Love letters written by Éamon de Valera to his wife Sinéad have been seized by Gardaí following allegations they were stolen during the 1970s.

The letters in question were written between 1911 – 1920, seven of them from various prisons. In one letter written from Mountjoy Prison in 1916, De Valera informs Sinéad that his death sentence for armed rebellion has been commuted to life imprisonment.

The letters are of great significance to historians as they show a different side to De Valera.

They paint a different side of De Valera to that, that was hitherto known, the straight-laced cold character, these show that he was a warm individual.

The vendor of the letters is an Irish businessman and keen collector who bought the papers in good faith, possibly from a De Valera family member. The De Valera family say the letters were stolen in the mid-1970s during a burglary at the family home 'Herberton' in South County Dublin .

The letters came to light in England and are now being held as evidence. An Garda Síochána will be looking into whether the papers were reported missing at the time of the burglary and investigations will be continuing on both sides of the Irish sea.

An RTÉ News report by Colm Connolly broadcast on 11 December 2000.