Eamon de Valera resigns - HISTORY
Year
1973

Eamon de Valera resigns

Eamon de Valera, the world’s oldest statesman, resigns as president of Ireland at the age of 90.

The most dominant Irish political figure of the 20th century, Eamon de Valera was born in New York City in 1882, the son of a Spanish father and Irish mother. When his father died two years later, he was sent to live with his mother’s family in County Limerick, Ireland. He attended the Royal University in Dublin and became an important figure in the Irish-language revival movement.

In 1913, he joined the Irish Volunteers, a militant group that advocated Ireland’s independence from Britain, and in 1916 participated in the Easter Rising against the British in Dublin. He was the last Irish rebel leader to surrender and was saved from execution because of his American birth. Imprisoned, he was released in 1917 under a general amnesty and became president of the nationalist Sinn Fein Party. In May 1918, he was deported to England and imprisoned again, and in December Sinn Fein won an Irish national election, making him the unofficial leader of Ireland.

In February 1919, he escaped from jail and fled to the United States, where he raised funds for the Irish Republican movement. When he returned to Ireland in 1920, Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were engaged in a widespread and effective guerrilla campaign against British forces. In 1921, a truce was declared, and in 1922 Arthur Griffith and other former Sinn Fein leaders broke with de Valera and signed a treaty with Britain, which called for the partition of Ireland, with the south becoming autonomous and the six northern counties of the island remaining part of the United Kingdom. In the period of civil war that followed, de Valera supported the Republicans against the Irish Free State (the new government of the autonomous south) and was imprisoned by William Cosgrave’s Irish Free State ministry.

In 1924, he was released and two years later left Sinn Fein, which had become the unofficial political wing of the underground movement for northern independence. He formed Fianna Fail, and in 1932 the party gained control of the Dail Eireann (the Irish assembly), and de Valera became taoiseach, or Irish prime minister. For the next 16 years, de Valera pursued a policy of political separation from Great Britain, including the introduction of a new constitution in 1937 that declared Ireland the fully sovereign state of Eire. During World War II, he maintained a policy of neutrality but repressed anti-British intrigues within the IRA.

In 1948, he narrowly lost reelection due to a negative public reaction against his party’s long monopoly of power. Out of office, he toured the world advocating the unification and independence of Ireland. His successor as taoiseach, John Costello, officially made Ireland an independent republic in 1949 but nonetheless lost the prime minister’s office to de Valera in the 1951 election. The relative Irish economic prosperity of the 1940s declined in the 1950s, and Costello began a second ministry in 1954, only to be replaced again by de Valera in 1957. In 1959, de Valera resigned as prime minister and was elected Irish president–a largely ceremonial post. On June 24, 1973, de Valera retired from Irish politics at the age of 90. He passed away two years later.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

King Philip’s War begins

In colonial New England, King Philip’s War begins when a band of Wampanoag warriors raid the border settlement of Swansee, Massachusetts, and massacre the English colonists there.In the early 1670s, 50 years of peace between the Plymouth colony and the local Wampanoag Indians ...read more

Picasso exhibited in Paris

On June 24, 1901, the first major exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s artwork opens at a gallery on Paris’ rue Lafitte, a street known for its prestigious art galleries. The precocious 19-year-old Spaniard was at the time a relative unknown outside Barcelona, but he had already ...read more

Senate passes landmark auto safety bill

On this day in 1966, the United States Senate votes 76-0 for the passage of what will become the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson the following September, the act created the nation’s first mandatory federal safety ...read more

U.S. Air Force reports on Roswell

On this day in 1997, U.S. Air Force officials release a 231-page report dismissing long-standing claims of an alien spacecraft crash in Roswell, New Mexico, almost exactly 50 years earlier.Public interest in Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs, began to flourish in the 1940s, ...read more

Senate repeals Tonkin Gulf Resolution

On an amendment offered by Senator Robert Dole (R-Kansas) to the Foreign Military Sales Act, the Senate votes 81 to 10 to repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. In August 1964, after North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked U.S. destroyers (in what became known as the Tonkin Gulf ...read more

Mandela cheers on South African rugby team

On June 24, 1995, South Africa defeats New Zealand in the finals of the Rugby World Cup at Ellis Park in Johannesburg while a special guest looks on: Nelson Mandela, who had become the first president of South Africa to be elected in a fully representational democratic election ...read more

Colorado Governor orders Indians to Sand Creek

Colorado Governor John Evans warns that all peaceful Indians in the region must report to the Sand Creek reservation or risk being attacked, creating the conditions that will lead to the infamous Sand Creek Massacre.Evans’ offer of sanctuary was at best halfhearted. His primary ...read more

Disney pulls album on release day

On June 24, 1997, the Walt Disney Corporation orders one of its subsidiary record labels to recall 100,000 already shipped copies of an album by a recently signed artist—Insane Clown Posse—on the day of its planned release. The issue at hand: the graphic nature of the Detroit ...read more

Pete Hamill is born

Journalist Pete Hamill is born on this day in 1935 to Irish immigrants in Brooklyn. The oldest of a large brood of children, Hamill grew up playing stickball in a blue-collar neighborhood but was fascinated with comic books and novels. With the neighborhood tavern the center of ...read more

Tom Cruise raises eyebrows

The actor Tom Cruise has an infamous interview with Matt Lauer, host of NBC’s morning talk show Today, on this day in 2005. During the interview, Lauer challenged Cruise about critical comments the actor had made regarding the actress Brooke Shields’ use of anti-depressant ...read more

Eastern Flight 66 crashes at J.F.K.

An Eastern Airlines jet crashes near John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, killing 115 people on this day in 1975. The Boeing 727 was brought down by wind shear, a sudden change in wind speed or direction. On the afternoon of June 24, the New York area ...read more

Mail bomb injures Yale professor

On June 24, 1993, Yale University computer science professor David Gelernter is seriously injured while opening his mail when a padded envelope explodes in his hands. The attack just came two days after a University of California geneticist was injured by a similar bomb and was ...read more

Soviets blockade West Berlin

One of the most dramatic standoffs in the history of the Cold War begins as the Soviet Union blocks all road and rail traffic to and from West Berlin. The blockade turned out to be a terrible diplomatic move by the Soviets, while the United States emerged from the confrontation ...read more