De Valera family memoir

Pegeen O'Sullivan reviews A Memoir by Terry de Valera, Currach Press, ISBN 1 85607 921 X, £10.50, 14.99 euro pbk

TERRY DE VALERA, the youngest of Eamon de Valera's seven children, wisely calls his book a memoir rather than a biography or autobiography. He has given us a fine book which avoids the pitfalls of an undue domestic cosiness. He does this by presenting us with a background of warm and essentially ordinary domesticity against which we see crises of Irish history worked out in the home of Ireland's first citizen.

The most valuable passages are those connected with de Valera's struggle against British rule. Terry de Valera stresses the very real fear of invasion that de Valera had during the 1939-44 war and the fact that de Valera expected the invader to be Britain, not Germany. The book alludes to Churchill's alleged wartime approach to de Valera' on partition but rather exasperatingly refers the reader to the official biography by Lord Longford and Thomas P O'Neill for information.

This valuable book is full of useful information usually overlooked; for instance, that 160 Irish seamen perished during the second world war on Irish merchant ships. Without these ships Ireland would not have been adequately fed. Now Ireland has no merchant fleet. The author doubts the wisdom of this loss.

The book is not all affairs of state. It gives a picture of the de Valera family leading a pleasant middle-class life with lots of fun. However, it came as a shock to me that the Black and Tans bayoneted the mattresses of the de Valera children were actually lying in their beds, a piece of information conveyed by the author in brackets as if it were of slight importance.

One could almost forget reading this book the shameful censorship and general gloom that was part of de Valera's Ireland.

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