Eamon De Valera: The Man Who Was Ireland
By: Coogan, Tim Pat
Genre: Biography, History
Description: For the nearly fifty years that he dominated Irish politics and life - from the country's independence in 1921 to the late 1960s - Eamon de Valera was Ireland. Though he headed a democratic government and espoused liberal economic views, his rule was most reminiscent of Franco's or Mussolini's for the cult of personality he nurtured, for the almost eugenic way he invoked his nation's ethnic heritage (though he himself was half-Spanish), for his overt collusion with the Catholic Church, and for his autocratic control of his country's cultural life. From his childhood (when he immigrated to Ireland - he was born in Manhattan), he was extraordinarily adept at mythologizing himself, and that ability combined with the length and strength of his reign garnered him the admiration of millions of people - Irish and American. In fact, Americans, specifically those of Irish descent, have always been among de Valera's staunchest proponents. In the days of Ireland's fight for freedom from British rule, when he was an outlaw in his own land, he made a triumphal tour of the United States, and throughout his long rule he would frequently tap a vast reservoir of American support. Yet after a half century in power (the longest reign of any twentieth-century leader), de Valera was probably as much reviled as he was revered. Many see him as the architect of Ireland's perennially perilous economy (the worst in Western Europe). He also helped create a church-state monolith that still overshadows the nation today. De Valera's personality and policies bequeathed to the Irish people their current struggles over women's rights, relations with Northern Ireland, and the high tide of emigration that continues to drain the country of many of its best and brightest citizens.