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de Valera, Eamon

de Valera, Eamon (1882–1975). The dominant figure in Irish politics for over 40 years despite, or perhaps because of, his aloof, ascetic personality. De Valera was born in New York, reared in Co. Limerick, and was originally a mathematics teacher. He came to advanced nationalism through the Irish Language Movement and Volunteers. His rise to leadership was due to his being the last surviving commandant of the Easter Rising. Following release from internment in early 1917, he led a broad-based Sinn Fein coalition, and master-minded the move towards a moderate self-determination policy which successfully challenged the Irish Parliamentary Party. Arrested May 1918, de Valera escaped from Lincoln gaol in February 1919, and became president of the Dáil. He spent most of the Anglo-Irish War seeking recognition of the Irish Republic and financial backing in the USA. After the truce in July 1921, de Valera became chief negotiator in Dáil ranks but controversially absented himself from the peace conference, October–December. Opposing the Anglo-Irish treaty, he advanced external association as an alternative. He strove to avoid the drift to civil war but was rendered impotent by the force of military opposition to the treaty. Marginalized during the civil war, he recovered the leadership amongst republicans after the conflict, aided by being imprisoned until 1924. Splitting from Sinn Fein and the IRA and their Dáil abstentionist policy, he formed Fianna Fail Party, entering the Dáil in 1927. After winning the 1932 election he followed a treaty reform policy, abolishing the oath of allegiance to the British crown and ceasing payment of land annuities to Britain. The constitution of 1937 epitomized his social and cultural conservatism. De Valera followed popular neutrality policy in the Second World War, despite intense British and American opposition. Defeated in elections 1948 and 1954, but Taoiseach again 1951–4 and 1957–9, he withdrew to the presidency 1959–73. By the 1960s his policies appeared anachronistic in a rapidly evolving modern European state, leading to an increasingly unsympathetic portrayal of his career. J. J. Lee commented that de Valera would have made a leader beyond compare in the pre-industrial world. De Valera himself said: ‘I was meant to be a dyed-in-the-wool Tory or even a Bishop, rather than the leader of a Revolution.’

Michael Hopkinson

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Valera, Diego de

Diego de Valera (dyā´gō dā välā´rä), 1412?–1488?, Spanish adventurer and writer. Reared at the Castilian court, he was page to John II and later became one of his diplomatic agents. He took part in the campaigns against the Hussites. After the death of John II he retired to scholarly pursuits, but he returned to public life in 1474 to become majordomo to Isabella I and chronicler of Ferdinand II, whom he incited to the conquest of Granada. His works range from poetry to philosophy and genealogy, but his chief importance is as a historian. His Crónica abreviada, a universal history from the creation to John II, is continued by chronicles of the reigns of Henry IV of Castile and of Ferdinand and Isabella.

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De Valera, Eamon

De Valera, Eamon (1882–1975) Irish statesman, taoiseach (1932–48, 1951–54, 1957–59). De Valera was active in the Irish independence struggle and, after the Easter Rising (1916), was elected president of Sinn Féin while imprisoned in England. He opposed William Cosgrave's Irish Free State ministry and founded Fianna Fáil in 1924. He defeated Cosgrave in 1932. In 1959, De Valera became president of the republic. He retired in 1973.

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