Between 1919 and 2011, the president of Ireland was a married person. Yet, there is no reference to the president’s family in the 1937 Constitution. Beyond media curiosity, public discussion and scholarly interest in the wife or husband of the president is surprisingly rare. This study recreates the public and private lives of Irish presidential spouses including Maud Griffith, Louisa Cosgrave, Phyllis Úi Cheallaigh, Sinéad de Valera, Rita Childers, Máirín Ó Dálaigh, Maeve Hillery, Nick Robinson and Martin McAleese. Following an examination of the role of the wife of the viceroy, the work focuses on how the experience of being the wife or husband of a president affected the individual’s personal life, their ambitions, and expectations. They did not have guidelines or prescriptive advice on how to behave in office, except for the practices of previous incumbents, perhaps international models, their own view of public service and guidance from civil servants. The study explores the idea that while the incumbents seem to have had little in common except that their husbands or wives held the same post, there were common threads in their backgrounds and lives. Each individual had a sense of duty and held a concept of public service which evolved in different ways. The study explores whether the spouse of the president should be accorded greater respect and status, and an acknowledgment of their place in the institution of the presidency
Dr Bernadette Whelan is professor emeritus in the Department of History, University of Limerick, Ireland. She publishes extensively on American Irish relations and on the history of women. Her publication, De Valera and Roosevelt. Irish and American Diplomacy in Times of Crisis, 1932-1939 (Cambridge University Press, 2021) was awarded the American Conference of Irish Studies Lawrence J. McCaffrey Prize for Books on Irish America. She is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and co-editor of Documents on Irish Foreign Policy published bi-annually by the Royal Irish Academy, Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Archives of Ireland.
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