25.06.

1938: Douglas Hyde: The First Irish President

1938: Douglas Hyde: The First Irish President
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 25 June 1938
  • It is interesting that, during the mandate of the first President of Ireland, it was not yet clear who was actually the head of state in Ireland - the president or the British king, George VI. Specifically, Ireland still had links with the United Kingdom, even though it had its own government and prime minister.

On this day in 1938, Ireland got its first president in history. His name was Douglas Hyde and he was a respected scholar of the Irish language (Gaelic).

This old language had diminished as a spoken tongue and was at risk of falling into oblivion due to the expansion of the English language.

Douglas Hyde was very interested in the Irish language and old Irish Gaelic culture already in his youth. He even founded an organization called “Gaelic League” (Irish: Conradh na Gaeilge) that promotes the Irish language in order to save it from extinction.

In 1938, Douglas Hyde emerged as the ideal person for the President of Ireland. Irish Prime Minister Éamon de Valera and the head of the opposition W. T. Cosgrave both agreed on that.

In fact, they both appreciated Hyde, who had a distinguished academic career (and a doctorate). Indeed, Dr. Hyde was a Protestant, which the Catholic Prime Minister de Valera and the head of the opposition Cosgrave wanted to utilize in order to show that Ireland is not intended to be religiously exclusive.

All in all, Hyde was elected President of Ireland with no real opposition.

Interestingly, Hyde gave his presidential oath in the Irish language, in his native dialect. In the meantime, this dialect has long disappeared (Dr. Hyde was one of the last speakers), so the recording of his oath is one of the few reminiscences of this historical dialect.

As president, Hyde moved into the official presidential residence – Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin – which is still the official residence of the President of Ireland.

It is interesting that, during the mandate of the first President of Ireland, it was not yet clear who is actually the head of state in Ireland – the president or the British king, George VI.

Specifically, Ireland still had links with the United Kingdom, even though it had its own government and prime minister. However, it was not a real problem, but mostly a formal one.

All these disagreements were resolved after World War II, when Ireland was formally declared a republic and completely separate from the United Kingdom.

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