16 May 1926: The inaugural meeting of the Fianna Fáil Party was held in La Scala theatre in Dublin on this day. The Party was founded and led by Eamon de Valera - the ex President of the Sinn Fein. Among the founding members were Seán Lemass, Gerry Boland, Countess Markievicz and Frank Aiken.
De Valera had led a walkout of his followers from Sinn Féin in the previous March. He was dissatisfied with that Party’s continued adherence to a policy of abstention from the Leinster House parliament in Dublin that was the seat of Government of the Irish Free State. Dev wanted to find a way through the ‘Oath’ - that committed all members of the House to take an Oath of Fidelity to the King of England (King George V). He knew he could not do that unless he had full command of his own Party.
His gamble paid off as he led Fianna Fáil into Leinster House the following year by taking the Oath - but denying its moral force! He led it into Government in 1932. Under his continued leadership the Party held power until 1948 and again in 1951-1954 and from 1957-1959. In that year he became President of Ireland until he relinquished that Office in 1973. Known to his loyal followers as ‘the Chief’ he was the most popular yet also the most divisive political figure in 20th century Ireland.