Irony is not lost as Leo launches book on Dev
Éamon de Valera himself may have smiled from beyond the grave as a Fine Gael Taoiseach launched a biography last night of the iconic founder of Fianna Fáil.
There was laughter in the National Library as Leo Varadkar expressed surprise at revelations in RTÉ broadcaster David McCullagh's book that de Valera was not as aloof and austere as believed and was able to laugh at himself.
'De Valera - Rise 1882-1932' is full of humorous anecdotes as well as scholarly research, the Taoiseach said.
"De Valera himself used to love telling the story of how on one occasion - after a few years in prison - he had to give some unpleasant medicine to his son, Terry. After being forced to swallow it, his son stomped up the stairs, shouting 'I wish he would go back to jail again.'"
The Taoiseach went on to say: "There can be a very thin line between a politician's greatest strength and greatest weakness. De Valera's greatest strength was his single-minded determination, his stubborn refusal to back down, even when his position seemed hopeless."
He said that while Ireland benefited from that single-mindedness during World War II, it was also to blame for decisions in 1920-22 "which I would not agree with".
Referring to the author's PhD, he said: "Dr McCullagh has done a remarkable job - an engaging and thought-provoking read which confirms his reputation as a historical scholar to match the considerable one he has as a journalist and broadcaster."