De Valera, Éamon

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De Valera, Éamon

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Éamon (‘Dev’) De Valera was born 14 October 1882 in Manhattan, New York, the only child of Juan Vivion de Valera and Catherine (‘Kate’) Coll; he was christened Edward. His mother was a native of Bruree, Co. Limerick while his father had been born (1853) in Spain's Basque country. De Valera came to Ireland as a young child in April 1885 where he lived with his maternal family in Knockmore, Bruree. He joined the Irish Volunteers at their inaugural meeting in Dublin's Rotunda Rink (25 November 1913). In March 1915 he was appointed commandant of the 3rd Battalion, comprising the companies in the south-east of the city, after he had satisfied Patrick Pearse of his willingness to participate in a rising; he then became adjutant to Thomas MacDonagh, the brigade commander. During the 1916 Easter Rising de Valera's battalion occupied Boland's Mill, commanding the south-east approaches over the Grand Canal. He was arrested and sentenced to death but released for a variety of reasons, including the public response to the British execution of Rising leaders. He was imprisoned in four English prisons (Dartmoor, Lewes, Maidstone, and Pentonville), before returning to Ireland and becoming one of the leading political figures of the War of Independence. He was elected president of Sinn Féin on 25 October 1917, a post he held until 1926; and on 27 October he was also elected president of the Irish Volunteers.
De Valera's refusal to participate as one of the Irish plenipotentiaries in the Anglo-Irish Treaty, in the conference that began on 11 October and culminated with the signing of the treaty in the early hours of 6 December 1921. The Dáil approved the treaty by 64 votes to 57 on 7 January 1922. De Valera resigned as president of Dáil Éireann but stood for reelection and was even more narrowly defeated, by 60 votes to 58, on 10 January. De Valera's refusal to accept those votes as a final verdict ensured that the treaty split became the great divide in the party politics of independent Ireland. Relations between the new Irish government, which was backed by most of the Dáil and the electorate, and the anti-Treaty side under the nominal leadership of de Valera, descended into the Irish Civil War (June 1922 to May 1923), in which the pro-treaty Free State forces defeated the anti-Treaty IRA. De Valera was arrested by Free State troops on 15 August 1923 and not released until 16 July 1924. De Valera's breach with Sinn Féin was further postponed when the party's ard fheis in 1925 evaded the issue, but an IRA convention in November – adopting a new constitution, freeing the IRA from political control – sharpened the divide. A month later he announced the formation of a new republican party, Fianna Fáil, with the first objective of ‘securing the political independence of a united Ireland as a republic’; its other objectives were the restoration of the Irish language, a social system of equal opportunity, land redistribution designed to maximise the number of families on the land, and economic self-sufficiency. The ensuing election (June 1927) marked a decisive step in de Valera's quest for a majority: Fianna Fáil won 44 seats while the government party slumped from 63 to 47.
On 9 March 1932 the dáil elected Éamon de Valera president of the executive council by 81 to 68, a majority dependent on the Labour Party and some independent support in addition to the 72 Fianna Fáil deputies. He at once initiated steps to fulfil his election promises to abolish the oath and withhold land annuities owed to the UK for loans provided under the Irish Land Acts and agreed as part of the 1921 Treaty. In the 1948 election, Fianna Fáil lost the outright majority they had held for sixteen years and De Valera became Leader of the Opposition before returning to the Dáil as Taoiseach in 1951. He departed the active politics of the Dáil in 1959 and successfully secured the presidency of Ireland, and was inaugurated President of Ireland on 25 June 1959. Éamon de Valera died aged 92 after a brief illness on 29 August 1975.

Dictionary of Irish Biography (2009)


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16th Dáil: 1957 - 1959
Taoiseach (1957 - 1959)

15th Dáil: 1954 - 1957

14th Dáil: 1951 - 1954
Taoiseach (1951 - 1954)

13th Dáil: 1948 - 1951

12th Dáil: 1944 - 1948
Minister for External Affairs (1944 - 1948)
Taoiseach (1944 - 1948)

11th Dáil: 1943 - 1944
Minister for External Affairs (1943 - 1944)
Taoiseach (1943 - 1944)

10th Dáil: 1938 - 1943
Minister for Local Government and Public Health (1941 - 1941)
Minister for Education (1939 - 1940)
Taoiseach (1938 - 1943)
Minister for External Affairs (1938 - 1943)

9th Dáil: 1937 - 1938
Taoiseach (1937 - 1938)
President of the Executive Council (1937 - 1937)
Minister for External Affairs (1937 - 1938)

8th Dáil: 1933 - 1937
Minister for External Affairs (1933 - 1937)
President of the Executive Council (1933 - 1937)

7th Dáil: 1932 - 1933
Minister for External Affairs (1932 - 1933)
President of the Executive Council (1932 - 1933)

6th Dáil: 1927 - 1932

5th Dáil:1927 - 1927

4th Dáil: 1923 - 1927

3rd Dáil: 1922 - 1923

2nd Dáil: 1921 - 1922

1st Dáil:1919 - 1921

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  • English



Dictionary of Irish Biography (2009)

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