Éamon De Valera, the 3rd President of Ireland, 2nd Taoiseach and a key figure in the battle for Irish independence in the 1916 Easter Rising, died on this day in 1975.
A divisive figure, De Valera nevertheless played an integral part in securing Irish freedom from Britain a century ago.
Born in New York under the name George De Valero, he was raised in Bruree, County Limerick, by his grandmother, and later changed his name to Éamon De Valera.
The Gaeilgóir eventually moved over to Dublin to study at Blackrock College. He went on to teach mathematics in several colleges before becoming involved in the uprising against the British.
The deeply religious individual, he had considered joining the priesthood several times before being sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood alongside his eventual rival Michael Collins.
Together the group planned the details of the now-famous Easter Rising.
His actions during the Rising itself are the source of some dispute —several sources refer to him as a brave and competent leader whose soldiers were some of the best-trained in the world.
Others, however, recount stories of the Limerick man being deeply troubled, refusing to sleep, giving conflicting orders and at one point almost getting shot by his own men in the dark after forgetting the password.
Regardless, De Valera was among those arrested after the failed uprising, but like Michael Collins, he escaped execution by chance— one of the reasons being that the Lieutenant General at the time, Sir John Maxwell, said of De Valera when reviewing his case “I haven’t heard of him before. I wonder if he would be likely to make trouble in the future?”
The future Taoiseach of Ireland was eventually released from prison a year later.
Upon his release, De Valera began rising through the ranks of Irish politics, becoming an MP for East Clare and Mayo East, before becoming President of Sinn Féin, Dáil Éireann, and eventually, the Irish Republic. He served two terms as Taoiseach, from 1951-54 and again from 1957-59, resigning to accept his post as the President of Ireland.
Retiring from the Presidency at the age of 90, Éamon De Valera was the oldest head of state in the world.
His political party Fíanna Fáil continues to play a key role in Irish politics whilehis grandson Éamon Ó Cuív became a TD for Galway West in 1992.
Éamon De Valera died at the age of 92, on 29 August 1975, and was buried next to his wife Sinéad and his son Brian, who died at the age of just 21.
The family were all laid to rest in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.