Nicknamed ‘Dev,’ Eamon de Valera was the third president of Ireland and one of the country’s most dominant political leaders of the twentieth century, namely during Ireland’s fight for independence.
Active in politics for over a half a century, de Valera led the introduction of the Constitution of Ireland, founded the Fianna Fail party, and served three terms as Taoiseach (Prime minister) before becoming President of Ireland in 1959 – a position he held for fourteen years, starting on this day in 1959.
Over the years his political creed evolved from militant republicanism to social and cultural conservatism. While he has many supporters, he also has many detractors who’ve raised an eyebrow at his character, calling him austere, anxious or devious.
Questions have been raised about his behavior during the Easter Rising as well: his supporters claim he showed excellent leadership skills and meticulous planning abilities, and his detractors claim he suffered a nervous breakdown.
Though he was arrested and put in Kilmainham Gaol with other famed political leaders, he was not executed as were Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and fourteen others, due to the fact that he was born in America.
Author John Turi claims in his book, provocatively named “England’s Greatest Spy: Eamon de Valera,” that de Valera actually became a British informant during the Rising to save his own life:
De Valera was born in New York and died in Blackrock, Co Dublin at age 92. He is one of the many famous Irish to be buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery, along with Charles Parnell, Daniel O’Connell, Michael Collins and others.
His iconic 1947 Dodge, in which he was often seen driving around Clare during his presidency, was completely restored in 2011 and is a tourist attraction in Clare: