Ireland : Great Teacher-turned Irish Statesman
Éamon de Valera 14 October 1882 – 29 August 1975 was one of the dominant political figures in twentieth century Ireland. His political career spanned over half a century, from 1917 to 1973; he served multiple terms as head of government and head of state. He also led the introduction of the Constitution of Ireland.
De Valera was a leader of Ireland’s struggle for independence from the United Kingdom in the War of Independence and of the anti-Treaty opposition in the ensuing Irish Civil War (1922–1923). After leaving Sinn Féin in 1926 due to its policy of abstentionism, he founded Fianna Fáil, and was head of government (President of the Executive Council, later Taoiseach) from 1932 to 1948, 1951 to 1954, and 1957 to 1959, when he resigned after being elected as President of Ireland. His political creed evolved from militant republicanism to social and cultural conservatism.
Assessments of de Valera’s career have varied; he has often been characterised as a stern, unbending, devious, and divisive Irish politician. Biographer Tim Pat Coogan sees his time in power as being characterised by economic and cultural stagnation, while Diarmaid Ferriter argues that the stereotype of de Valera as an austere, cold and even backward figure was largely manufactured in the 1960s and is misguided.