1997 - 2002


1997 - 2002

‘Politics was the family profession we were encouraged around the table just to sit and discuss issues … that was a great training for politics.’

Martina FitzGerald, Madam Politician, Gill Books

Síle had been active in Fianna Fáil’s youth organisation and had joined the Fianna Fáil Cumann in Cabinteely

Síle had been active in Fianna Fáil’s youth organisation and had joined the Fianna Fáil Cumann in Cabinteely.

She later joined the UCD Cumann when she was studying History, Politics and Philosophy there.

She said that ‘politics was her first love.’ She said she joined because ‘It was simply that I had an aim, which was and is to help bring about a united Ireland.’

She spoke at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis in 1977 and got a standing ovation.

Síle was just beginning her career as a school teacher in 1977 teaching at her former secondary school Loreto Foxrock, as part of her Higher Diploma in Education.

She was then selected to stand for Fianna Fáil in the Dublin Mid-County constituency for the 1977 General Election. She was only 22 but was elected.

Political Career timeline


First elected in the General Election of 1977 for Fianna Fáil in the Mid County Dublin Constituency. At 22 she was the youngest elected at that election.

She lost her Dáil seat at 1981 General Election standing in the Dublin South Constituency. She again failed to be elected at February 1982 election.

She then moved to Clare in 1982 and stood for election there in the November 1982 General Election, but lost again by just a couple of hundred votes.

She was elected to the 25th Dáil in February 1987 for the Clare Constituency and remained a T.D. for that constituency until her retirement in 2007.

Síle de Valera at 50th FF Ard Fheis (1981)

Fianna Fáil Election Literature, 1977
Alan Kinsella Collection
Fianna Fáil, European Election Poster, 1979.
Alan Kinsella Collection

European Parliament

Síle was elected to the European Parliament, in 1979 -the youngest member elected – and served until 1984.

She served on Parliament Committees on Social Affairs and Employment, Youth Education and Sport and the Ad Hoc Women’s Committee.

She was also a member of the Social Affairs and Employment Committee. From 1982 to 1984 she was on a committee of enquiry into the situation of women in Europe.

From 11 April 1983 to 23 July 1984 she was part of a EU delegation for relations with the US.

Election Literature, 1979.
Alan Kinsella Collection

In September 1979 Síle spoke at the Liam Lynch commemoration in Fermoy

In September 1979 Síle spoke at the Liam Lynch commemoration in Fermoy, Co Cork. She called on the then Taoiseach Jack Lynch to ‘demonstrate his republicanism.’

In 1980 she accused the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of callousness, insensitivity and hypocrisy over the handling of the H-block hunger strikes.

She welcomed the election of Bobby Sands in a 1981 bi-election. She visited him in prison. She called on Nationalists to support him. Also called on Fianna Fáil to do so.

She accused Garret FitzGerald of having ‘a Free State mentality.’

Síle resigned briefly from Fianna Fáil in 1993 because of the ending of the ‘Shannon Stopover’.

She re-joined the Party in 1994 and was appointed to the opposition front bench, as spokesperson on Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, by the new leader of FF – Bertie Ahern.

After their visit to Hunger Striker, Bobby Sands, the TD's held a press conference at Wynns Hotel, Abbey Street, Dublin TD's Neil Blaney,
Síle deValera and Dr John O'Connell
© Irish Photo Archive / © Lensmen Photographic Archive
Síle de Valera, 1981
RTÉ Photographic Archive

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands

In 1997 Síle became Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, the 9th woman Minister in the history of the State, and served in this position until 2002.

During her time in office she introduced the Broadcasting Bill, 1999.

She extended the Section 35 tax break to the film industry.

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands

In 2002 Síle lost her cabinet position but was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Education & Science with responsibility for Adult Education, Youth Affairs and Educational Disadvantage.

In November 2005 she announced her intention of resigning at the next general election and resigned as Minister of State in December 2006.


Síle de Valera was born on 17 December 1954. The first child born to Toirleach (Terry) de Valera and his wife Phyllis Blake. Her younger sister Jane was born five years later in 1959.

She was educated at the Loreto Convent, Foxrock and at UCD.

Her father was working as a solicitor at the time of her birth. Her grandparents were Eamon de Valera and his wife Sinéad, née Flanagan. Her grandfather was Taoiseach at the time of her birth.

During her youth and early adulthood her grandfather remained in public life in the Dáil and later as President of Ireland.

Following her retirement from politics Síle studied for a masters degree in Women’s Studies at UCD.

In 2008 she was invited to be a research fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University lecturing in EU & US relations.