Remembering former Taoiseach Seán Lemass on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Seán F. Lemass, in full Seán Francis Lemass, (born July 15, 1899, Dublin, Ire.—died May 11, 1971, Dublin), Irish patriot and politician, who served as taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland from 1959 to 1966.

Sean Lemass virtually moulded the Ireland of the Sixties. Since the war the country languished in a maze of depression and atrophy. He was an unspectacular, practical but dynamic Taoiseach. He concentrated on economic expansion perhaps to the detriment of other development-but that is what the country needed at the time psychologically if not entirely socially. When he retired as Taoiseach after just seven years in office-the country had recovered its self-confidence and economic health.

JFK said Ireland led by Seán Lemass had “undergone an economic & industrial revolution, transforming the face of this land. You have modernised your economy, harnessed your rivers, diversified your industry, liberalised your trade & improved the living standard of your people.”

Lemass’s career and the history of Ireland are interlinked in the most remarkable manner. He participated as a child at the spiritual conception of the nation in the GPO in 1916. He suffered the birth-pangs of the country’s independence in violence throughout the war of independence and civil war-through which he was the hottest of hot-heads, but so was Ireland. In his early days as a politician he was unsophisticated, often garrulous and naive. But once mature he was stubborn, independent and dynamic. Throughout the war he provided the sinews of the nation’s survival and since then.

Perhaps his greatest achievement was his retirement in 1966 when his creation was outgrowing him. History may judge him our greatest patriot.

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