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How many presidents has Ireland had?

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How many presidents has Ireland had? PDF Print E-mail
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Ireland - Ireland FAQs and Trivia
Written by Hugh McManus   

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Wednesday, 02 December 2009 06:36

Since Ireland instituted the office in 1938, how many presidents has the country had?

As of July 2013, the answer is nine.  Here's the list:
  1. Douglas Hyde
  2. Seán T. O'Kelly
  3. Éamonn de Valera
  4. Erskine Childers
  5. Ceabhall Ó Dálaigh
  6. Patrick Hillery
  7. Mary Robinson
  8. Mary McAleese
  9. Michael D. Higgins

There is a point of clarification here.  Ireland didn't become a republic until 1949, so it could be legitimately argued that up until that point, the British monarch, King George VI, was actually the head of state.  The 1937 Constitution abolished the office of the Governor General of Ireland, replacing that office with an elected president; however, the president wasn't defined as the head of state.  Activities which define a head of state were actually done in the name of the king.  For example, during the period 1937 to 1949, foreign treaties were signed in the name of the King of Ireland; foreign ambassadors and delegates to Ireland were accredited in the name of the King of Ireland, which was George VI, who was King of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  So, if you were to define the role of president as a head of state (which wasn't part of the question, but would be a nice row to start in a bar!), then Ireland has had eight presidents, but only seven elected (or appointed) heads of state.

The term "appointed" is used because Ceabhall Ó Dálaigh was essentially appointed to the role after Erskine Childers died of a heart attack while giving a talk at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin.  Just to top you off on your daily quotient of irony, let me add that his third son, Rory, is a cardiologist at the University of Chicago Hospital.

Prior to 1937, when Ireland was a Free State, the country had a governor general who acted as the representative of the king.  Before Ireland was a Free State, it was part of the United Kingdom and had the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.  This person was the representative of the Crown and head of the executive.  The person was known as the Lord Deputy for about four hundred years until the seventeenth century.

So to recap' and to add to your knowledge:

  • Ireland has had nine presidents;
  • Eight presidents who served as a head of state;
  • Seven elected heads of state;
  • Six male heads of state;
  • Five presidents nominated by Fianna Fáil;
  • Four heads of state that served two full terms in office;
  • Three presidents who were born in the nineteenth century;
  • Two female presidents; and,
  • One president who was the world's first female elected head of state, Mary McAleese, to replace another female elected head of state, Mary Robinson!

When Ireland has had a dozen presidents, I'll set it to the Twelve Days of Christmas! Laughing

 

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