Controversial documentary explores de Valera's 'Cuban links'20/11/2005 - 12:23:14
A documentary about Eamon de Valera’s early life that was too controversial for RTE to screen is now in production with a US television station.
WGBH in Boston has begun work on the project which claims that the former Irish Taoiseach and president was half-Cuban.
De Valera was the most influential politician in the first 50 years of the Irish state, yet his origins have remained shrouded in mystery.
Born in New York, he later returned to Ireland with his Irish-born mother but his father’s identity has never been proven unequivocally. The history books claim that de Valera’s father, Juan de Valera, was a wealthy Spanish businessman who settled in New York.
But an academic at Columbia University in New York believes he has documentary evidence that links de Valera’s early years to a rural province in Cuba.
Professor of Film, Brendan Ward, who has Irish parents, has tracked down church records in Mantanza which contain de Valera’s baptismal, First Communion and Confirmation certificates.
“I have spent two years getting permission from the Cuban authorities to access them and now I finally have it,” he said.
Mr Ward originally approached RTE executives with the idea in 2003 but they were not interested.
“We had a lot of talks, but I think it was too much of a hot potato for them, politically,” he said.
Mr Ward will travel to Cuba with a WGBH crew next year to begin filming on the project.
“His American citizenship actually saved him from certain execution after the Easter 1916 Rebellion so the course of 20th Century Irish history could have been radically different.
“De Valera wanted this whole part of his life repressed because illegitimacy was such a taboo subject at the time and would have caused an enormous controversy while he was in such high public office.”
De Valera’s volumes of private papers, which may shed some light on the subject, and have never been published and remain in the family’s hands.
“I’ve been to the Mantanza province where this Valera name is common and I’ve met members of the Valera family. They look remarkably like Eamon de Valera. They are tall and slim with oval-shaped faces,” said Mr Ward.
If he proves the connection it would be the second major Cuban/Irish link. Revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s mother was Anne Lynch from Co. Galway.
De Valera seriously contemplated entering the religious life in his youth, but his biographer Tim Pat Coogan has speculated that the questions surrounding his legitimacy may have been a deciding factor.
He went on instead to fight in the Easter Rising and played a key role in the War of Independence and the Civil War. He founded Fianna Fáil in 1927 and served as Taoiseach from 1932 to 1948 and again in two further Fianna Fáil Governments. He was also elected president for two terms. He died in 1975 at the age of 92.
The De Valera family do not comment publicly on the former Taoiseach’s background and origins.
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