Timothy Smiddy

Timothy Smiddy (1875-1962) was an Irish academic, economist, and diplomat. He is best known as Ireland's first Ambassador/overseas Minister, serving as Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary to the United States of America for the Irish Free State from 1924 to 1929.

Personal life

Timothy "Audo" Smiddy was born in Kilbarry, Co. Cork, the son of William Smiddy and Honora Mahony. He was educated at St. Finbar's College Cork, before attending University College Cork, graduating with a B.A. (1905) and an M.A. (1907). Later he attended universities in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. At one point, he considered the priesthood. However in 1900, he married Lillian "Muddie" O'Connell, also from Cork. They had six children including five daughters Pearl (Binnie), Muriel, Cecil, Ita and Ethna, and a son Sarsfield.

Role in Independence

A contemporary and friend of Michael Collins, the Irish revolutionary, Smiddy was appointed by Collins to be his Economic Adviser to Plenipotentiaries for the Treaty Negotiations from October to December 1921 following the War of Independence. This was at a time when Michael Collins was the Minister for Finance in the putative Republic.

Professor of Economics, UCC

Smiddy was first and foremost an academic and an economist. In the College at Cork in the newly constituted National University of Ireland, which replaced the Royal University of Ireland, Smiddy was holder of the Professorship of Economics and Commerce. He served in this post from 1903 to 1924, one of only six to have held the post since the formation of the Department of Mental and Moral Science at the College in 1849. In 1952, he was awarded the Honorary Degree of DEconSc by University College, Cork.

Minister Plenipotentiary

Smiddy was initially appointed as the Irish Free State's Representative in Washington in 1922. Following representations by the Free State's government to London and Washington, and in particular to tackle the problem of anti-Treaty propaganda, this role was officially recognised in 1924. From then until 1929, Smiddy served as Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary to the United States of America for the Irish Free State.

This was, in effect, not only Ireland's first diplomatic relations with another country since independence, but also the first attempt by any British dominion or colony to appoint what would these days be regarded as an Ambassador to a third country.

Later life

Smiddy also served as High Commissioner to London (1929-30) and was a member of the Tariff Commission (1930-33) and then became chairman of the Commission on Agriculture (1939-1945). Thereafter, he served on various Boards, and was head of Combined Purchasing Section at the Department of Local Government and Public Health from 1933 to 1945. He was also Director of the Irish Central Bank.

Throughout the late 1930s and the 1940s, Smiddy advised the de Valera government on economic matters. In particular, he was instrumental in bringing about a universal child allowance. He died in 1962.

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