Seán Lemass papers: the relationship with Éamon de Valera

Unstinting admiration for Fianna Fáil leader’s early achievements turned to frustration and anger as an aging de Valera clung to power

Seán Lemass and Éamon de Valera at a memorial mass for Michael Collins in Dublin Castle in June 1969. Photograph: Paddy Whelan

Seán Lemass and Éamon de Valera at a memorial mass for Michael Collins in Dublin Castle in June 1969. Photograph: Paddy Whelan

The relationship between Éamon de Valera and Seán Lemass is arguably the most important relationship between two Irish politicians in the history of the State. Between them, they were taoisigh (though the office was not known as that until 1937) for all but six years between 1932 to 1966.

They were contrasting men. The stereotype of de Valera as the romantic dreamer and Lemass as the bustling pragmatist are not that far removed from Lemass’s own observations as to how their relationship worked.

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