- Mini Bio
- Name: Éamon George de Valera
- Born: 14th October 1882, New York City, New York, U.S.
- Died: 29th August 1975, Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland
- Resting place: Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, Ireland
- Alma mater: C.B.S. Charleville, Blackrock College and Royal University of Ireland
- Occupation: Politician, prime minister and president of Ireland
- Nationality: Irish
- Political party: Fianna Fáil, he co-founded the party in 1926
- Other political affiliations: Cumann na Poblachta 1922 - 1923 and Sinn Féin 1916 - 1926
- Marriage resume: Sinéad de Valera 1910 - 1975 (her death)
- Parents: Juan Vivion de Valera and Catherine Coll
- Nicknames: Dev, The Chief, The Long Fellow and The Father of modern Ireland
- Height: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
- Trivia: Political eyebrows were raised and tempers were roused when upon hearing of Hitler's suicide Dev chose to visit the German legation in Dublin to offer heartfelt condolences. It was especially significant because three weeks earlier he did not offer the same sympathies to the American delegation upon the death of President Roosevelt on 12th April 1945
"Partition is after all only an old fortress of crumbled masonry - held together with the plaster of fiction"Eamon de Valera
"If war comes upon us, it will come as a thief in the night"Eamon de Valera
"From the moment this war began, there was, for this state, only one policy possible, neutrality. Our circumstances, our history, the incompleteness of our national freedom through the partition of our country, made any other policy impossible"Eamon de Valera
"I am against this Treaty not because I am a man of war but because I am a man of peace. I am against this Treaty because it will not end the centuries of conflict between the two nations of Great Britain and Ireland"Eamon de Valera
"For Irishmen, there is no football game to match rugby and if all our young men played rugby not only would we beat England and Wales but France and the whole lot of them put together"Eamon de Valera
"I can't see my way to becoming Patron of the Michael Collins Foundation. It's my considered opinion that in the fullness of time history will record the greatness of Collins and it will be recorded at my expense"Eamon de Valera
"England pretends it is not by the naked sword, but by the good will of the people of the country that she is here. We will draw the naked sword to make her bare her own naked sword"Eamon de Valera
"The Taoiseach has mentioned two cherished aims which have not yet been realised - the unity of our country and the restoration of our language"Eamon de Valera
"I never met an Irishman or Irishwoman abroad, who was not proud to lay claim to this island, to say that they were Irishmen or Irishwomen"Eamon de Valera
"In a world at war, each set of belligerents is over ready to regard those who are not with them as against them"Eamon de Valera
"There is a unity imposed upon us whether we like it or not. We are all inhabitants of this glorious little island"Eamon de Valera
"The Ireland that we dreamed of, would be .... of a people living the life that God desires that men should live"Eamon de Valera
"We have an importance far beyond our size, of our territory or the numbers of our people"Eamon de Valera
"It is indeed hard for the strong to be just to the weak but acting justly always has its rewards"Eamon de Valera
"The founders of the Gaelic League similarly inspired and moved the people of their day"Eamon de Valera
"Nature never intended me to be a partisan leader"Eamon de Valera
"All history is man's efforts to realise ideals"Eamon de Valera
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Éamon de Valera Biography
Unbelievable comebacks are nothing new to the game of politics where even the most implausible things are usually meticulously planned and implemented and such was the unlikely rise of Éamon de Valera against insurmountable odds to dominate Irish politics for six decades of the twentieth century.
However it was not all political manoeuvring that propelled de Valera to the forefront of Irish politics as the proverbial luck of the Irish, or in his case American's, played its part as his birth certificate traversed the Atlantic Ocean to save him from the firing squad in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter uprising that saw the bloody execution of all the leaders bar one. Although the 3rd battalion of the Dublin brigade he led during the uprising were successful in their mission and were the last to surrender, his life was saved by a mixture of the British viewing him as unimportant, lacking a hardcore Fenian background and the political pressure of the U.S. not wanting one of their citizens executed whilst the British were courting them to enter the fray of WW1.
Impeccable timing was a trait of this unlikely Irish leader who upon his release from the British penal system in 1917 was thrust into the limelight as the hero of the insurrection and promptly elected President of Sinn Féin. The subsequent years were turbulent and his decision to reject the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty that his delegation signed caused ructions that proved so divisive that the ego's of the politically challenged saw no alternative to bloodshed and the Irish civil war was a battle Dev was to lose but prove to be his ultimate path to power.
De Valera knew that the British prime minister David Lloyd George would allow a Free State but be opposed to a Republic and this was the reason he did not attend the negotiations where Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins signed the treaty, in his own words he
After de Valera's defeat in the civil war he was jailed in 1923 and released in 1924 whereby he negotiated with Sinn Féin to adopt a policy to turn the Free State from a constitutional monarchy into a republic but to no avail. Unperturbed he resigned from Sinn Fein and wasted no time in founding the Fianna Fáil political party with Seán Lemass in 1926. His goal was to be elected into parliament and work from within by turning the free state into a republic and the 1927 election was a watershed moment that saw Fianna Fáil gain 44 seats and give them political momentum to work towards the next general election.
In the 1932 general election Fianna Fáil won 72 seats making them the largest party but without a majority so the following year de Valera called for another election where his party won 77 seats giving them the majority they needed to implement the party's policies. Eamon de Valera's Fianna Fáil consolidated their position in the subsequent elections in 1937, 1938, 1943, and 1944 that established them as the bedrock of the Irish political system.
Under his Machiavellian leadership he was prime minister for 21 years and leader of the opposition for 6 years until he stood back from front line politics in 1959 to take up the role of president. As a leader he was as divisive as all good politicians are but he always put the party and Ireland before his own interests which explains his longevity in the political arena.
Even today he is as divisive as ever with historians arguing over his legacy as his influence and political standing are being reimagined to suit the present day and future of Ireland from differing standpoints. As a cunning politician he was always good for a one liner, so here is my compilation of 17 of the best Eamon de Valera quotes
Quotes About Éamon de Valera
In 1922 the French consul to Dublin Alfred Blanche was full of his praises:
"In reality, Eamon de Valera, the only true statesman of Ireland, without whom no government or national party will be able to maintain itself, is once again the master of the hour"
In 1940 the American ambassador to Ireland David Gray spoke glowingly:
"He is probably the most adroit politician in Europe and he honestly believes that all he does is for the good of his country. He has the qualities of martyr, fanatic and Machiavelli. No-one can outwit, frighten or blandish him"
The British prime minister David Lloyd George was scathingly complimentary:
"He is like lifting mercury with a fork"
The 1940's Canadian ambassador John D Kearney spoke glowingly of his Winston Churchill retort: "Mr de Valera’s broadcast is regarded in Ireland as a masterpiece"
The historian Tim Pat Coogan explained him thus:
"He planned to ensure that much more favourable comment and chronology would be collated and set down. He had fashioned a vigorous dialectic of de Valerism that would bulwark him against critical re-appraisal long into the future"
The Irish patriot Michael Collins said quite dryly:
"How could one argue with a man who was always drawing lines and circles to explain the position"