Eamon de Valera and Martin McGuinness – Gunmen turned politicians? Not really. – by Donal Kennedy


The 90th Anniverary of the founding of THE IRISH PRESS, 6th September, was commemorated by one Ray Burke in THE IRISH TIMES “Irishman’s Diary” in perhaps the most mean-minded piece in that slot since the departure of Kevin Myers.

Burke gives a masterclass in ignorant sneering  ending with the statement that a newspaper founded by one  gunman turned politician (Dev) ended publishing an apology to another, (Mc Guinness.).

I’ve never been nearer to Dev than as a member of an F.C.A.  (part time unpaid gunmen) Guard of Honour at the GPO one Easter, nor to McGuinness, when the latter  shook my hand in Westminster’s Portcullis House at a Sinn Fein Reception.

 Neither Dev nor McGuinness started their working lives as gunmen, but both emerged as statesmen.

 Dev was a teacher and lecturer when on Easter Monday 1909 in the Round Room in Dublin’s Mansion House he was an usher at a meeting chaired by my paternal grandfather, Patrick Kennedy, who presented a Draft Constitution for the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, which was adopted.My grandfather emerged as the first President of ASTI and was re-elected the following year. His younger friend and former next-door neighbour, Thomas MacDonagh was elected General Secretary. Neither the bony-thumbed MacDonagh  nor de Valera showed any interest in gunmanship at the time

Dev was better known as a fine rugby player (who had been considered for a place on the Munster team) and was within a year of marrying his Irish teacher.  

 Circumstances  were  to propel millions of people from having no appetite for war into waging it with a good conscience. It happened in many countries.

 It happened to the apprentice butcher Martin McGuinness later.

One hundred and eight years after  the Mansion House meeting which elected my grandfather President of ASTI, the President of that now powerful Union, in her Chain of Office, amongst many dignitaries, was in Derry to pay tribute at the funeral of Martin McGuinness, who, as Minister For Education at Stormont, had won not just respect, but the love of teachers and  civil servants from all traditions and creeds.


 “De VALERA   Rise 1882 -1932”Rule 1932- 1975”

 “MARTIN McGUINNESS -the man I knew” compiled by Jude Collins


“UNLIKELY RADICALS – Irish Post-Primary Teachers and the ASTI, 1909-2009” by John Cunningham.

There isn’t a sneer or a mean-minded remark in any of those well-written works.

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