Dev as ‘foreign potentate’

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 4 (Jul/Aug 2008), Letters, Letters, Volume 16

Sir,

—Michael Doorley’s interesting article on the Friends of IrishFreedom (HI 16.2, March/April 2008) refers in passing to the supportersof John Devoy and Judge Daniel Cohalan referring to de Valera as ‘aforeign potentate’ but seems to regard this choice of words as a merecuriosity. In fact, they were making a specific reference to the UnitedStates oath of citizenship, which declares (amongst other things): ‘Iabsolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelityto any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty of whom or whichI have heretofore been a subject or citizen’. By doing this Devoy,Cohalan and their allies were asserting (as they had when PresidentWoodrow Wilson accused them of being ‘hyphenated Americans’ whosepolitical activities in 1914–18 subordinated the American nationalinterest to the Irish cause) that their first loyalty was to America,that they were supporting the campaign for Irish independence inAmerica as Americans, autonomous allies of the Irish republican cause,and that in claiming that as president of the Irish Republic he shouldcontrol the American campaign de Valera was implicitly denying theirrights as Americans and, as a foreign head of state, asserting ajurisdiction over them that he did not possess.

—Yours etc.,
PATRICK MAUME
Queen’s University, Belfast

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