De Valera

DESCRIPTION: The singer favors the republic rather than Redmond's Home Rule. "At Ringsend in Boland's De Valera took his stand." "We'll carry arms openly as in the days of yore The defence of the realm won't be heard of anymore When De Valera's president of Ireland"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1932 (Tunney-StoneFiddle)
KEYWORDS: rebellion England Ireland nonballad patriotic political
FOUND IN: Ireland
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Tunney-StoneFiddle, p. 24, "De Valera" (1 text)
cf. "The Pride of Petravore" (tune, according to Tunney-StoneFiddle)
NOTES [909 words]: de Valera -- Eamon de Valera (1882-1975) was born in America but became a leader of the 1916 rising, and barely avoided execution after its collapse. He became the President of Sinn Fein in 1917, then of the rebel Irish parliament; he opposed the treaty which led to the partition of Ireland, but formed the Fianna Fail party and won the 1932 election, then established the 1937 constitution. He remained Ireland's leading politician for fifty years, serving as President from 1959 to 1973. - RBW
John Redmond (1856-1918) led the Home Rule Party. The Home Rule issue, which might have caused an Irish Civil War, was made a side issue during the World War, and Redmond's political fate was sealed by the Easter Rising. After the war the Home Rule party lost lost power to Sinn Fein. (source: John Redmond at the History Learning Site)
During the Easter Rising, in April 1916, Eamon de Valera led the Irish Republican Brotherhood [IRB] Third Battalion attack at "Boland's Mills, with outposts from Westland Row Station to Ringsend and at Mount Street Bridge." (source: Dublin Flames Kindled A Nation's Spirit: Extract from Irish Independent 1916-66 Supplement at IrelandOn-Line site) - BS
(I have to disagree with the History Site's interpretation of Redmond pretty strongly. The strong majority of histories I have read say that the largest group in Ireland in the period 1880-1915 was in favor of Home Rule. The only threat of civil war was from the Ulster Protestants. General Irish opinion did not begin to shift until after the British botched the response to the 1916 Easter Rising. Ireland *did* have a Civil War in the 1920s, and it was the de Valera faction who started it, attacking the legitimate government. Poor John Redmond, who ended up picking up the pieces of the Parnellite fiasco, tried to find a solution which would satisfy both sides -- Home Rule. The British muffed *that*, too, and Redmond died too soon to find another answer, and of course it's easy, now that Ireland is independent, for people to say they were for it all along, meaning that many songs that were once the province of a militant -- even terrorist -- minority are now the general property of the Irish people.)
(For the background to this controversy, see the notes to "Home Rule for Ireland" and "Loyal Song Against Home Rule." For how it worked out, including the start of the Irish Civil War, see "General Michael Collins." For more on the relations between de Valera and the government he both helped found and fought against, see "Legion of the Rearguard.")
The reference to the "defence of the realm" could have two interpretations, depending on the exact dating of the song. If it is during World War I, it might refer to the British attempts to raise troops in Ireland. First they picked up volunteers -- with little success; according to Chandler/Beckett, p. 243, less than 11% of eligible Irish men volunteered, compared to about 25% of those in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Volunteerism having failed to supply enough corpses for Douglas Haig and his staff of butchers, the British then started trying to impose conscription -- yet another stupid move that helped to turn Ireland against them.
If, on the other hand, the song is in fact from the time it was collected, then the comment about defence presumably refers to the fact that the British, under the Free State treaty, kept control of a handful of ports for naval use. Ports which they eventually gave back to Ireland when de Valera and Neville Chamberlan were running Ireland and England (OxfordCompanion, p. 550). It was one of Chamberlain's less-noticed mistakes; it made the Battle of the Atlantic much more deadly for Britain. Had he just promised to turn them over, say, ten years later, it might well have shortened World War Two.)
Eamon de Valera is one of the great enigmas of history. Like Joan of Arc, or Richard III, or Julius Caesar, he inspires violently conflicting opinions. Coogan's monumental biography on, p. 2 describes how difficult it is to sum him up:
"'Dev.' was the greatest political mover and shaker of post-revolutionary Ireland. His towering figure continues to cast shadows that are both benign and baleful. Therefore, as a biographer, I have been conscious of the two linked and major problems in the course of trying to chart the career of this extraordinary man: First, to convey a sense of his importance to Ireland and her relationships with Great Britain, America and the members of the British Commonwealth; second, while doing so to steer between the Scylla of hagiography and the Charybdis of denigration. Practically everything of substance written about him falls into one category or the other. There is no via media where Eamon de Valera is concerned. The problem is compounded by the fact that not only did de Valera shape history, he attempted to write it too...."
The difficulty, I think, is that de Valera was a man who operated by assumptions -- that Ireland was somehow unique, that the Catholic Church was absolutely correct and great (except where he disagreed with it), that the British were the enemy and extremely untrustworthy, and that he was himself a moderate steering between the radical Cathal Brugha and the realist Michael Collins factions of the Irish independence movement. All of these are, of course, just assumptions, and how one interprets de Valera will depend entirely on how many of those assumptions one accepts. - RBW
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