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Dev tricked public into investing in Irish Press, file reveals

NICOLA TALLANT FORMER President Eamon de Valera tricked the Irish and American public into investing in the Irish Press, which he rigged to make his family rich.

New files unearthed for the first time unravel the complex web de Valera wove to con investors into believing they were putting their savings towards a public company. Instead, thousands of Irish Americans invested in a lucrative family business.

Ten years after the collapse of the newspaper group and the loss of 600 jobs, a documentary finally reveals the full story behind the Irish Press and tells how de Valera used clever business tactics to secure full control fromthe off.

Founded in 1931, the Irish Press was supposed to be a paper for the people, committed to telling "the truth in news" and to be used as a platform for the newly formed Fianna Fail Party.

Thousands of ordinary men and women in Ireland and America answered de Valera's call to invest their savings in the newspaper, which was seen as an emblem of an independent Ireland.

To this day, the only people who have ever benefited financially from the business, which was once Ireland's most successful, are de Valera's sons and grandson.

Files, hidden away for years, will finally reveal how de Valera took deliberate steps to make sure the money invested by his supporters secured control of a mighty business for himself and his offspring. Hidden History documentary Family Fortunes details how de Valera sent fundraisers to America to drum up interest in his envisioned Irish Press.

Despite the great depression, he managed to get $250,000 entrusted to them for investment in the paper.

But de Valera already had plans for any money raised in the US and had cautioned his fundraisers to pitch the campaign to the Irish-Americans.

He had warned them to be careful not to suggest that they would get shares orcertificates directly from the company, but instead would get participation certificates from an American trust company.

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Instead of getting shares in Irish Press Limited, they received certificates from Irish Press Corporation which was registered in Delaware, the US equivalent of Switzerland. Files undisclosed for decades show that once de Valera had secured the money in 1931 the company sent out 'A' class share certificates from IPC.

Although there were over 60,000 'A' class shares, total control of the company would rest with the owner of 200 'B' class shares.

In a simple transaction, the documents reveal how de Valera, the owner of the B class shares, gained total power of over $250,000.

"Nobody could take it from him. This was carried on out of sight of the public. And the next phase would be to use the American company money to purchase a huge block of shares in Irish Press Limited - the company back inIreland," the documentaryexplains.

By clever cloaking of figures - a move that would no doubt be the subject of tribunal investigations these days - de Valera secured purchasing control of 43 per cent of Irish Press Limited for a paltry sum of $1,000.

Although claiming to act in the interest of the American investors, de Valera knew any business-savvy savers would realise they had been tricked.

He put aside 5000 shares from Irish Press Limited to give to anyone who complained or questioned their share certs.

On September 5, 1931 the Irish Press began publication and, in the documentary, former workers will describe the confusion and cramped conditions inside the building.

Author Tim Pat Coogan says the paper was an instant hit as it covered topics like the GAA for the first time ever.

Distributed at masses by priests, the paper targetedanti-treaty republicans and sought to rally support for the Fianna Fail party.

Former TD John Browne questioned the running of the paper and why no dividends had been paid to shareholders, and after much Dail debate it emerged that de Valera had set up the company to give himself total control under the title Controlling Director.

As debate continued, the 77-year-old stepped down as Taoiseach and was appointed President - a move that would overshadow his dodgy business dealing.

"It is just a sad story of how idealism and revolutions start in hope and glory and end up fumbling in a greasy till," says Tim Pat Coogan.

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