|Éamon de Valera|
Éamon de Valera was the dominant Irish nationalist leader for much of the 20th century. De Valera was born in New York City but was raised in Ireland by his mother's family. After attending a university he joined the Irish Volunteers. He participated in the Easter Rebellion of 1916. De Valera was captured and sentenced to death, but legal delays saved his life. He was released in a general amnesty in 1917.
He was elected to the British House of Commons and served as president of Sinn Féin. In 1918 he won election to the Irish parliament. The Irish conflict with the British broke out into the Irish War of Independence. Michael Collins was de Valera's main political rival during this era. De Valera became president of the republic in 1921.
De Valera vigorously opposed the treaty with the British, particularly the oath of allegiance to the king of England. De Valera's inflamed rhetoric against the treaty contributed to the outbreak of civil war in 1922. The war lasted one year until the protreaty Free State forces defeated the antitreaty IRA.
In 1926 de Valera established the Fianna Fáil (Soldiers of Destiny) political party, which remained the dominant political force for the next 50 years. De Valera served as the first Taoiseach from 1937 to 1948. He lost the 1948 election but returned to power in the 1950s.
He forced through a new constitution in 1937 whereby Eire became the new name for the nation, the president of Ireland was elected in a popular vote, and the "special position" of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland was recognized. The Irish language, along with English, became the official national language. De Valera maintained Irish neutrality in World War II. His final term ended in 1973, when he was 91. De Valera died in Dublin in 1975.