Eamon deValera: His women's human rights legacy
Irish politics for generations after independence largely mirrored your views on the treaty signed with Britain in 1921. The treaty saw the six counties of Northern Ireland remain in the UK, and led deValera and his supporters walking out of the Irish parliament and the start of a bitter civil war. The preamble to the treaty's signing is itself fraught with difficulty, with both sides accusing the other of underhand manoeuvring.
Many of deValera's supporters never returned to parliament after the war. Some became ardent republicans who saw the treaty as a sell out of everything the Irish independence movement fought for. Others like deValera returned to politics, but the scene was set to decades of division. After the fighting finished, both sides set up their own political party:
- Fine Gael was mainly supported by those who agreed with the treaty.
- deValera’s Fianna Fáil supporters wanted to see the six counties return to be part of a united Ireland.
My beef is his opinion on women’s role in society. Dev’s conservative attitude towards women is well known. He was the only rebel leader in the 1916 Uprising to refuse women to fight alongside the men. But it was what followed that really set women’s rights in Ireland back a millennium.
“religious and civil liberty, equal rights, and opportunities to ALL its citizens”.
That's not to say there wasn't protest outside of the parliament. Women protested in private and in public. This included the Irish Women Workers Union, many of whom were involved in the 1916 Rising. They wrote to de Valera saying, “it would hardly be possible to make a more deadly encroachment upon the liberty of the individual”.
The sad part is that once adopted, the constitution left the majority of Ireland’s citizens ignorant of the legacy woman had been denied. It has taken Ireland over 75 years to reverse most the tyranny of abuse on women’s rights. It's still not perfect, but the tireless work of human rights activists has achieved success in many areas.