The Irish Press was an Irish national daily newspaper published by Irish Press plc between September 5, 1931 and May 25, 1995. Its first issue was published on the eve of the 1931 Kilkenny v Cork All Ireland Hurling Final. The initial aim of its publisher was to achieve a circulation of 100,000 which it quickly accomplished. It went on to list a subscribership of 200,000 at its peak.
Controversial seed capital:
It has been alleged that 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 Irish 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 is said to have 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. A further successful fund-raising drive was led by Ernie O'Malley in the U.S.A. in 1928.
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.
Role of deValera:
"The Controlling Director shall have sole and absolute control....", the articles of association stated. 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.
The newspaper was controlled by Eamon de Valera and his family, and as a consequence, supported Fianna Fáil consistently throughout its life - expressing the 'national outlook' in keeping with the thoughts and sentiments of his party supporters. The paper was aimed particularly at teachers and schools with strong GAA games and Irish language coverage. Cearbhaill O'Dalaigh was the first Irish language editor. The first editor was Frank Gallagher, who fought alongside Eamon de Valera. Its directors included Robert Barton. Rival newspapers did not see themselves as allied to any political party but the Press did attract talented writers.
Seán Lemass was an early managing director. Major Vivion de Valera, son of the founder, subsequently became managing director. Douglas Gageby worked on each of the press titles, the Irish Press, Evening Press (as first editor) and Sunday Press. de Valera was noted for courtesy amongst those running the business which was considered well run. Shareholders came from both Ireland and the United States. It was many years before a dividend was paid.
It was circulated, in its early days, throughout Ireland by a specially rented train as the rival Independent Newspapers would not rent space to the Irish Press on its train. It sustained itself with its own resources until the Sunday Press was founded in the 1940s. In its hey-day, the Irish Press had a number of first rate reporters and columnists. One notable section was titled 'New Irish Writings', which was edited by David Marcus.
Later, the Irish Press started two further newspapers, the Evening Press (1954), and the Sunday Press. The Evening Press was aimed at an urban readership and achieved a daily circulation of 100,000. Terry O'Sullivan, the pen name of Tomas O'Faolain, father of Nuala O'Faolain, provided with a car and driver, wrote a social column. The new newspapers subsidised the Irish Press title when its circulation sagged. It adoption of a tabloid format with its more limited front-page space constraints did not rescue its declining circulation.
Formerly one of the main daily newspapers of the Republic of Ireland, its going out of business left the ground clear for its old rivals, The Irish Times and the Irish Independent, to dominate the daily market for some years until other newspapers arrived on the scene.
The final issue of the Irish and Evening Press was on Thursday, May 25, 1995. The newspapers closed over a bizarre industrial dispute over the sacking of the Group Finance Editor. It is generally acknowledged that the newspapers had not been in a healthy financial state for several years. When it eventually closed, with indebtdeness of £20 million, 600 people lost their jobs. A relaunch in 1988 of the Irish Press as a tabloid did not help matters. Several efforts were made to relaunch the newspapers but these failed.
Independent Newspapers invested £1.1 million for a 24.9% stake in Irish Press Newspapers and had made loans of £2 million when the titles ceased publication. It recouped £1 million arising from a charge against a loan when the Irish Press office in Burgh Quay was sold in 1996.
The final editor from 1987 to 1995, Hugh Lambert. died after a short illness, on December 26, 2005
The company, Irish Press plc, remains in existence. Its main activity is 30% (approximately) shareholding in an Independent Local Radio franchise, Tipp FM.