Guest Author - Tony King
Eamonn De Valera ( actually named Edward George de Valera) was born in Manhattan, New York on the 14th October 1882.
He was one of the dominant political figures in 20th century Ireland and his political career spanned over half a century, from 1917 to 1973.
He served multiple terms as head of government and head of state, and is credited with a leading role in the authorship of the present-day Irish constitution.
Along with Michael Collins, he was a significant leader in Ireland's long and ongoing struggle for independence from Great Britain and was perhaps the one driving force behind the opposition to the Treaty attempts which ultimately led to the Civil War in the early 1920's.
In 1926, he founded the Fiann Fail political party, which continues to be the largest political party in the Republic of Ireland.
Over the years, the principal element of his political creed evolved from militant nationalism to social and cultural conservatism. Perhaps one of his more important successes was his ownership in the Irish Newspaper , “The Irish Press” was was often manipulated and used to sway the people's support for then policies of Fianna Fail.
De Valera was born to an Irish mother and Spanish father and in his early years gave serious consideration to becoming a priest, but continuous questions as to the legitimacy of his parents marriage, nullified that desire.
Always a diligent student, he was named “Student of the Year” at Blackrock College and subsequently graduated with a Mathematics Degree from the Royal University of Ireland, returning to his Alma Mater as a Maths teacher and finally secured a position lecturing at the Teacher's Training College in Blackrock.
Being a gifted speaker, he joined the Gaelic League where he met his future wife, Sinead Flanigan.
After the outbreak of World War 1, he became heavily involved in the Home Rule struggle and on April 24th 1916, the infamous and ill-fated “Easter Uprising” began. When the rebellion ended abruptly, the leaders were arrested and mostly sentenced to death. De Valera was spared immediate execution, probably mainly due to his American citizenship, but he was sentenced to penal servitude for life.
After an amnesty in 1917, he was released and re-entered the political sphere as an MP and also President of Sinn Fein, and the rest as they say is history.
For the rest of his life, De Valera continued his Home Rule fight, eventually seeing its fulfillment. He became the most prominent figure in Irish politics until his death on the 29th August 1975. Always a controversial figure, his supporters applaud his leadership and tenacity; his antagonist decry his selfishness and egotism.
Perhaps his best epitaph is that he succeeded where many others failed and failed when many others succeeded. He had his “feet of clay”, yet he stands as an everlasting reminder to the stupidity and cruelty of his time and to the achievements man can accomplish, even under the most adverse circumstances.