Éamon de Valera’s US trip in 1919 caused an irrevocable split in Irish America. 

A new two-part documentary series on Ireland’s Irish-language station TG4 “De Valera i Meiriceá” tells the extraordinary story for the first time of Éamon de Valera’s tumultuous trip to America in 1919.

The trip caused a bitter feud and irrevocably split Irish-America just a few months before the split over the Treaty back here in Ireland. In both splits, Éamon de Valera played a key role, but the first one in America has largely been forgotten about.

On the one hundred year anniversary of Dev’s trip, this ground-breaking new documentary series uses previously unseen archive material from the American Irish Historical Society in New York. This new evidence contradicts and challenges De Valera’s official account of the events of Dev’s time in America and will be seen for the first time on Irish television. 

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We also show for the first time some of the papers and photographs from his trip that are kept in University College Dublin Archive. The documentary includes archive newsreels of de Valera’s trip and dramatic reconstructions shot in Fota House, Cork with Marcus Lamb in the role of de Valera.

Part One of the series airs on TG4 on Wednesday, Sept 11, at 9.30pm (GMT but can also be viewed live anywhere in the world for free on the TG4 player) and tells how Éamon de Valera stowed away on a ship to America in 1919 and announced himself in the lobby of the world’s most expensive hotel as “The First President of Ireland.”            

In truth, de Valera was a wanted man and Ireland was still part of the British Empire. Immediately Irish America makes him a star. Then it all goes horribly wrong.

The struggle for control that erupts between him and the leaders of Irish-America threatens to derail his entire mission in America and at stake is the future of the fledgling Irish Republic.

Read more: How Eamon de Valera got involved with Michael Collins tombstone

Éamonn de Valera US trip. Image: TG4.

Éamonn de Valera US trip. Image: TG4.

Part Two airs on Wednesday, Sept 18, at 9.30pm (GMT) and continues the story of de Valera’s eventful trip and the bitter feud that erupts between him and the leaders of Irish-America. The feud deepens between the two sides and the gulf between them widens as both sides set out to politically finish each other.

What follows is a political baptism of fire for de Valera the novice politician – but the experience stands to him and shapes him into the politician he would become – a man who would go on to shape modern Ireland for the next fifty years.

“De Valera i Meiriceá” was directed by Ciara Hyland of ForeFront Productions for TG4 and funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television Licence Fee.

You can watch the series live and free from anywhere in the world at the TG4 Player or watch on catch-up here. 

Marcus Lamb as Éamon de Valera. TG4