De Valera, Vivion Laurence (Bhibhian Labhrás De Bhailera) (1910–82), politician, newspaper proprietor and editor, was born 13 December 1910 in Donnybrook, Co. Dublin, the eldest of seven children of Éamon de Valera (qv) and Sinéad de Valera ((qv) née Flanagan or Ní Fhlannagáin). He received his early education at the CBS, Westland Row, Dublin, and in 1923 entered Blackrock College as a day student, becoming a boarder the following year. An excellent student he achieved third place in Ireland in his leaving certificate chemistry paper in 1929. He continued his study of science at UCD, where he graduated B.Sc. (1932) with first-class honours in physics and chemistry; he later graduated M.Sc. (1934) and Ph.D. (1956) in physical chemistry. During his time at UCD he also won a gold medal for oratory (1932–3): an obituary would later state that ‘he delighted in argument’. He became auditor of the Literary and Historical Society (1933–4), defeating his Blackrock College classmate, Brian O'Nolan (qv), in the election. While still at UCD he was made a director of the Irish Press in 1932. In the same year, fearing a coup d'état on the day the new dáil met and Fianna Fáil took office (9 March), he escorted his father into Leinster House armed with a revolver.
Although his first love was science, de Valera turned his attention to law, and after studying at the King's Inns, Dublin, with Seán MacBride (qv) he was called to the bar in Trinity term 1937. While studying for the bar he enlisted (March 1934) as a private in the newly established Volunteer force of the Irish army, which had been established to make the army more palatable to those coming from a Fianna Fáil background. In 1936 he received his commission as a second lieutenant. He had not long been practising at the bar when he was called up on general mobilisation in September 1939. Promoted to captain in June 1940, he served as a company commander with the 7th (Dublin) battalion (September 1940 to June 1941) and commandant and assistant operations officer with the 2nd division (June 1941 to May 1942). Between October 1942 and early 1944 he was engaged in the planning and erection of a plant for the production of explosives and munitions, and was attached to the State Emergency Scientific Bureau. He served out the war in the plans and operations section of the general staff, preparing confidential memoranda for the government on defence issues (1944 to November 1945). During this time he also acted as liaison officer with General Franklyn, the commander of British troops in Northern Ireland. Appointed a major in March 1945, he retired from active service in November 1945 with a service medal and two bars.
De Valera resumed his career at the bar, taking silk on 5 July 1951. He also became a Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin North West (1945–8), which he won at a by-election on 4 December 1945. He later sat for Dublin North Central (1948–69), Dublin Central (1969–77), and Dublin Cabra (1977–81). He was undeniably one of the most able backbenchers ever to serve in the dáil. Feared by some within the Fianna Fáil hierarchy for his independent mind (a contemporary report remarked that ‘only a very strong man could be as much a part of Fianna Fáil and as independent of it’), he espoused views on Northern Ireland and the 1937 constitution that closely mirrored those of his father. A very active parliamentarian, his committee work was prodigious. He was chairman (1951) of the special committee on the Permanent Defence Forces bill and chairman (1971–1981) of the public accounts committee. He was also a member of the senate commission (1958), the joint standing committee on consolidation bills, the inter-party committee on the implications of Irish unity, the joint committee on state-sponsored bodies and the special committee on the Corporation Tax bill. He also worked on the Law Reform Commission bill and the National Board for Science and Technology bill. Outside Ireland he was leader of the Irish delegation to the consultative assembly of the Council of Europe (1959–61) and served as vice-chairman of the assembly (1960–61). He also represented Ireland at the inter-parliamentary conferences in Istanbul (1961), Germany (1961), New Delhi (1969), and Rome (1972). He expressed grave reservations about the Sunningdale agreement of 1973; in December 1979 he supported Charles Haughey for the leadership of Fianna Fáil.
Alongside his legal and political careers de Valera retained his interest in science. A chartered chemist, he was a fellow of the Institute of Chemistry of Ireland and a fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry. He was made MRIA in 1959 and knight commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great (military division), and was a member of the Military History Society of Ireland.
De Valera's third career was as proprietor and editor of the Irish Press, the newspaper founded by his father with funds raised in America. He served on the board of directors from the age of twenty-two, succeeded Seán Lemass (qv) as managing director (1951–1982), and took his father's place as controlling director (1959–1982) and editor-in-chief. Despite accusations that the Irish Press was the mouthpiece of Fianna Fáil and Éamon de Valera, Vivion de Valera was determined to preserve its independence from any party. He referred to his father's address to the 1931 Fianna Fáil ard fheis, in which he had stated that the newspaper was not founded for one party but for the national interest; the address was used to fend off demands by Fianna Fáil shareholders that the newspaper should show greater support for the party.
De Valera's time at the Irish Press saw some innovation, most notably the creation of the Evening Press (1954). De Valera appointed Douglas Gageby (qv) as founding editor, and gave an express instruction that there was to be no political editorialising in the Evening Press. It quickly built up a reputation as the top publication for small advertisements, and by 1959 it was the best-selling evening paper, with a circulation of 100,000 copies. The circulation was promoted by the innovation of using scooters to deliver the first edition to Dublin suburbs before the rival publications, the Evening Herald and the Evening Mail, could reach the newsstands. The appointment of Tim Pat Coogan as editor of the Irish Press in 1968 was a further sign of depoliticisation and de Valera's determination to avoid its being seen as a party newspaper.
Although de Valera oversaw enormous financial success at the Press group, as shown by a profit of £500,000 in 1972, the figures were largely due to the Evening Press and the Sunday Press – the flagship title's circulation and profitability declined during the 1970s. De Valera's archaic and autocratic management style created a climate of fear among his employees that resulted in poor industrial relations and a high staff turnover. In 1975 at the age of sixty-four de Valera was the youngest member of the board of directors. The ageing management team was symbolic of his resistance to change; his failure to groom younger managers, combined with his general refusal to modernise, left the company without the internal structure needed to survive in the changing world of newspaper publishing, and contributed to the later demise of the Press publications. His approach is best illustrated by his refusal in 1982 of a loan from Allied Irish Banks to help modernise the archaic technology because a condition of the loan was that the bank would appoint a director to oversee the modernisation.
In 1942 de Valera married Bride Hearne M.Sc. (d. 19 June 1951), daughter of James Hearne of Longford; she had worked in the state laboratories until their marriage. They had two children. On 20 September 1975, three weeks after his father's death, he married Vera Rock in Birmingham. They lived at the de Valera home in Blackrock, first at Herberton, Cross Avenue, and later at Summerton, also in Cross Avenue. An article written in 1975 described de Valera as exceptionally private, ‘temperamental, sceptical in most areas but orthodox in religion, [and] an incessant worker’ (Hibernia, 13 June 1975). He died 16 February 1982 after a serious illness, leaving estate valued at £380,000.