Eamon de Valera

one of the male leaders of the 1916 Uprising made it out of Kilmainham with his life. in fact, Eamon de Valera made it out of Kilmainham twice, after first being held by the British, and later by the Pro-Treaty Irish forces. he was saved from execution with the other 1916 leaders because of his American passport. he held dual citizenship because his mother was Irish; he was born in New York, but was sent back to Ireland to live with his mother’s family after the death of his father (who was not Irish).

he had a leading role in writing the Irish constitution and during the Civil War that followed independence and the treaty with Britain, he lead the Anti-Treaty forces (thus landing in Kilmainham the second time). moreover, he established what continues to be the largest political party in Ireland (Fianna Fáil). from the beginning of the Free State, de Valera served in national politics, as an MP, as chief minister of the Dail Eireann, as Taioseach (twice), and as President of Ireland (for fourteen years).

de Valera’s legacy is somewhat contested, particularly when contrasted with that of Michael Collins (who lead the Pro-Treaty forces during the Civil War). some historians have argued that de Valera’s actions during the Easter Rising were not constructive, that he wasn’t able to hold it together to effectively lead the men for whom he was responsible. Tim Pat Coogan, for one, argues that de Valera’s failures outweigh that which he accomplished in later years (and the man has written biographies of both de Valera and Collins). whatever he did or didn’t accomplish, and however it stacks up against other Irish political and military leaders, de Valera definitely holds a place in the Irish consciousness.

Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.