US trip after prison escape was propaganda coup, lecture told


Éamon de Valera’s visit to the US after he escaped from prison in 1919 caused “consternation” for the British and was a major propaganda coup for Irish republicans, it was recounted at a Belfast lecture.

De Valera spent 19 months in the US in 1919-1920 raising funds and generating propaganda to exert pressure on the British government leading to the recognition of a sovereign Irish Republic, said Irish-American historian and political consultant Dr Francis Costello.

Dr Costello said the British quickly had concerns about his “barnstorming” rallies and fundraising in the US. In a lecture in Belfast on Wednesday night, part of the “A Decade of Anniversaries 2012-2023” series, Dr Costello said press interviews also served de Valera’s and Sinn Féin’s interests.

“It is impossible,” one British official wrote, “to exaggerate the extent to which the Irish question and ... vote dominates the situation. Other groups such as Germans and Indians attach themselves to the Irish organisations for its support and general respectabiliity.”