Some of the best letters in the Irish Times are short and sharp.  This gem appeared the other day.

Sir, – Brendan O’Donnell (August 13th) reminds us that on entering the Dáil in 1927, Éamon de Valera dismissed the oath of allegiance as an “empty formula”.

But what if he had regarded it as such in 1922? – Yours, etc, IAN SCOTT, Silchester Park, Glenageary, Co Dublin.

Yes, indeed. Remember that the main issue which gave rise to the “split”, and from which the catastrophic civil war arose, was not partition, but the oath of allegiance.  So much death and destruction might have been avoided if Éamon de Valera had not been such a slow learner.

He repeated the slow-learning trick in the 1930s when he led Ireland into a crippling and unwinnable 6-year economic war with Britain over the land annuities, only to find a face-saving solution in 1938, which basically meant that Britain got fully paid.

To have nearly destroyed the country twice in barely more than a decade takes some beating, particularly when the main perpetrator, having come to his senses late in the day, blithely does an about-face on the supposedly inviolable underlying principle.

It is indeed depressing to think that Éamon de Valera is still so highly revered in some circles.