Edward De Valera - Encyclopedia

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"EDWARD DE VALERA [EAnsoNN] (1882-), Irish republican leader, was born Oct. 14 1882, near Charleville, Co. Cork. His father, Vivian de Valera, was a Spaniard.; his mother, whose maiden name was Kate Coll, came from near Bruree, Co. Limerick. He spent his childhood and boyhood among his mother's people, and was educated first at the national school and later at the Christian Brothers' school, Charleville. He then went to Blackrock College, Co. Dublin, where he gained a reputation both as a student and an athlete. Here he worked at Latin, Greek, French and English literature, and at his favourite subject, mathematics. He won a middle grade exhibition in 1899, and in 1900 one in the senior grade. Entering the Royal University in 1901, he won the next year a second class mathematical scholarship. He went as teacher to Rockwell College, and while there graduated with a pass B.A. degree in mathematical science in 1904, and proceeded to the B.Sc. degree in 1914. In 1910 he passed the examination for the diploma in education (teaching). For a time he worked at a thesis on quaternions for his M.A. degree, but he never presented it. He also attended lectures in mathematics at Trinity College, Dublin, where he unsuccessfully competed for a scholarship. Returning to Dublin, he taught mathematics, Latin, and French in the principal Roman Catholic colleges, including the old University College, St. Stephen's Green; Belvedere; Clonliffe; Dominican College, Eccles Street; Loreto College, St. Stephen's Green; and Carysfort Training College for teachers. He examined in mathematics for the Irish Intermediate Board of Education in 1912 and following years. He unsuccessfully attempted to become an inspector of national schools. He was very popular with his pupils. He also rapidly acquired a knowledge of Irish (Gaelic), and in 1914 he was able to read difficult bardic Irish poetry. He took charge of the Irish Summer College at Tawin founded by Casement.

On the foundation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, he threw himself heart and soul into the new organization. Sinn Fein had turned to the use of violence in 1909, and to this organization De Valera belonged, though he assumed no leading share in it till the Easter rebellion of 1916. When Casement was captured he countersigned the order of Thomas MacDonagh on April 23, cancelling the inspection and manoeuvres ordered for that day. When, nevertheless, the rebellion broke out De Valera was in the outer circle of Dublin held by the rebels, which ranged from Ringsend to Ballsbridge. He commanded the insurgents holding Boland's bakery, which was valuable in two ways: it assured the rebels of a supply of foodstuffs, and it offered a commanding position for rifle fire. Though there was heavy firing day and night in this district, there were not many casualties, as there was much cover for both sides. The real leaders of the rebellion were P. H. Pearse and J. Connolly. When an order from the former reached De Valera commanding him to surrender, he at first refused to believe that it was genuine. When he satisfied himself, on Sunday, April 30, he submitted and surrendered with the hundred men of his garrison. He was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life, and he was committed to Lewes prison, but was released in the general amnesty of June 15 1917. No conditions had been attached to the release of the prisoners, and De Valera himself openly ascribed this action of the Government not to generosity, but to fear. As the only surviving leader of the rebellion, he found at once that he had achieved importance in the eyes of the majority of the Roman Catholic Irish, who had meanwhile swung round violently in the direction of Sinn Fein. When the ex-prisoners left the boat at Kingstown De Valera marched at their head, and his entry into Dublin was a triumphal progress. His triumph was increased in the same month by his election for East Clare by a large majority, his opponent being P. Lynch, who had been the crown prosecutor and now stood as a Nationalist. The importance of this election rivalled that of the famous Clare election of 1828, when O'Connell stood. De Valera's sweeping victory gave an immense impetus to the Sinn Fein cause.

From this time until his re-arrest in the spring of the following year De Valera was the heart and soul of the Sinn Fein movement. A facile writer and speaker, both in English and Gaelic, he was a master of the type of unmeasured eloquence that appeals to the Irish temper, which is impatient of compromise. In Dublin, on the day after his election for Clare, while in the hall of the convention the representatives of the N. and S. were engaged in seeking a formula of union, in the street outside De Valera was telling a cheering crowd that " if Ulster barred the way, Ulster must be coerced." A similar violence characterized all his speeches. The Sinn Fein convention of Oct. 26-27 1917 elected him " President of the Irish Republic." In the agitation, in the early part of 1918, against " conscription " De Valera took a leading part. But in May the discovery by the Government of another plot for a rising, to be combined with a German invasion, led to his re-arrest together with some 150 other prominent Sinn Feiners. He was imprisoned at Lincoln, in England, but on Feb. 3 1919 he, with two other Irish prisoners, escaped and, ultimately, made his way to the United States. Here, working with the same restless energy as in Ireland, he was successful for a time in enlisting a large amount of public sympathy for the Sinn Fein cause, especially in Irish and German-American circles. He was received as " President " by the civic authorities of New York (under Mayor Hylan's Tammany administration) and in other cities where the Irish vote predominated, presented with their " freedom," and otherwise honoured. His attempt, however, to persuade the party conventions, assembled to nominate candidates for the presidency, into making the independence of Ireland a plank in their programmes, completely failed, and the Irish question was not mentioned in the programme of either party. With the election of Mr. Harding to the presidency, it became clear that De Valera's efforts to involve the United States in a quarrel with Great Britain about Ireland had broken down, and in the spring of 1921 he returned to Ireland, where in June and July negotiations were opened with him by the Government with a view to an Irish settlement (see Ireland: History). In 1910 De Valera was married to Miss Sinead Ni Fhlannagain, one of the most popular teachers and earnest workers of the Ard Craobh and Colimcille branches and of the Leinster College.

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