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Eamon De Valera


Born in New York to a Spanish father and an Irish mother, Éamon de Valera moved to his mother’s ancestral home of Bruree in Co. Clare while still a child. He joined the Gaelic League and later the Irish Volunteers in Dublin, meeting his wife Sinead in the former organisation. After the Volunteers’ split in September 1914, de Valera rose to the position of Commandant of the 3rd Dublin Battalion. The Battalion commandeered Boland’s Mill in the Easter Rising, and while they saw little action, their attack on the Sherwood Forresters at Mount Street Bridge was one of the rebels’ most successful operations of the week. Court-martialled and narrowly avoiding the fulfilment of his death penalty, de Valera was interned in a number of English prisons. By the time of his release in 1917, he had become the leading figure in the re-emerging republican movement. He won the East Clare by-election for Sinn Féin and, despite being imprisoned once again, he was elected as President of the First Dáil in 1919. After escaping from Lincoln jail, he journeyed to America to raise funds and support for Sinn Féin, and upon returning to Ireland, he negotiated a truce with British Prime Minister David Lloyd George in July 1921, but did not form part of the delegation that negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty at the end of the year. His opposition to the eventual Treaty was a key factor in splitting Sinn Féin and creating an atmosphere for Civil War. As the republican’s position became untenable in April 1923, de Valera issued a peace proclamation to end the conflict. He founded Fianna Fáil in 1926 and led the party into government in 1932. His drafting of the Irish Constitution in 1937 and the signing of the Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement in 1938 were the culmination of his efforts to create an Irish republic out of the Free State. He remained as Taoiseach until 1948 and, after two further terms in office, was elected President of Ireland, holding the position from 1959 until 1973, two years before his death at the age of 92.

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