Éamon de Valera is an unseen character mentioned in "Battle of the Century". The character is based on the real Irish politician of the same name. He is the President of Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament, and a leader in the Irish War of Independence against the British. He is said to be on his way to London to negotiate a truce with the British on July 1, 1921.
De Valera was born on 14 October 1882 in New York City. His father died in 1885 and de Valera moved to County Limerick, Ireland to be raised by his grandmother. His mother remained in America and re-married. He won scholarships and studied mathematics at the National University of Ireland and graduated in 1906. He continued his studies to the post-graduate level but left to become a maths teacher. He married Sinead Flanagan, a fellow teacher, in 1910. He was a gaelic speaker and a lifelong supporter of Irish Nationalism.
Throughout his early life Ireland was under the rule of the British government (which began in 1800). In 1912 the British government introduced the third Home Rule Bill which would allow for a devolved Parliament in Ireland with it remaining part of the United Kingdom. Separatists believed this was a step in the right direction but still desired complete separation from the United Kingdom. Unionists in Ireland, particularly Ulster, strongly opposed the bill and worried that it was the beginning of a process that could lead to separation. Religious beliefs also separated the groups with Protestants in the North fearing that devolution would lead to inappropriate influence of the Roman Catholic church over the largely catholic Ireland. Unionists formed an organization known as the Ulster Volunteer Force to oppose home rule in January 1913. Separatists in the secret fraternal organisation The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) responded by openly forming the Irish Volunteers. De Valera joined the Irish Volunteers on 25 November 1913. The IRB was a secret oath-bound fraternal organisation dedicated to the establishment of an "independent democratic republic" in Ireland. The Volunteers were an armed organisation prepared to fight to ensure Home Rule.
The Home Rule Act received Royal Assent but was suspended before it could be enacted due to the outbreak of World War I. The war went on much longer than initially predicted and unrest over the delay created increasing support for an armed uprising. The Irish Volunteers and other groups agreed to act on the Easter weekend of 1916. The Ulster Volunteer Force had meanwhile been stationed in the trenches of the Somme Valley, France since 1914 and were unable to defend British citizens in Ireland at the time. De Valera rose through the ranks of the Volunteers during the early part of the war and became a Captain. During the uprising his forces occupied Boland's Mill in Dublin. Fighting went on for a week and then a surrender was ordered by the leadership of the uprising. De Valera was arrested, and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment due to political pressure, earlier executions of many of the leaders and his lack of prior involvement in insurrection.
He was imprisoned until an amnesty for the Easter rising was announced in June 1917. He was elected to the House of Commons in July 1917. Also in 1917 he was elected president of the Sinn Féin political party, a group that included many of the survivors of the Easter Rising. Sinn Féin won a majority in the 1918 general elections and De Valera defended his seat. He was rearrested in May 1918. Available Sinn Féin ministers met and formed an Irish Parliament called Dáil Éireann in January 1919. On the same day Irish Volunteers killed two members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) marking the beginning of the Irish War of Independence. De Valera escaped from Lincoln Gaol in February 1919 and was made President of Dáil Éireann in April 1919. During his presidency Irish Volunteers attacked British government property, carried out raids for arms and funds and targeted and killed prominent members of the British administration.
De Valera went to the United States of America in June 1919 to ask for official recognition of the Irish Republic, to float a loan to finance the work of the Government, and to secure the support of the American people for the republic. In August 1919 the Irish Volunteers were recognised as the army of Dáil Éireann and renamed the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The IRA continued to carry out guerilla warfare against British troops and police but avoided an open declaration of war in light of the failure of the Easter Rising. In September 1919 Dáil Éireann was declared illegal by the British government. De Valera visit to America lasted from June 1919 to December 1920. He succeeded in raising millions of dollars for his cause. In Ireland the IRA under the leadership of Michael Collins succeeded in overthrowing the RIC in some parts of the country and they were replaced by the Irish Republican Police in April 1920. They also succeeded in halting tax collection for the British government. The British forces, in trying to re-assert their control over the country, often resorted to arbitrary reprisals against republican activists and the civilian population. An unofficial government policy of reprisals began in September 1919 in Fermoy, County Cork, when 200 British soldiers looted and burned the main businesses of the town, after one of their number had been killed in an arms raid by the local IRA. Killings and reprisals escalated in late 1920 and 1921.
The British feared that the guerrilla action could continue indefinitely and the cost in terms of lives, funds and reputation was mounting. The British called off the policy of burning houses as reprisals, King George V delivered a conciliatory speech and Prime Minister David Lloyd George wrote to de Valera to open negotiations regarding a truce.
John McGarrigle reports that the British have offered a truce to a meeting of IRA leaders. Owen Sleater is irritated that this is being considered. McGarrigle adds that Sinn Fein president Eamon de Valera is travelling to London to negotiate terms. American arms dealer Nucky Thompson wonders what is on the table and McGarrigle explains that the British are offering a free state. Patrick angrily asserts that a free state is not independence. Their host interjects that Patrick has not yet heard the proposals. Patrick believes they would still be under British dominion and Daniel Fitzgerald asserts that it is good enough for de Valera to consider. Patrick reminds the others that they swore to fight to the bitter end and McGarrigle suggests that they may have reached it. Patrick is disbelieving and asks McGarrigle if he really thinks this is it. McGarrigle says that there is enough blood on the ground for both of their lifetimes. McGarrigle says that he will fight if he must and make peace if it is wise. ("Battle of the Century")
- John McGarrigle: Sinn Fein fundraiser (deceased)
- Michael Collins: Minister of Finance, IRA Director of Intelligence
- Bill Neilan: IRA Leader
|Season two appearances|
|21||Ourselves Alone||A Dangerous Maid||What Does the Bee Do?|
|Gimcrack & Bunkum||The Age of Reason||Peg of Old||Two Boats and a Lifeguard|
|Battle of the Century||Georgia Peaches||Under God's Power She Flourishes||To the Lost|