Identity Statement for Seán Lemass Interviews

  • Reference code: IE UCDA P311
  • Title: Seán Lemass Interviews
  • Dates: 1967-1969
  • Level of description: Item
  • Extent:
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use
  • Allied Materials

Administrative History

Seán Lemass was born in Dublin in 1899 to a draper whose business was conducted in Capel Street. After serving as a young Volunteer in the 1916 Rising, and escaping deportation, he worked in the drapery shop for some time, before rejoining the Volunteers as a full-time officer. Following his arrest in 1920, he was interned in Ballykinlar for a year. He opposed the Treaty, fought in the Four Courts during the Civil War, and subsequently interned in the Curragh Camp and Mountjoy Jail. Upon release, he turned to the political side of the republican movement and was elected TD for Dublin South in 1924 but abstained from taking his seat. 

Influential in founding the Fianna Fáil Party in 1926, he was appointed Minster for Industry and Commerce, when the party entered government in 1932. During the Emergency (1941–5), his portfolio expanded to cover the Ministry of Supplies. In 1945, De Valera nominated him as Tánaiste, and he succeeded De Valera as Taoiseach in 1959. He is remembered for building up Ireland's industry and infrastructure and founded many state bodies to achieve this such as Bord na Móna, Aer Lingus and Irish Shipping.

The Seán Lemass Interviews took place throughout 1967–69. They were conducted by businessman and hotelier, Dermot A. Ryan. Ryan was member of the Fianna Fáil National Executive in the 1960s and Lemass was a director of Ryan’s company, Ryan Hotels, later part of the Gresham Hotel Group. 

Ryan undertook the interviews ‘as a study of the late Sean Lemass’, the ‘only biographical study of Seán Lemass which he [Lemass] arranged himself and for which he provided 300,000 words’ (UCDA P150/3497, letter from Dermot A. Ryan to Éamon de Valera, 26 June 1971).

Archival History

The tapes and annotated typescripts were deposited in UCD Archives by Aidan O’Connor in 2017. Dermot Ryan transferred ownership to the Lemass family four years previously.

Scope and Content

The transcripts are typescript and annotated mainly in the hand of Dermot A. Ryan. Throughout the transcripts, Lemass is identified as SFL and Ryan as DAR. The name of the stenographer/typist is noted on some of the transcripts.

The interviews cover a wide range of topics including Lemass’s views on European leaders, the Fianna Fáil Party, his relationship with Eamon de Valera, the frustrations of office, the Roman Catholic church, Irish neutrality, Northern Ireland, the UK’s relationship with Europe, economic history, British-Irish relations and partition.

System of Arrangement

The transcripts are arranged in chronological order, by date of interview. 

  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket. Produced for consultation in digital format.  
  • Language: English
  • Finding aid: Descriptive catalogue
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