DE VALERA'S REPRIEVE
Sir, - I refer to Aodogan O'Rahilly's letter December 4th, under the heading "Michael Collins Film." He states: "It is not generally known how de Valera escaped execution" and he goes on to attribute Dev's escape to the intervention of the US, following a request by Mrs de Valera to the American Ambassador.
The prosecutor of the rebels in 1916 was a young British Army lieutenant and Irishman, W. E. Wylie. His straightforward explanation was that de Valera was never prosecuted, and therefore was never sentenced to death. The death sentence was implied, perhaps, by a communique issued by GHQ Irish Command, dated May 8th 1916.
Wylie maintained, to the day he died, that he was asked by General Maxwell (who was being pressed by Asquith to go easier on the executions - "no women and only ringleaders to be shot"): "Who is left on the list?" Wylie replied that Eamon de Valera was next, but that "he is not a ring. leader and is not dangerous". This simple explanation presumably was not politically acceptable, and hence the general acceptance of the more romantic notion of being plucked from the jaws of death by US intervention.
I will leave it to experienced historians to judge the evidence but, as of now, to me the American connection is a little like the story of King Billy's white horse crossing the Boyne. - Yours, etc.,
Heytesbury Lane, Dublin 4.
PS Those interested should read the book W E. Wylie and the Irish Revolution 1916-21.