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An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD delivered an oration during the Eamon De Valera Commemoration in Ennis on Sunday. Pic Arthur Ellis.

An Taoiseach Lauds de Valera Legacy At Ennis Commemoration


THE legacy left by founding leader of Fianna Fáil Éamon de Valera was lauded by An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, at the 40th annual commemoration of his statute in Ennis on Sunday.

Flanked by Deputy Cathal Crowe and Senator Timmy Dooley, Mr Martin laid a wreath at the foot of the de Valera memorial in front of Ennis Courthouse to mark this commemoration.

A second wreath was laid by former Clare Deputy and Senator, Brendan Daly, who is one of the surviving members of the local committee that organised and secured funding for the statue, which was erected by Kilbaha-based sculptor, Jim Connolly.

The 1916 Proclamation was read by Clare Fianna Fáil Comhairle Dáil Ceantair secretary, Rita McInerney, and this ceremony was hosted by the local ceantair.

De Valera commanded the Boland Mills garrison during the 1916 Rising. After the surrender of the main leaders, he was sentenced to death, but later it was decided to sentence him to life imprisonment.

Following his release from prison in June 1917, De Valera was elected Sinn Féin deputy for East Clare.

During the Civil War of 1922 – 23, de Valera supported the anti-Treaty Republicans. De Valera was arrested on August 15 1923, under the Public Safety Act, as he was about to make a speech at Ennis and was imprisoned until July 1924.

Despite his imprisonment, Clare elected de Valera top of the poll in the 1923 General Election. He continued to represent Clare for the rest of his active political career.

In a wide-ranging oration, Mr Martin stated the life of Eamon de Valera was one of overcoming adversity and remarkable achievement.

“His positive legacy remains strong, and remains central to achieving progress for everyone on our island.

“In July 1917, the people of East Clare lit a beacon in the cause of Irish independence which was seen throughout the world.

“Little over a year after the Rising and the executions which followed, it was here that people were able to give their first expression of support for the ideals of the men and women of 1916.

“Proudly wearing the plain, green uniform which he had shared with his fallen comrades, Eamon de Valera came to this place to speak of an Ireland which could control its own destiny.

“In the face of intimidation and a massive imbalance of resources, his message resonated with the people of Clare and with the Irish people.”

 

From that campaign onwards, Mr Martin recalled de Valera built one of the great democratic careers of the 20th century. By far the most successful Irish person in winning the free support of the Irish people, de Valera also stands out in the wider democratic world.

 

Mr Martin described de Valera as a “revolutionary leader, who built a democratic movement, which stood against the extremes of left and right, and reinforced democratic republicanism at times when basic freedoms were being crushed in so many places”.

“A figure of his stature is always going to attract a share of criticism, but the sad reality is that Eamon de Valera has often denied the right to a balanced narrative and is obliged to carry on his shoulders the failures of his time.

 

“He is the most written-about figure of the last century – but just because we talk a lot about someone doesn’t mean that we understand their importance.

“A very striking thing about de Valera in those years is how often people opposed to him ended up supporting him – which actually included three signatories of the Treaty itself and his opponent in the 1917 by-election.

 

“He also won the support of the Irish people – who showed an early and constant willingness not to be defined by civil war differences.

“The idea that Irish politics has been defined simply by the civil war is based on dismissing the views of the Irish people and ignoring the fact of major changes in support, programmes and membership.”

The Taoiseach said de Valera’s most dramatic and positive legacy is the republican constitution and how he set a distinct path for Ireland in international relations.

The archives contain what is known as “the Squared Paper Draft” – a document written in blue pencil by de Valera in May 1935.

It sets out his core principles for drafting a new republican constitution.

 

Mr Martin said his decision to propose that the fundamental law of the state could no longer be changed by a simple Dáil majority was profoundly radical.

“It is on page 10 of de Valera’s draft that people can see the beginning of what became Article 29 of Bunreacht na hÉireann – a provision which is little known by the public but which defines much of who we are,” Mr Martin outlined.

 

Dan Danaher

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