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"Views of Four Presidencies (1938-1975)" - exhibition of the records of the Office of the Secretary to the President

Record series descriptions

PRES 1 - Registered Files

This series consists of more than 4,600 files documenting the history of the Presidency and the administration of the Office of the Secretary to the President since the establishment of the former office under the Constitution of 1937. The files pertain to the six terms of office of the following four presidents: Dr. Douglas Hyde (Dubhghlas de hÍde) (1938-1945), Séan T. Ó Ceallaigh (1945-1959), Eamon de Valera (1959-1973) and Erskine Childers (1973-1975).

Copy of menu dated 23 June 1945, for lunch at Áras an Uachtaráin to celebrate the inauguration of the new President, Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh, on 25 June 1945. Files from the first and second presidencies of Douglas Hyde and Sean T. Ó Ceallaigh comprise the bulk of this series and are especially interesting as they document the establishment and development of the office of President within the parameters laid down by Articles 12, 13 and 14 of the Constitution, parameters whose scope and potential were expanded by subsequent presidencies.

The early files chart the definition of protocol and precedent in relation to presidential functions, such as the signing of bills into law and the promulgation of same, the summoning and dissolution of Dáil Éireann, the appointment of government ministers on the nomination of the Taoiseach and the vesting of supreme command of the Defence Forces in the President. Ceremony and hospitality are also common motifs running through the records as evidenced by the number of files relating to the administration of the Áras both as an office and as a home, the management of interaction with the foreign diplomatic corps and the hosting of receptions, official lunches, dinners and garden parties for visiting dignitaries.

As is to be expected, the records in this series reflect much of the personal pursuits and interests of individual Presidents. Douglas Hyde's love of music and the Irish language, together with his own penchant for poetic composition, are much in evidence (PRES 1/P 1834). Sean T. Ó Ceallaigh's personal history of participation in the struggle for independence, his strong religious beliefs (PRES 1/P 4235) and his previous political career as Minister for Local Government and Public Health, Minister for Finance and his position as Tánaiste are also reflected in the records relating to his presidency.

Eamon de Valera's love of maths is apparent in the files concerning the purchase of books for his personal library (PRES 1/P 4575) while his previous career as political and revolutionary leader of international standing is evidenced in the correspondence received from statesmen throughout the world. As yet, the files transferred to the National Archives relating to the presidency of Erskine Childers are from the earliest phase of his short presidency, therefore conclusions about the themes of his tenure will only be drawn from the files to be released over the coming years.

Letter from Fergus Williams, representative of the West Cork Save-the-Railway Organisation, dated 31 January 1961, requesting that President Eamon de Valera receive a delegation from the organisation so that they may present him with a petition concerning the proposed closing of West Cork railways by Córas Iompair Éireann. Apart from documenting the exercise of presidential functions set out in the Constitution, the files also reflect the care taken by the first four incumbents of the office to forge close bonds with the Irish people at home and abroad and to associate themselves with many aspects of national life. The records detail presidential patronage of a wide variety of societies and associations such as the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Red Cross and the Royal Dublin Society (PRES 1/P 1131; PRES 1/P 1402; PRES 1/P 4312). Presidential support of community projects, recognition of individual and collective effort and achievement through awards ceremonies and participation in initiatives such as the presentation of bounties to centenarians (PRES 1/2002/7/13) and the parents of triplets (PRES 1/P 1216) are also documented in this file series.

That tumultuous world events are reflected through the office of President is borne out by the number of files on the impact of the Second World War on its daily functions and administration. Records are to be found in this series on the growing of crops in the garden of the Áras during the EmergencyPhotograph dated 31 December 1942, illustrating ploughing in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin during the Second World War. (PRES 1/P 2112) and the construction of a bomb shelter in its grounds (PRES 1/P 1753), the potential financial effects of the war on the Office (PRES 1/P 1353) and the letter from Theodor Heuss, President of the Federal Republic of Germany, to President Ó Ceallaigh, thanking him and the Irish people for their generosity to the German nation in the difficult post-war years (PRES 1/P 5026).

There are of course, many other topics and subjects covered in this large series, and cyber visitors are invited not only to search the online database which lists the collection in its totality but also to learn more about the other two series in the collection, PRES 2 which relates to the Visitors' Books signed at Áras an Uachtaráin and PRES 3 which details the Register of Executed Documents.

Record series descriptions - PRES 2 and PRES 3

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Commentary by Dr Diarmaid Ferriter

Administrative history of the Office of the Secretary to the President

Searchable finding aid database

Online gallery of documents from the collection