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Eamon De Valera firearm from his 1919 US visit donated to National Museum of Ireland

Galway West Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív, a grandson of de Valera, with gun he received in 2019 during a visit to Rochester, New York
Paul Ainsworth

A GUN given to Éamon de Valera for personal protection during his time fundraising for the newly-founded Irish Republic in the US has been donated to the National Museum of Ireland.

The revolver, presented to de Valera during his visit to the US in 1919, was in the possession of American relatives for the last century before being offered as a gift to his grandson Éamon Ó Cuív in 2019.

The Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West has donated the firearm for display at the National Museum in Dublin, where it will join other artefacts from the revolutionary period.

Mr Ó Cuív was invited in 2019 to attend the St Patrick's Day parade as Grand Marshall in the city of Rochester in New York state.

In 1919, then President of the new Irish Republic, Eamon de Valera, was presented with a revolver for his protection during a trip to the US to drum up support.

His role was to recognise the region's link with his grandfather, who regularly visited during his 18-month stay in the US between mid-1919 to the end of 1920.

Rochester was where de Valera's mother Catherine and her sister resided, and during a visit, the President of the fledgling Republic gave the revolver to his cousin, Mary Connolly.

It is believed de Valera was given the firearm for his protection upon his arrival in the US by supporters.

However, his American family claim de Valera did not believe he required the weapon, and he gave it to Ms Connolly, who in turn passed it on to her grandson, Allen Johnson.

Mr Johnson gave it to Mr Ó Cuív to mark the centenary of de Valera's own stateside trip.

Describing the gift, the TD said: "It was both a great surprise and pleasure to be gifted this special memento of the historic visit by Éamon de Valera a hundred years previously and to rekindle the historic connection between Rochester New York and Ireland’s struggle for independence."

He added: "I will always be deeply indebted to Allen for the generosity he showed in making this gift to me and my wife Áine."

The donation of the gun comes four months after another firearm linked to de Valera sold for £9,000 at an auction in Belfast.

The Smith and Wesson revolver was carried by Michael Collins when he assisted de Valera in escaping from Lincoln Prison in England, just a few months before the future Taoiseach left for the US in 1919.

Speaking of the donation of the de Valera revolver by Mr Ó Cuív, NMI director Lynn Scarff said the museum was "honored to receive this important donation, which will greatly add to the National Collection and be retained securely for future generations".

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