of the Dáil, and he won wide public support, but official recognition was not forthcoming and he had difficulties with the Irish-American leaders who resented the dominant position he took up and wished to retain their control over Irish affairs in the United States.
Meanwhile in Ireland, conflict between the British authorities and the Dáil (declared illegal in September 1919) escalated into the Irish War of Independence (also called the 'Anglo-Irish War'). The Long Fellow (or An t-Amadán Fada, another of de Valera's nicknames, given to him because of his great height, meaning the Long Fool) left day to day government to Michael Collins (The Big Fellow), his twenty-nine year old Minister for Finance and rival. [edit]
President of the Republic
In January 1921, at his first Dáil meeting after his return to a country gripped by the Anglo-Irish War, de Valera introduced a motion calling on the IRA to desist from ambushes and other tactics that were allowing the British to successfully portray it as a terrorist group, and to take on the British forces with conventional military methods. This was immediately shot down, and he was forced to issue a statement expressing support for the IRA, and claimed it was fully under the control of the Dáil. This was seen as evidence of how out of touch de Valera was with the realities of the struggle for independence on the ground by his critics. He then, along with Cathal Brugha and Austin Stack, brought pressure to bear on Michael Collins to undertake a journey to the U.S. himself, on the pretext that only he could take up where de Valera had left off. In reality, these three felt that Collins was overeaching his authority. Collins successfully resisted this move, and stayed in Ireland. In the elections of May 1921 Sinn Féin candidates in 'Southern Ireland' were unopposed, and secured some seats in the north. Following the Truce of 11 July 1921 which ended the war, de Valera went to see David Lloyd George in London on 14 July. No agreement was reached, and by then the parliament of Northern Ireland had met.
In August 1921 de Valera had Dáil Éireann change the 1919 Dáil Constitution to upgrade his office from prime minister or chairman of the cabinet to a full President of the Republic. Declaring himself now the Irish equivalent of King George V, he argued that as Irish head of state, in the absence of the British head of state from the negotiations, he too should not attend the peace conference called the Treaty Negotiations (October-December 1921) at which British and Irish government leaders agreed to the effective independence of 26 of Ireland's 32 counties as the Irish Free State, with the other six in the north remaining under British sovereignty as Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland (Technically, the counties of Northern Ireland were originally part of the Free State, but with the option of opting out immediately, which they did straight away. Having done so, a boundary commission came into place to redraw the Irish border. Nationalists expected its report to recommend that largely nationalist areas become part of the Free State, and many hoped this would make Northern Ireland so small it would not be economically viable. A Council of Ireland was also provided in the Treaty as a model for an eventual all-Irish parliament. Hence neither the pro- nor anti-treaty sides made much complaint about partition in the Treaty debates. They all expected it would prove shortlived). [edit]
The treaty
The Republic's delegates to the Treaty Negotiations were accredited by President de Valera and his cabinet as plenipotentiaries (that is, negotiators with the legal authority to sign a treaty without reference back to the cabinet), but were given secret cabinet instructions by de Valera that required them to return to Dublin before signing the Treaty. However the Treaty proved controversial in so far as it replaced the Republic (which was recognised only by the Soviet Union) by a dominion of the British Commonwealth with the King represented by a Governor-General of the Irish Free State.
De Valera balked at the agreement, even though his opponents claimed he had refused to go because he knew what the outcome would be and did not wish to receive the blame. Because of the secret instructions given to the plenipotentiaries, he reacted to news of the signing of the Treaty not with anger at its contents (which he refused even to read when offered a newspaper report of its contents), but with anger over the fact that they had not consulted with him, their president, before signing. All of this, of course, was despite the fact de Valera refused to go to the treaty negotiations in the first place.
After the Treaty was narrowly ratified by 64 to 57, de Valera and a large minority of Sinn Féin TDs left Dáil Éireann. He then resigned and Griffith was elected President of Dáil Éireann in his place, respectfully still calling him 'The President'.[3] In March 1922, De Valera made an angry speech in Carrick on Suir saying that if the Treaty was accepted it might now necessary to "wade through Irish blood" to achieve Irish freedom. In Thurles, several days later, he repeated this imagery and added that the IRA "would have to wade through, perhaps, the blood of some of the members of the Government, in order to get Irish freedom." De Valera's detracters claim that this was an incitement to civil war. His supporters say that De Valera was lamenting the fact the British had managed to divide Irish nationalists with the Treaty.
De Valera's major problem with the Treaty was two-fold. Firstly, he objected to the Oath of Allegiance the treaty required Irish governments to take to the King. Secondly, he was concerned that Ireland could not have an independent foreign policy as part of the British Commonwealth when the British retained several naval ports (see Treaty Ports) around Ireland's coast. As a compromise, De Valera proposed "external association" with the British Empire, which would leave Ireland's foreign policy in her own hands and a republican constitution with no mention of the British monarch (he proposed this as early as April, well before the negotiations began). Michael Collins was prepared to accept this formula and the two wings (pro- and anti-Treaty) of Sinn Féin formed a pact to fight the Irish Treaty Election, 1922 together and form a coalition government afterwards. However, just two days before the election, the British vetoed this proposal, as the Treaty had been signed in good faith. Civil War broke out shortly afterwards in late June 1922. [edit]
Civil War
Relations with the new Irish government, which was backed by most of the Dáil and the electorate, and the Anti-Treatyites under the nominal leadership of de Valera, now descended into the Irish Civil War (started 28 June 1922, ended May 1923), in which the pro-treaty Free State forces defeated the anti-Treaty IRA. Both sides had wanted to avoid civil war, but fighting broke out over the takeover of the Four Courts building in Dublin by anti-treaty members of the IRA. These men were not loyal to De Valera and initially were not even supported by the executive of the anti-Treaty IRA. However, Michael Collins was forced to act against them when Winston Churchill threatened to re-occupy the country with British troops unless action was taken. When fighting broke out in Dublin between the Four Courts garrison and the new Free State army, republicans backed the IRA men in the Four Courts and civil war broke out. De Valera, though he held no military position, backed the anti-Treaty IRA or "Irregulars" and said that he was re-enlisting in the IRA as an ordinary volunteer. On 8 September 1922, he met in secret with Richard Mulcahy in Dublin, to try to halt the fighting. However, according to de Valera, they "couldn't find a basis" for agreement.
Though nominally head of the Anti-Treatyites, de Valera had little influence. He does not seem to have been involved in any fighting and had little or no influence with the military republican leadership - headed by IRA Chief of Staff, Liam Lynch. De Valera and the anti-Treaty TDs formed a "republican government" on 25 October 1922 from anti-Treaty TDs to "be temporarily the Supreme Executive of the Republic and the State, until such time as the elected Parliament of the Republic can freely assemble, or the people being rid of external aggression are at liberty to decide freely how they are to be governed". However it had no real authority and was a pale shadow of the republican Dail government of 1919-21, which had provided an alternative government to the British administration. Among the Civil War's many tragedies were the assassination of Michael Collins, who was the head of the Provisional Government, the death through exhaustion of the President of Dáil Éireann, Arthur Griffith, the Free State execution of one of the treaty signatories, Robert Erskine Childers amongst others. In March 1923, de Valera attended the meeting of the IRA Army Executive to decide on the future of the war. He was known to be in favour of the truce but he had no voting rights and it was narrowly decided to continue hostilities. On 30 May 1923 after the IRA's new Chief of Staff Frank Aiken (Lynch had been killed) called a ceasefire and ordered volunteers to "dump arms". De Valera, who had wanted an end to the internecine fighting for some time, backed the ceasefire order in a famous speech in which he called the anti-Treaty fighters "the Legion of the Rearguard", saying that "the republic can no longer be successfully defended by your arms". After this point many of the republicans were arrested in Free state "round ups" when they had come out of hiding and returned home. De Valera was arrested in Clare and interned until 1924. [edit]
Entry into the Free State Dáil: the 'empty formula'
After the IRA dumped their arms rather than surrender them or continue a now fruitless war, de Valera returned to political methods. In 1924 he was arrested in Newry for "illegally entering Northern Ireland" and held in solitary confinement for a month in Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast. After narrowly losing a vote of the Sinn Féin party to accept the Free State Constitution (contingent on the abolition of the Oath of Allegiance), de Valera resigned from the presidency of the party and in March 1926 formed a new party, Fianna Fáil (Soldiers of Ireland), a party destined to dominate twentieth century Irish politics. The party made swift electoral gains but refused to take the Oath of Allegiance (spun by opponents as an 'Oath of Allegiance to the Crown' but actually an Oath of Allegiance to the Irish Free State with a secondary promise of fidelity to the King in his role in the Treaty settlement. The oath was actually largely the work of Michael Collins and based on three sources: British oaths in the dominions, the oath of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and a draft oath prepared by de Valera in his proposed Treaty alternative, Document No.2). The party began a legal case to challenge the requirement that it take the Oath, but the assassination of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (ie. deputy prime minister) Kevin O'Higgins led the Executive Council under W.T. Cosgrave to introduce a Bill requiring all Dáil candidates to promise on oath that if they were elected they would take the Oath of Allegiance. Forced into a corner, and faced with the option of staying outside politics forever or taking the oath and entering, de Valera and his TDs took the Oath of Allegiance in 1927, declaring it "an empty formula", albeit one that hundreds had fought and killed over in a civil war five years earlier. In 1931, in a populist and controversial move, he backed Mayo County Council when they fired a Protestant head librarian on the grounds of religion, stating that "a county that is 98% Catholic is entitled to a Catholic head librarian." [edit]
President of the Executive Council
In the 1932 General Election Fianna Fáil secured 72 seats and became the largest party in the Dáil, although without a majority. De Valera was appointed President of the Executive Council (Prime Minister) by Governor-General James McNeill on 9 March. He at once initiated steps to fulfil his election promises of abolishing the oath and withholding land annuities owed to Britain. In retaliation the British imposed economic sanctions against Irish exports, and the resulting economic war caused much distress. On his advice the appointment of James McNeill as Governor-General was terminated by King George V on 1 November 1932 and a 1916 veteran, Domhnall Ua Buachalla, was appointed Seanascal in his place. Thus another symbol of monarchical authority was virtually removed. To strengthen his position against the opposition in the Dáil and Seanad, de Valera called a general election in January 1933 and won 77 seats, giving him an overall majority. Under his leadership, Fianna Fáil won further general elections in 1937, 1938, 1943 and 1944.
De Valera took charge of Ireland's foreign policy as well by acting as his own Minister for External Affairs. In that capacity he attended meetings of the League of Nations. He was president of the Council of the League on his first appearance at Geneva in 1932 and, in a speech that made a worldwide impression, appealed for genuine adherence by its members to the principles of the Covenant of the league. In 1934, he supported the admission of the Soviet Union into the league. In September 1938 he was elected nineteenth president of the Assembly of the league, a tribute to the international recognition he had won by his independent stance on world questions.
De Valera's new constitution - Bunreacht na hÉireann
During the 1930s, de Valera had systematically stripped down the Irish Free State constitution that had been drafted by a committee under the nominal chairmanship of his great rival, Michael Collins. In reality, de Valera had only been able to do this due to three reasons. First, though the 1922 constitution was supposed to require amendment through public plebiscite eight years after its passage, the Free State government under W.T. Cosgrave had amended that period to 16 years, meaning that until 1938 the Free State constitution could be amended by the simple passage of a Constitutional Amendment Act through the Oireachtas. Secondly, while in theory the Governor-General of the Irish Free State could reserve or deny the Royal Assent to any legislation, in practice the power to advise the Governor-General so to do as and from 1927 no longer rested with the British Government in London but with His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State, which meant that in practice, the Royal Assent was automatically granted to legislation; the government was hardly likely to advise the Governor-General to block the enactment of one of its own bills. Thirdly, in theory the Constitution had to be in keeping with the provisions of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the fundamental law of the state. However that requirement had been removed only a short time before de Valera gained power. Thus, with all the checks and balances that had been provided to preserve the Treaty settlement neutralised, de Valera had a free hand to change the 1922 constitution at will.
This he did with a vengeance. The Oath of Allegiance was abolished, as were appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The opposition-controlled Senate, when it protested and slowed down these measures was also abolished. And finally in December 1936, de Valera used the sudden abdication of King Edward VIII as king of his various realms including King of Ireland to pass two Bills; one amended the constitution to remove all mention of the King and Governor-General while the second brought the King back, this time through statute law, for use in representing the Irish Free State at diplomatic level.
In 1931, the British parliament had passed the Statute of Westminster, which established the legislative equal status of the self-governing dominions of the British Empire, including the Irish Free State, and the United Kingdom. Though many constitutional links between the Dominions and the United Kingdom remained, this is often seen as the moment at which the Dominions became fully sovereign states. In July 1936, de Valera as constitutionally the King's Irish Prime Minister, wrote to King Edward in London indicating that he planned to introduce a new constitution, the central part of which was to be the creation of an office de Valera provisionally intended to call President of Saorstát Éireann, which would replace the governor-generalship. The title ultimately changed from President of Saorstát Éireann (Uachtarán Shaorstát Éireann) to President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann), but it still remained the central feature of his new constitution, to which he gave the new Irish language name Bunreacht na hÉireann (meaning literally the Constitution of Ireland).
De Valera's new constitution embodied a process called Constitutional Autochthony, that is, the assertion of legal nationalism. At various levels it contained key symbols to mark Irish republican independence from Britain. These included:
a new name for the state, Éire
a claim that the island of Ireland was a natural national territorial unit (Article 2) and so challenged Britain's partition settlement of 1920;
a new popularly elected 'President of Ireland' to replace the British King and Crown and the appointed Irish Governor-General;
recognition of the "special position" of Roman Catholicism, which had for most of Britain's rule in Ireland been suppressed and discriminated against;
a recognition of a Catholic concept of marriage which excluded divorce, something that was culturally associated with English Protestantism (e.g., Henry VIII) but which had no history of acceptance within Catholicism.
the declaration that the Irish language was an official language of the nation, along with English.
the use of Irish language terms to stress Irish cultural and historical identity (eg, Uachtarán, Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Rialtas, Dáil, Seanad, etc.)
In reality, as with much of de Valera's policies, most of the above were more apparent than real.
For all the anti-partition rhetoric, partition remained a legal reality, accepted by Article 3;
for most of its existence, the popularly elected president was never popularly elected, but chosen by the political parties for their own reasons. In addition, the key powers that defined who a head of state was (ie, being the representative of a state at international diplomatic level) were possessed by the 'King of Ireland' (as George VI was proclaimed and continued to be called until the declaration of the republic in April 1949;
the "special position" of the Roman Catholic Church was a constitutionally meaningless phrase. In some areas (De Valera's refusal to make Catholicism the established church, his refusal to side with Franco in the Spanish Civil War, the constitutional recognition given to the existence of the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterians, the Methodists and in particular in Irish Jewish community) de Valera's constitution was actually quite radical and distinctly non-Catholic in its day. For that reason, Pope Pius XI refused to support its adoption, an endorsement constitutions in predominantly Catholic countries routinely sought and often got.
the features of the "Catholic" family focused on in the constitution (family based on marriage, with no divorce and the belief that the family was central to society) accurately mirrored most of the beliefs (divorce excepted) of the mainstream Protestant faiths on the island, namely the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church (although many conservative Protestants also oppose divorce).
Though given symbolic superiority, Irish in reality remained a language of a small and rapidly dwindling number of people. In contrast, the state's second official language, English, was the language of the vast majority of people.
Thus for all the constitutional autochthony symbols, the Irish state was neither as nationalist nor as Catholic, neither as Gaelic nor as free from the Crown as de Valera, through his use of symbols, tried to suggest. [edit]
Neutrality in World War II
Germany's interest in Ireland before and in the early years of World War II (called The Emergency in the Free State) included investigating whether the IRA could be used against Britain, investigating the tactical advantages of invading Ireland, and negotiating with the Irish government. Germany courted the Irish government, before and during the war, though with little success. De Valera kept the Free State neutral in World War II. The British MI5 naturally took more than a passing interest in his deeds and whereabouts. Whereas the neutrality of the USA was terminated with the attack on Pearl Harbor, Irish neutrality was maintained right through to the end of the war. Both the possibility of a German invasion and a British invasion were discussed in the Dáil. [edit]
Irish neutrality took on some unique characteristics of its own:
The Irish government secretly aided the Allies side; for example, the timing of D-Day was decided thanks to weather reports supplied by Ireland which told of incoming weather conditions from the Atlantic.
The Irish government also allowed British planes to fly from a base on Lough Erne in County Fermanagh (part of the six northern counties) across Donegal to the Atlantic. The twenty mile strip, often called "the Bundoran corridor" was heavily traveled by aircraft searching for German surface ships and U-boats. A plane from the base in Fermanagh spotted the Bismarck, which was later sunk by the Royal Navy.
The Irish government permitted the German Ambassador Eduard Hempel to maintain a radio transmitter which was used to make reports on weather, troop movements, and the effects of bombing raids on Britain to Germany until 1943 when the radio transmitter was shut down.
A mechanism was devised to allow Allied airmen who crashed in Free State territory to be returned to duty across the border. A fairly spurious distinction was established between combatant airmen on "operational" and "non-operational" flights, with practically all Allied airmen who came into Irish hands being judged to be on "non-operational" flights, while German airmen were judged to be on "operational" flights, and thus interned for the duration of the war.
Roughly 45,000 Irish Free State men voluntarily joined the Allied forces (including Patrick Clancy and his brother, Tom Clancy, both of whom, ironically had also been IRA volunteers) without interference from the Irish government (which had prohibited Irishmen from entering the Spanish Civil War, some years earlier).
On the occasion of the death of Adolf Hitler, de Valera paid a visit to Eduard Hempel, the German minister in Dublin, to express sympathy over the death of the Führer. This action was criticised by some of the victorious allies, but he thought it necessary to preserve Ireland's neutral image.
The behaviour of de Valera's government towards Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust is also controversial. Ireland's Justice Minister Michael McDowell later described the Irish government's treatment of Jewish refugees as "antipathetic, hostile and unfeeling". Dr Mervyn O'Driscoll of University College Cork reported on the unofficial and official barriers that prevented Jews from finding refuge in Ireland: "Although overt anti-Semitism was untypical, the Irish were indifferent to the Nazi persecution of the Jews and those fleeing the third Reich"[5].
However, this attitude towards Jewish refugees differed little from other Western Governments - as exemplified by the abject failure of the Evian Conference-who were unwilling to admit Jews fleeing Nazism. [edit]
Non-neutrality could either have meant support for Germany or the United Kingdom. Neither was particularly appealing and either would have led to an upsurge in subversive activity. An alliance with Germany risked certain invasion from the United Kingdom, and even without that threat was never contemplated by de Valera. An alliance with the United Kingdom risked internal political instability. De Valera's policy of neutrality probably enabled he and the opposition to maintain a political unity. That might not have been achievable had de Valera wanted to openly side with the Allies, which would have provoked the IRA. De Valera interned hundreds of IRA men during the war, and had no hesitation in executing IRA prisoners to set an example. He feared that IRA actions might provoke the British into crossing the border.
Some historians might argue that Irish neutrality was the best tactic for the Allies too. It was believed that Ireland, because of its small army and exposed coast would have been a weak link for the Allies, and would have stretched Allied armies too thinly, while making Ireland more of a Nazi invasion target. In contrast, as a neutral state, a Nazi invasion risked infuriating Irish America and so possibly increasing pressure from the powerful Irish lobby for the United States to join the war. De Valera's calculation appeared to be that in the earliest days of the war, neutrality could offer more protection from a German invasion than joining the Allies. And in turn, the absence of an attack on Ireland would help the United Kingdom, because it would mean that they would be fighting on one flank (its east coast) rather than facing a Nazi pincer attack, from west (through Ireland) and east.
In 2005 documents were released from the Public Record Office regarding contacts between de Valera and a British MI5 officer in 1942 over the Irish Free State joining the Allies, which was rejected by de Valera. Details of the meetings were not disclosed but it is believed an offer was made over the status of Northern Ireland. [edit]
Post-war period
After the Emergency the position of Fianna Fáil began to weaken. Sixteen years in power finally took its toll on the electorate and the opposition political parties. In 1948 de Valera was ousted from power by the first Inter-Party Government, with John A. Costello as Taoiseach. De Valera, as leader of the opposition, embarked on a world campaign on the partition question. In 1951 he was back in power but without an overall majority. He was Taoiseach again of what many would consider to be his worst government. No new ideas emerged and the same faces that formed his first administration back in 1932 were still in power.
Fianna Fáil was defeated again on the 1954 general election. However, like the first coalition government, the second lasted only three years. At the general election of 1957 de Valera, then in his seventy-fifth year, won an absolute majority of nine seats, the greatest number he had ever secured. This was the beginning of another sixteen year period in office for Fianna Fáil. A new economic policy emerged with the First Programme for Economic Expansion. He remained as Taoiseach until 1959, handing over power to Seán Lemass. In July 1957, in response to the Border Campaign (IRA), he ordered the internment without trial of Republican suspects, an action which did much to end the IRA's campaign. [edit]
President of Ireland
His last bid at constitutional reform failed when the people, by referendum, rejected his proposal that proportional representation be replaced by the direct vote. On the same day in June 1959 he was elected President of Ireland in succession to Sean T. O'Kelly, defeating General Seán MacEoin by a comfortable majority. By now, he was almost totally blind, but hid the fact through the use of an aide, whose job was to whisper sotto voce to de Valera instructions such as the number of steps to take, or where to 'look' (In one famous photograph, President de Valera is seen 'inspecting' a new statue just erected of Irish patriot Robert Emmet, apparently standing back in admiration. In fact, he could not see it at all). As President he received many distinguished visitors, including Presidents Charles de Gaulle and John F. Kennedy. In 1964, at the age of eighty-one, he visited Washington and addressed Congress, speaking for twenty-five minutes without notes.
De Valera only once used his power under Article 26 of the Constitution, having consulted the Council of State, to refer a Bill or part of a Bill to the Supreme Court, for the court's decision on whether the Bill or part referred is repugnant to the Constitution (so that the Bill in question cannot be signed into law). He referred the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1961 (which, as enacted, defined the constituencies from which TDs were elected at the 1961 and 1965 general elections).[4] The Supreme Court found[5] that the Bill was not repugnant to Article 16.2 of the Constitution, despite an earlier decision by the High Court[6] that the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 1959[6] was invalid for that reason.
De Valera convened a meeting of the Council of State on one other occasion, to consider whether to refer certain sections of the Income Tax (Consolidation) Bill, 1966. He decided not to do so, but the sections in question were repealed by a simultaneous amending Act.[7]
De Valera dissolved the Dáil on four occasions (in 1961, 1965, 1969 and 1973). On each occasion the Taoiseach who advised him to do so (Lemass in the first two cases, and Jack Lynch in the other two) had not been defeated in a vote in the Dáil in circumstances showing a loss of support by a majority of TDs. Therefore, under Article 13.2.3° of Bunreacht na hÉireann, de Valera had no discretion to refuse to act on their advice to dissolve.
De Valera narrowly avoided humiliation in 1966 when he was almost defeated in his final electoral battle, for re-election to the presidency. So close was the election that a mere one vote more in each ballot box in the Republic for his opponent would have been enough to secure the election of Fine Gael's youthful presidential candidate, Tom O'Higgins. While de Valera narrowly won the election, by a 1% majority of 10,000 votes in a poll of over 1,000,000, he did develop a deep dislike and distrust for his campaign manager, Agriculture Minister and future Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey. He warned colleagues later that Haughey would 'destroy the (Fianna Fáil) party', a perceptive analysis of the now disgraced former prime minister who did indeed almost destroy Fianna Fáil in the 1980s, and who has since been the subject of tribunals enquiring into proven financial improprieties. (Haughey was due to stand trial as a result of the revelations, but was let off the hook because of potentially prejudicial comments made by Tánaiste Mary Harney on live television.)
On the occasion of his visit to Ireland in 1963, President John F. Kennedy joined with Irish President Éamon de Valera to form The American Irish Foundation
Further information: The Ireland Funds
De Valera finished his final term of office in 1973, aged 90, the oldest head of state in the world at the time. During his sixty-three year career in public life he received numerous honours. He was elected Chancellor of the National University of Ireland in 1921, holding the post until his death. Pope John XXIII bestowed on him the Order of Christ. He received honorary degrees from universities in Ireland and abroad and in 1968 was elected FRS, a recognition of his lifelong interest in mathematics. He also served as a member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland (for Down from 1921 to 1929 and for South Down from 1933 to 1937), though he held to the Republican policy of abstentionism and did not take his seat in Stormont. He retired from the Presidency in June 1973, having served for fourteen years, the longest period allowed under the Constitution.
Éamon de Valera died in Linden Convalescent Home, Blackrock, County Dublin on 29 August 1975 aged 92. His wife, Sinéad de Valera, four years his senior, died the previous January, on the eve of their 65th wedding anniversary. He is buried in Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery. [edit]
Ireland's dominant political personality for many decades, as well as co-owner of one of Ireland's most influential group of newspapers, Irish Press Newspapers, de Valera is alleged by critics to have kept Ireland under the influence of Catholic conservatism, though his constitution did explicitly recognise the existence and rights of the Jewish community in Ireland in 1937, at a time when much of Europe was beginning the process of wholesale extermination of Jews. According to Andy Pollak of the Irish Times, "a handful" of Jews entered Eire during "The Emergency"; another sources estimates that 38 Jews found a haven in Eire (possibly through human smuggling).
Also, he rejected fundamentalist Catholic demands by organisations like Maria Duce that Roman Catholicism be made the state religion of Ireland, just as he rejected demands by the Irish Christian Front that the Irish Free State support Franco during the Spanish Civil War. His role in Irish history is no longer unequivocally seen by today's historians as a positive one, and a recent controversial biography by Tim Pat Coogan alleges that his failures outweigh his achievements, with de Valera's reputation declining as that of his great rival in the 1920s, Michael Collins, is rising.
Overall, historians regard de Valera as an idealistic but flawed leader: from his disastrous behaviour during the Civil War that inflamed hatred rather than cooled tempers, to his 1937 constitution, studied most recently by Nelson Mandela's South Africa, as they designed their own. Erratic, tactful, tactless, innovative and most of all pragmatic, Éamon de Valera, the American-born head of an Irish republic, was the most influential Irish leader of the twentieth century, admired, criticised and studied the world over, by leaders from Nehru to John F. Kennedy.
Since the foundation of the state a de Valera has always served in Dáil Éireann. While Éamon de Valera served until 1959, his son, Vivion de Valera, was a Teachta Dála between 1945 and 1981. His grandchildren, Éamon Ó Cuív and Síle de Valera, are currently members of the Dáil, with both having served in the Irish Government as ministers.	
Credit: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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