Eammon DeVelera Essay

This essay has a total of 2985 words and 15 pages.

Eammon DeVelera

An Independent Ireland
Eamon de Valera's struggle for a sovereign nation

Alison McMahon
Modern European History
Dr. Homer
May 2, 2000

"Sinn-ne Fianna Fail", the first line of the Irish National Anthem loosely translates
"soldiers are we/whose lives are pledged to Ireland" , served as Eamon de Valera's focus
throughout his life. Born on October 14th, 1882 in New York City's New York Nursery and
Child's Hospital to Catherine (Kate) Coll and Vivion Juan de Valera of 61 East 41st
Street, Manhattan. Eamon's mother Kate emigrated from the small town of Knockmore, inside
County Limerick, and his father was born in Spain. The couple married on September 19th,
1881 in Greenville's St. Patrick' Church. Two and half years after Eamon's birth,
Vivion's death forced Kate to send her young son back to Ireland in the company of her
brother Ned Coll. Kate's mother, Elizabeth Coll, raised Eamon in the same small community
that had nurtured his mother. De Valera's preliminary education included eight years at
the National School followed by two years at Christian Brothers School in Charlesville
during which he earned a scholarship to finance his further education at Blackrock College
in Dublin and University College, Blackrock. Upon completion of his education, de Valera
began his career as a mathematics professor. In 1908, de Valera began to pursue
proficiency in the Irish language by joining the Central Branch of the Gaelic League, an
organization "trying to rebuild Irish nationalism through teaching its members about the
native Gaelic language and its culture". Tim Pat Coogan summed up de Valera's decision
stating "everything else of importance which followed flowed from that decision: his
marriage, involvement in revolution and later, his political career. Eamon met his wife,
Sinead Flanagan a schoolteacher four years his senior when she tutored him in Irish and
they couple married in January 1910. In 1913 he joined the Irish Volunteers, a militant
group fighting for Irish sovereignty and was instrumental in the landing of guns from the
Asgard in July 1914, which demonstrated de Valera's extraordinary leadership ability to
the Volunteers. Eamon de Valera's background prepared him for victory in his struggle
for a united Ireland free of British rule as accomplished through the Easter Rebellion,
the struggle over the 1921 Treaty and the Constitution of 1937.

"Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation,
the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish
Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having
resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment . . .
she strikes in full confidence of victory". The leaders of the Easter Rebellion wrote
this declaration of independence when they seized control of Dublin during the Easter
Rebellion of 1916. On the 24th of April, Easter Monday, Irish u rebels frustrated over
the "suspension of the Irish Home Rule Bill in 1914" seized control of strategic sections
of Dublin including the General Post Office, the town castle, Stephen's Green, and other
central locations. Padraig Pearse, a teacher, lead over two thousand men and women
against the British troops and established the provisional government of the Irish
Republic through the "Poblacht Na H Eireann". The rebellion was underway despite several
mishaps suffered by the resistance including the failed attempt to procure a German
shipment of rifles and an order by Eoin MacNeill to cancel the movement. De Valera chose
to obey the Revolutionary Council's decision and follow Pearse, his Commander in Chief,
into battle on Easter Monday. De Valera's battalion was charged with securing the
southeast section of the city, likely to be the site of arrival for British
reinforcements. Due to MacNeill's announcement, De Valera had to contend with a manpower
shortage, which forced him to focus his troops on the bridges in his area. His
headquarters was spared from heavy infantry attack; instead, damages were sustained from
ground troops, sniper fire and relatively light shelling. Two occurrences during the
Easter Rising served to further De Valera's reputations: the defense of Mount Street
Bridge and the use of a high tower neighboring his command post. The first heroic act,
Malone's effort to hinder the British troops push towards Trinity College, resulted in
half the British casualties incurred during the rebellion. In the second military
maneuver, "de Valera ordered a party to climb the tower and send out bogus semaphore
signals as if it were a command post" and "he also caused a green flag to be flown from
the top of the tower". De Valera's soldierly acumen resulted in a massive British
concentration of artillery fire on the de Valera's diversion. De Valera's post was the
most isolated, which meant he was the last to receive Pearse's order of surrender. This
gave De Valera the distinction of being the last commander to surrender his post at the
conclusion of the Rising on Sunday, 30th of April. Some attribute de Valera's escape
from execution to this fact, while others argue the pardon resulted from his American
birth, the later the far more plausible explanation. While objectively the Easter Rising
represented a defeat for the rebellion, it was a crucial move towards a free Irish
republic. De Valera and the other revolutionaries drew the world's attention to England's
brutal tyranny over their homeland and forced Parliament to recognize Ireland's discontent
with Parliament's consider a broader Irish reign. The major victory of the Insurrection
resulted from Britain's appalling executions of the Uprising's leaders, which generated a
great sense of nationalism that swept the Irish countryside. The Easter Rebellion
symbolized Ireland's increasing fortitude in the quest for emancipation.

Eamon De Valera's second step towards the achievement of Irish sovereignty must be
qualified by relevant background information. David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of
Britain, responded to the rebellion by initiating negotiations with the leaders of Sinn
Feinn (Irish revolutionary political party) over a possible "home rule settlement". In
the fall of 1917 Eamon De Valera assumed the presidency of Sinn Feinn and the Volunteers
and led the party in a boycott of Lloyd George's Irish Convention of March 1918. De
Valera's boycott served to swell support for the party. After escaping from prison, De
Valera assumed the presidency of the first Dail Eirann in January of 1919. After the
formation of the Dail Eirann, Michael Collin's Irish Republican Army began a guerrilla war
on the British government within Ireland. Lloyd George responded to the assault with the
Government of Ireland Act, which created the distinct Irish parliaments of Dublin and
Ulster. Upon return from fundraising efforts in America, Eamon De Valera faced the
challenge of finding a peaceful resolution to the fighting while continuing the struggle
for independence from Britain. The truce reached in July 1921 began the peace conferences
that changed the course of Irish history. The correspondence between De Valera and Lloyd
George that preceded the negotiations clearly outlined the points of contention for each
party. In his first letter, responding to an invitation to attend the conference, De
Valera writes "we most earnestly desire to help in bringing about a lasting peace between
the peoples of these two islands, but see no avenue by which it can be reached if you deny
Ireland's essential unity and set aside the principle of national self-determination".
In these lines, De Valera presented the ideology that dominated his leadership in Ireland.
There would be no compromise if doing so would required Ireland to forfeit it's right to
national supremacy. Lloyd George, in a subsequent letter, outlined Britain's proposal of
dominion status for Ireland. Agreeing to such a status would require Ireland to swear
allegiance to the King, give England control over the seas surrounding Ireland, limit
Ireland's armaments and assume partial responsibility for the Empire's debt. De Valera
realized that while dominion status had successfully achieved some semblance of
sovereignty for nations such as Canada, Australia and South Africa the proximity of
Ireland to Britain would prevent such an occurrence. He replied "the Irish people's
belief is that the national destiny can best be realised in political detachment, free
from Imperialistic entanglements which they feel will involve enterprises out of harmony
with the national character, prove destructive of their ideals and be fruitful only of
ruinous wars". With these conditions in mind, De Valera and the Cabinet chose the
delegates to the conference. Arthur Griffith was selected as the head of the committee
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