Sinéad de Valera

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Sinéad de Valera
First Lady of Ireland
In office
25 June 1959 – 24 June 1973
President Éamon de Valera
Preceded by Phyllis Ryan
Succeeded by Rita Childers
Personal details
Born Sinéad Ní Fhlannagáin
(1878-06-03)3 June 1878
Balbriggan, Dublin, Ireland
Died 7 January 1975(1975-01-07) (aged 96)
Santry, Dublin, Ireland
Resting place Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Fianna Fáil
Spouse(s) Éamon de Valera (m. 1910; d. 1975)
Alma mater University College Dublin

Sinéad de Valera (née Ní Fhlannagáin; 3 June 1878 – 7 January 1975) was First Lady of Ireland from 1959 to 1973, as the wife of former Taoiseach and 3rd President of Ireland, Éamon de Valera. She was also the author of a number of children's books in English and Irish.


She was born Jane O'Flanagan in Balbriggan. Her father, Laurence, was a carpenter and was a native of Kildare who moved to Balbriggan and married a local girl, Margaret Byrne. The couple emigrated to New York City where their daughter, Mary, was born in 1871.[1] The family had returned to Balbriggan by 1873 and Sinéad was born there in 1878. She trained as a teacher and worked first in Edenderry, before taking up a post at a national school in Dorset Street, Dublin in around 1901.[1] The 1901 census records her as 'Jane Flanagan', living with her parents and three siblings at 6 Richmond Cottages in Dublin.[2]

Marriage and children[edit]

In her spare time, she taught Irish at the Leinster College of the Gaelic League in Parnell Square.[3] One of her Irish students was Éamon de Valera, then a teacher of mathematics. On 8 January 1910, they were married. Together they had five sons, Vivion, Éamon, Brian, Ruairi and Terence (Terry), and two daughters, Máirín and Emer. On 9 February 1936, Brian, then aged twenty, was killed in a riding accident in the Phoenix Park.

Due to a combination of his imprisonment, political activities, and fundraising tours of the United States, the family saw relatively little of Éamon de Valera in the 1916-23 period. He was also away from home frequently during the early years of his political career.[4] Sinéad de Valera played little or no public role during her husband's fifty years in public life.

Literary output[edit]

Sinéad de Valera wrote thirty one books for children in both English and Irish.[5][6] Among her works were plays such as Cluichidhe na Gaedhilge (1935) and story collections such as The Emerald Ring and Other Irish Fairy Stories (1951), The Stolen Child and Other Stories (1961), The Four-leafed Shamrock (1964) and The Miser's Gold (1970).[3]


Sinéad de Valera died on 7 January 1975, at the age of 96, the day before what would have been the de Valeras' sixty-fifth wedding anniversary. Éamon de Valera died just under eight months later, on 29 August 1975, aged 92. The couple are buried together, along with their son Brian, at Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery.


  1. ^ a b Cullen, Sean (2009-04-17). "Sinead De Valera and her County Kildare Connections". Kildare Nationalist. Retrieved 2014-02-23. 
  2. ^ "Census of Ireland, 1901". National Archives of Ireland. Retrieved 2014-02-23. 
  3. ^ a b "Sinéad de Valera". 1910-01-08. Retrieved 2014-02-23. 
  4. ^ [1] Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Famous Returns from 1901 and 1911 | Census". Central Statistics Office. Retrieved 2014-02-23. 
  6. ^ Associated Press (1972-06-01). "Wife of De Valera Marks 94th Birthday". Portsmouth Times. p. 20. Retrieved 2014-02-23.