Eamon De Valera Figure
Eamon de Valera, original name Edward de Valera, (born Oct. 14, 1882, New York, N.Y., U.S.—died Aug. 29, 1975, Dublin, Ire.), Irish politician and patriot, who served as taoiseach (prime minister; 1932–48, 1951–54, 1957–59) and president (1959–73) of Ireland. An active revolutionary from 1913, he became president of Sinn Féin in 1917 and founded the Fianna Fáil party in 1926. In 1937 he made his country a “sovereign” state, renamed Ireland, or Éire. His academic attainments also inspired wide respect; he became chancellor of the National University of Ireland in 1921.
Prior to de Valera’s political career, he was a commandant at Boland’s Mill during the 1916 Easter Rising. He was arrested, sentenced to death but released for a variety of reasons, including the public response to the British execution of the Easter Rising leaders. He returned to Ireland after being jailed in England and became one of the leading political figures of the War of Independence. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, de Valera served as the political leader of Anti-Treaty Sinn Féin until 1926, when he, along with many supporters, left the party to set up Fianna Fáil, a new political party which abandoned the policy of abstentionism from Dáil Éireann.
De Valera’s political beliefs evolved from militant Irish republicanism to strong social, cultural and fiscal conservatism. He has been characterised by a stern, unbending, devious demeanour. His roles in the Civil War have also portrayed him as a divisive figure in Irish history. Biographer Tim Pat Coogan sees his time in power as being characterised by economic and cultural stagnation, while Diarmaid Ferriter argues that the stereotype of de Valera as an austere, cold and even backward figure was largely manufactured in the 1960s and is misguided.