Love him or hate him, Eamon De Valera was perhaps the most influential man in Irish History, despite the fact that he was born in the United States. He helped create the political machine of modern Ireland and his influence is still being felt (and untangled) today, forty-one years after his death.
Eamon De Valera was a master politician, a Machiavellian creature, and a man who seized power and influence at every opportunity, no matter the cost to others. He was a mediocre leader (at best) during the Easter Rising of 1916 and was the last to surrender in that fight, but he was also one of the first to be spared from execution in the aftermath of the battle. It’s probably safe to say that the English authorities came to regret their decision to spare De Valera on many occasions, since he became one of the biggest thorns in their side for the rest of his life.
“Dev” passed away on this day in 1975 at the ripe old age of 92. His political career lasted more than fifty years, and it was more than a little controversial. Historians and citizens alike are still polarized by the actions he took as as the leader of Ireland, and can’t decide whether they loved or hated the man. Many blame him for everything from the death of Michael Collins to the Irish Civil War, partition, mass immigration and the persistent inequality of women in both history and modern times. More people left Ireland during his rule than they had before (with the exception of An Gorta Mor of course) and many of his policies failed. Nevertheless, when Eamon De Valera died the state funeral honoring him was vast and most of the politicians of the era and the public came to pay their respects, whether they agreed with his policies or not. To this day arguments continue over whether De Valera was good or bad for Ireland, but one thing is for sure – he helped to make it what it is today.