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2020 Centenary: How Éamon de Valera harnessed the Irish diaspora during 18-month tour of America

Éamon de Valera’s US trip acted as a catalyst for international support for Ireland’s cause

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Éamon de Valera in a Native American headdress

Éamon de Valera in a Native American headdress

Éamon de Valera in a Native American headdress

The establishment of Dáil Éireann in January 1919 brought a renewed focus on international recognition of the Irish Republic. From Gloucester Prison earlier that month, Arthur Griffith had exhorted the new assembly to concentrate above all” on the post-World War One peace conference at Versailles. He highlighted the significance of America and Irish America for the settlement of the Irish question.

His vision demonstrated how, by 1919, the domestic, international and diaspora-related aspects of the struggle for Irish independence had become crucially intertwined. This was reflected in the organisation of an embryonic foreign service and, a few months later — once it became clear that the case of Ireland would not be heard in Paris — in the reorientation of Irish foreign policy towards the United States.

In June, Éamon de Valera, president of the council of ministers of the self-proclaimed Irish Republic, landed in New York for a tour designed to achieve international recognition and to finance Ireland’s young institutions. He travelled for 18 months across 36 states, addressing numerous legislatures and speaking before varied American and Irish American platforms. The mission acted as a catalyst for broader international support for Ireland’s cause.


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