August 29: TODAY in Irish History:
Today in Irish History: Curated by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks
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August 29: TODAY in Irish History:
1906: Death of James Quinlan – Medal of Honor Winner
James J. Quinlan (September 13, 1833 – August 29, 1906) was a Union Army officer during the American Civil War and a recipient of America’s highest military decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions at the Battle of Savage’s Station. His citations states he “led his regiment on the enemy’s battery, silenced the guns, held the position against overwhelming numbers, and covered the retreat of the Second Army Corps.”
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1975: Death of Eamonn De Valera, a man who probably more than anyway shaped the culture of Ireland (good and bad) for almost fifty years. He was a man loved by his supporters but distrusted and hated by those who blamed him for the Irish civil war. (That latter sentence could equally apply to Michael Collins from the opposite side of the political divide.)
Although born in Brooklyn, New York, “Dev” had an almost mystical and spiritual belief about an Ireland that he wanted to exist.
De Valera is famous for something he never said, an Ireland of “maidens dancing at the crossroads, ” but in a 1943 he did envisage “The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit – a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age.”
De Valera was one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising and only avoided execution because of his American citizenship and/or the general revulsion about the execution of the 1916 leaders. He was an immensely astute (manipulative) politician and a natural leader of the Sinn Fein TDs elected in the 1918 election.
His standing amongst his fellow TDs is evidenced by his being elected President of the first Dail Eireann (Irish Parliament) by a unanimous vote. During the War of Independence, he spent many months in the United States drumming support and finance for the Irish cause.
It is not clear why he did not get directly involved in the Treaty negotiations in London. Instead, he sent Michael Collins to negotiate on behalf of the Irish people. The signing of the Treaty on Dec 6th provided legislative autonomy for twenty six counties of Ireland, but resulted in the partition of Ireland and the foundation of the state of Northern Ireland. De Valera refused to accept the January 1923 vote of Dail Eireann approving the Treaty. Soon Ireland was again in a bloody conflict, but this time it was Irishman against Irishman in a vicious conflict laced with atrocity after atrocity on both sides.
De Valera and the anti-Treaty-ites were forced to call a halt to their campaign in May 1923. (It Is worth noting that the various campaigns conducted by the IRA throughout the rest of the 20th century derive from their lack of acceptance of this surrender or of the Treaty vote. The IRA never accepted the legitimacy of either government in the North or the Republic.)
Disillusioned with Sinn Fein and its abstentionist policies, De Valera founded Fianna Fáil in 1926. In order to take his seat in the Dail in 1927, he accepted the oath of allegiance (to the English crown) stating it to be but an empty formula. Fianna Fail came to power in 1932 and dominated the Irish political landscape for most of the century.
As Taoiseach, he kept Ireland neutral during WWII, much to the chagrin of Churchill who desperately desired Ireland’s ports. The antipathy between the two men led to a number of verbal spats with De Valera acquitting himself extremely well in the eyes of his countrymen. De Valera also responded superbly to Lloyd George protestations prior to the Treaty negotiations of 1921
The “brilliant but austere De Valera” (in the words of JFK) brought international opprobrium on Ireland when he visited the German ambassador in Dublin to offer condolences on the death of Hitler.
In 1959, after thirty-three years at the head of Fianna Fáil, Eamon de Valera resigned as leader and Taoiseach and was elected President of Ireland (succeeding Sean T. O’Kelly), a position he held until 1973.
Eamonn De Valera Documentary
Want to learn more about Ireland? See these images and more in the acclaimed For the Love of Being Irish
For the Love of Being Irish written by Chicago based Corkman Conor Cunneen and illustrated by Mark Anderson is an A-Z of all things Irish. This is a book that contains History, Horror, Humor, Passion, Pathos and Lyrical Limericks that will have you giving thanks (or wishing you were) For the Love of Being Irish
This history is written by Irish author, business keynote speaker and award winning humoristIrishmanSpeaks – Conor Cunneen. If you spot any inaccuracies or wish to make a comment, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the comment button.
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