The de Valera Divine Right to Rule the Irish Press
THE SHARES AND control structures of The Irish Press Ltd. reveal the most brazen concentration of power in the hands of one individual known to the newspaper industry anywhere in the Western world. For although the de Valera family owns only a minority of the share holding in the company, the Articles of Association make it absoluutely impossible for any outside indiviidual or group of individuals to wrest any measure of control from it.
Perhaps more than any of his politiical action or utterances, the control Eamon de Valera had vested in himmself as Controller of The Irish Press. revealed his obsession with personal allmost dictorial, power. He didn't seek to vest control of The Irish Press in his party or political associates - not even his family. It was vested solely in himmself and he so copperfastened it as to make that control unchallengeable - all with other people's money.
The de Valera family's power dates back to the founding of the newspaper. Immediately after the Civil War ended, a proposal was made to raise money in the United States to start a Republican daily paper. It was claimed that the press in Ireland was biased against the Republican cause.
In December, 1927, de Valera went to the States to raise funds and stayed about two months. He returned to the States in November, 1929 for six months and organised a network of committees. He had been persuaded to take this second trip by a statement of Ernest Blythe's to the effect that the Free State Government was happy to be a member of the British Commonwealth.
De Valera vehemently replied: "If ~el had a daily paper at this moment I believe that Blythe's statement could be used to waken up the nation, but the daily press that we have slurs it over and pretends that nothing vital has been said. The English Press, of course, are boastting it wherever they can. This is natural enough, for it is Britain's final victory over what remained of the Collins menntality and policy."
De Valera's enthusiasm for the paper was so intense that for a while the newsspaper took precedence over his party work.
The company, The Irish Press Ltd., was incorporated on 1 st September, 1928 and on 5th September, 1931, the first issue of the paper appeared in which de Valera set forth its/his policy in the leading article: "Our services will be to the whole people. We are not the organ of an individual or a group or a party. We are a national organ in all that the term conveys ... Our idea culturally is an Irish Ireland."
The key element in the Articles of Association is Article 77 which reads: "the Controlling Director shall have sole and absolute control of the public and political policy of the company and of the Editorial Management thereof and of all newspapers, pamphlets or other writings which may be from time to
time owned, published, circulated or printed by the said company. He may appoint and at his discretion remove or suspend all Editors, Sub-Editors, reporrters, writers, contributors of news and information, and all such other persons as may be employed in or connected with the Editorial Department and may determine their duties and fix their salaries or emoluments ... "
Article 82 stipulates that the Conntrolling Director is "not subject to reeelection". He has the power to appoint another Director to exercise some of his powers- or he may act alone. The origiinal Controlling Director can withdraw any such powers at any time. On the death, resignation or incapacity of the Controlling Director, the Director to whom he has transferred his powers automatically becomes sole Controlling Director of the company, with all the powers and immunities from any kind of shareholder sanction. It is this section which will effectively ensure that whattever happens the control of The Irish Press will remain in the de Valera family.
Any possibility of any outside group gaining control of the company through the purchase of shares on the stock market is neatly obstructed by the proovision which permits the Directors to prevent the transfer of any share at their discretion. The relevant Article (21) states: "the directors may decline to register the transfer of a share (not being a fully paid share) to a person of whom they do not approve, and they may also decline to register the transfer of a share on which the company has a lein. The Directors may also decline to register any transfer of a share Which, in their opinion, may imperil or prejudiicially affect the status of the company m the state ... "
But the power of the Directors does not end there.
Originally the company's Share Capital was £200,000, divided into 200,000 shares of £1 each. By Extraaordinary Resolution this was increased to £250,000 in 1935 and to £750,000 in 1975. The additional sum was set for distribution amongst the ordinary shares of the company.
In the company's returns for 1976, in accounting for the 750,000 shares, 58,089 shares were declared to be forrfeited and this had to be explained by reference to the Articles of Association of the company. The Irish Press had issued a notice to all members with Calls in Arrears giving them a final opportunnity to perfect their holdings by payment of the Arrears still due on their shares together with a sum for interest accrued - all points being provided for in the Articles of the Company. This resulted in 19,363 shares being forfeited by a Resolution of the Board and the Addiitional amount is accounted for in their related bonus shares (19,363 x 3 - due to increase in Nominal Share Capital of the Company). Article 31 of the Commpany states that "the company shall have a first and paramount lien upon all shares not fully paid up held by any Member of the Company" whilst Article 29 provides that "any person whose shares have been forfeited shall cease to be a Member in respect of the forfeited shares."
What is at stake is a company with 750.000 ordinary shares, with around 11,000 shareholders, many of whom hold one or two shares only. Practically every street in every town in Ireland houses the owner of one or more shares. Occasionally a shareholder has a few hundred shares, but this is not of too much significance in view of the set up of the company concerned.
A couple of pages list shareholders throughout Australia - many religious establishments at home and abroad are represented, but again in insignificant numbers of anything between one and a hundred shares. No Americans are listed as having anything significant in nummbers of shares. The only solitary large holdings of shares are held by Vivien de Valera and Vivion de Valera jointly with Paddy Nunan. It would be reckoned that de Valera either solely or jointly, holds 43% of the shares, but it is also believed that this is the same percentage held by the Irish Press Corporation of New York, with de Valera and Nunan, as trustees of the shares, exercising the voting rights .•