truth in the news?
A scandal has broken which may blight the memory of Limerick's
most famous son. A documentary screened on RTE 1 suggested
that freedom fighter, politician and statesman, Eamon de
Valera from Bruree founded and obtained control of The Irish
Press publishing house by deliberately abusing and hoodwinking
Imaginative business schemes ensured that the mathematician
de Valera controlled and effectively owned the company from
But lifelong friend and founder of the de Valera Museum
at Bruree, Dr Mainchín Seoighe, said that the programme
would appear to be a hatchet job.
The programme sought to demonstrate how monies collected
in America arising from de Valera's fund-raising trip
to America following his escape from Lincoln Jail in 1919,
ostensibly by sale of bonds to create a National Credit
by way of an external loan to the republic,
were diverted to the creation of the new publication, controlled
and substantially owned by de Valera himself.
The money was retained in New York banks and a question
as to its ownership arose after the foundation of the Free
State. The New York Supreme court ruled on the ownership
of the money in 1927 by requiring the return, after administrative
expenses, of monies to the original subscribers.
De Valera circumvented this by asking subscribers either
to endorse the forthcoming cheques and send them to him,
or else to legally assign the bonds to him, which would
have had the same effect. He asked them to do this for the
purpose of establishing a newspaper which would counteract
the prevailing journalistic ethos in Ireland, which, de
Valera wrote to them, is consistently pro-British
and imperialistic in its outlook. Very many subscribers
did as he asked.
Some received shares in The Irish Press Ltd - a shares drive
was under way in Ireland at the same time with 200,000 shares
in the new company being issued at £1 each - but many
others received shares in Irish Press Corporation, an American
entity registered in Delaware. The programme sought to show
that little is known about the Irish Press Corporation,
which still exists, and its connection with The Irish Press
publishers in Ireland. It suggested that de Valera himself
managed to take control of the American entity and its voting
block in the Irish newspaper company for a paltry sum.
Dr Seoighe this week recalled The Irish Press and said that
he proudly retains a copy of its first ever edition, sent
to him by Dr Liam Brophy, father of former Sunday Press
Dr Seoighe was a friend of de Valera through his own mother,
who, he said, was a neighbour and contemporary of the politician
in his youth in Bruree.
He would often call to the house to us. said
Dr Seoighe. I knew him very well, and I took him on
a tour of all of his old haunts in Bruree and on to Charleville.
Dr Seoighe had great respect for de Valera and, while having
no direct knowledge of the circumstances of the setting
up of The Irish Press in 1931, said that this week's
programme would appear to be a hatchet job.
The Irish Press was, for many decades, the semi-official
organ of Fianna Fáil and Éamon de Valera maintained
absolute control of its editorial content, a grip subsequently
maintained by his son, Major Vivion de Valera.
The Controlling Director shall have sole and absolute
control...., the articles of association stated boldly.
Even when he was Taoiseach, it was not unusual for Éamon
de Valera to summon The Irish Press reporter who had been
covering a function at which The Chief had been
speaking and agree the wording to be used next day, before
it would have been sent over the wires to editor Frank Gallagher
at Burgh Quay. A member of this writer's family witnessed
exactly that happening in a town in County Limerick in the
The Irish Press was established in September 1931 and quickly
established a sound circulation base, mainly among non-professional
readers. Its timing was perfect for the newly emerging Fianna
Fáil and was largely instrumental in allowing that
party to take power for the first time five months later
in the teeth of hostility from the two pre-existing Dublin
dailies, the Irish Independent and The Irish Times.
A sister paper, the Sunday Press had a circulation touching
400,000, the daily Irish Press, over 100,000 and the Evening
Press almost twice that figure.
Circulation wars, mainly with the Irish Independent group
including Evening Herald and Sunday Independent, saw The
Irish Press publications under pressure in the 1980s, especially
in the lucrative and growing Dublin market, where the advertising
pool was concentrated. Television and the availability of
British newspapers also found the more staid Press titles
under pressure, and their heartland was increasingly non-Leinster.
The decision to print the The Irish Press as a tabloid failed
in two ways. It failed to recover losses to the existing
tabloids in urban areas and turned off many more traditional
readers to whom tabloid was synonymous with low standards.
But The Irish Press never had low standards. Apart from
a loyalty to the Fianna Fáil, and more particularly
the de Valera line on matters of national interest, it had
the most scrupulous attitude to news of any Irish publisher.
But the company's fortunes continued to decline and,
after a series of industrial difficulties, it finally closed
its papers on September 8, 1995 with the loss of some 600
jobs. The Irish Press still has properties, however, and
continues as a publicly quoted company, holding regular
annual general meetings and renumerating its three directors,
one of whom, Dr Éamon de Valera, is the founder's
Courtesy of the Limerick Leader