‘Dev and imperialism’ by Donal Kennedy

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In 1938 The Illustrated London News carried photos from London’s Euston Station that look like stills from A Hard Day’s Night. Ecstatic  crowds, not waiting but rushing, a platform, and athletic fans running on the roofs of railway carriages, many of them waving the Irish Tricolour.

Nearly 20 years earlier, crowds, flying the same colours, filled sports arenas and concert halls in the United States to hear and cheer Eamon de Valera, the focus of the 1938 excitement.

In 1948 similar crowds welcomed him in  the newly independent India, the most populous democracy on earth.

The Irish electorate, having chosen, in six successive General Elections, “Dev” and his party as their leaders, had given them a break in 1948.  Dev’s name was honoured among nations which had suffered, or were still suffering , under the yoke of Imperialism.

(Winston Churchill was also out of office in 1948 but did not choose to visit India, whose people he hated. Besides, he was directly responsible for the deaths by starvation  of an estimated three million people there in 1942-1943 and would not have been welcomed.)

Imperialists/ Jingoists,  their admirers and collaborators, hated De Valera while he was alive. Since his death, and the deaths of those who knew him, those with a nostalgia for the imperial  yoke want to dance on his grave. No falsehood is left unsaid to blacken his name. The Spectator and The Sunday Times are amongst the offenders.



5 Responses to ‘Dev and imperialism’ by Donal Kennedy

  1. michael c December 5, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    My late father and his brothers recalled bonfires being lit in South Derry in 1932 to celebrate Dev coming to power.They would not hear a word said against him until he died and took another 10 years before concluding that “that shower down there are all “staters” now”!

  2. Mark December 5, 2015 at 9:20 pm #

    I think DeV was a Deputy for south Down, I doubt he took his seat, he at least had some opposition to the crown in Ireland, unlike his contemporary’s like Mulchachy, Cosgrave and the crew whose families make up the Fine Gael party, he fell a bit by the wayside with his ’empty oath’.

  3. donal kennedy December 5, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

    Dev led Sinn Fein to two General Election victories and Fianna Fail to a further eight and
    was elected President of Ireland twice after that. He was elected President of the Council
    of Ministers of the League of Narions and President of its General Assembly in 1935.He did
    not achieve all the aims of 1918 nor did his rivals or successors. Given the cards dealt him and his followers by history their achievements are creditable.

  4. Mary Jo December 6, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    I remember, growing up in Nationalist Enniskillen in the 1950s, believing that everything south of the border was just and good, apart from the occasional bloody minded customs man. The reverence in which we held Devalera exceeded our reverence for the saints.

    I had my first glimpse of Dev in Bundoran one summer Sunday when I was about 6 years old, when three busloads of Enniskillen folk, due to set off home from McCloy’s Corner at 7.15pm sharp, heard a rumour that Develera was going to pass through Bundoran that very evening, on a FF election trail.

    The buses took off on time but on the edge of the town passsengers on all three buses forced the drivers to stop and park alongside the O’Gorman Arms. There we waited, till long after my bedtime, for the glorious moment when our hero was driven past our buses in an open topped car. The cheers of “Up Dev” resounded on all sides and continued all the way home.

    In recent years I heard a northern friend try to explain to a recalcitrant southerner our love and reverence for Devalera. He summed it up like this: “Whenever we uttered the name Devalera, we used to turn our faces to the border and genuflect.”


  5. Donal Kennedy December 9, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

    A recent book on De Valera is subtitled “The Will to Power.”
    If Dev was willed to power, as leader of Sinn Fein or Fianna Fail in ten General Elections, it was by Irish voters. His colleagues were not weaklings or fools nor were the voters.

    He was revered but not adored.

    My late mother told me she had seen women kneel to kiss the trouser-legs of the strutting Blueshirt leader and would-be Duce, Eoin O’Duffy.

    “Mark” is quite right, Dev was repeatedly elected as an abstentionist MP for a Down
    Constituency. I think it was in Stormont rather than Westminster elections. He held
    his Clare seat from 1917 to 1959 without a break.