Presidential Inauguration (Ireland)


Presidential Inauguration (Ireland)

The Presidential Inauguration is the Irish state ceremony by which the President of Ireland takes office. While in hereditary monarchies coronations are symbolic ceremonies, the new monarch's reign having already begun upon the death or abdication of the previous monarch, the Irish presidential inauguration is the legal entry point into office for a president (as with the inauguration of the President of the United States).

The ceremony traditionally takes place on the day following the expiry of the term of office of the preceding President. No location is specified in the constitution, but all inaugurations have taken place in St. Patrick's Hall in the former Viceregal Apartments, now State Apartments in Dublin Castle. The ceremony is transmitted live by national broadcaster RTÉ on its principal television and radio channels, typically around 11am.

Origins

During the period of the Irish Free State (1922 to 1937), the Governor-General had been installed into office as the representative of the Crown in a low-key ceremony, twice in Leinster House (the seat of Oireachtas Éireann), but in the case of the last Governor-General, Domhnall Ua Buachalla, in his brother's drawing room. By contrast, Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Irish constitution adopted in 1937, provided that the President of Ireland would be inaugurated in state in a major public ceremony.

To highlight the significance of the event, all key figures in the executive (the Government of Ireland), the legislature (Oireachtas Éireann) and the judiciary attend, as do members of the diplomatic corps and other invited guests.

Ceremony

The President-electref|B (see below) travels either from Áras an Uachtaráin in the case of an immediate past president who has been re-elected, or from their own private home in the case of a new president, and is escorted to the ceremony in Dublin Castle in a famous 1940s Rolls-Royce alongside the motorcycles of the 2nd Cavalry Squadron. Upon arrival the president is escorted into the State Apartments, up the Battleaxe Stairs to the State Drawing Room or Throne Room by the Tánaiste or another senior member of government. There they prepare momentarily for the inauguration before proceeding to the dais in Saint Patrick's Hall, where they sit on the Presidential throne, formerly the Viceregal throne. There they take the Declaration of Office, which is administered by the Chief Justice. After delivering their inauguration address they then are escorted to Áras an Uachtaráin by the Blue Hussars.

Declaration of Office

In front of assembled members of Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann, the government of Ireland, the judiciary, members of local authorities, diplomats and invited guests, and with members of the Council of State on the dais behind them, the President takes the following Declaration of Office:

*In Irish: "I láthair Dia na nUilechumhacht, táimse á ghealladh agus á dhearbhú go sollúnta is go fírinneach bheith i mo thaca agus i mo dhidín do Bhunreacht Éireann, agus dlíthe a chaomhnú, mo dhualgais a chomhlíonadh go dilís coinsiasach de réir an Bhunreacht is an dlí, agus mo lándícheall a dhéanamh ar son leasa is fónaimh mhuintir na hÉireann. Dia do mo stiúradh agus do mo chumhdach".

*In English: "In the presence of Almighty God I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and the welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me.'

Though in theory the Declaration can be recited in either Irish or English, all presidents to date have chosen, or felt they had to choose, Irish. A president opting for the English version could receive criticism from supporters of the Irish language. Hence even Erskine Childers, who never learnt Irish and spoke with a distinctive Oxbridge accent that made pronouncing Irish exceptionally difficult, opted with some reluctance for the Irish version.

Presidential address

Having taken the Declaration of Office, the new President traditionally delivers an address to the guests. Constitutionally all addresses or messages to 'the Nation' or to 'the Oireachtas' are supposed to have prior government approval. Some lawyers have questioned whether the speech at the inauguration should fall into the category requiring government approval. However as it is impractical to get approval given that the new president is only president for a matter of moments before delivering the speech and so has not had a time to submit it, any constitutional questions as to its status are ignored.

End of the day

The President-elect (unless they are the outgoing president, in which case they will already be living in the presidential residence) are usually driven to the inauguration from their private home. After the ceremony they are driven through the streets of Dublin to Áras an Uachtaráin, the official presidential residence, where they are welcomed by the Secretary to the President, the head of the presidential secretariat.

That evening, the Irish government hosts a reception in their honour in the State Apartments (the former Royal Apartments) in Dublin Castle. Whereas this used to be an evening suit affair (white tie & tails) it is now more normally attended wearing a dinner jacket and black bow tie.

Rituals and traditions

The black car

The President-elect is usually escorted to and from the ceremony by the Blue Hussars ceremonial outriders. Until 1947 they were a cavalry mounted escort, wearing light blue hussar-style uniforms. However to save money the government of Éamon de Valera replaced the Irish horses by Japanese motorbikes, which the then Minister for Defence believed would be "much more impressive." In 1945, alongside the mounted escort on horseback, President-elect Seán T. O'Kelly rode in the old state landau of Queen Alexandra the Queen Mother. The use of the state carriage was highly popular with crowds. However an accident with a later presidential carriage at the Royal Dublin Society Horse Show led to the abolition of the carriage and its replacement by a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith in 1947. The distinctive 1947 Rolls-Royce is still used to bring the President to and from the inauguration today.

Religion

Inauguration Day involves a lot of ritual and ceremonial. Until 1983 the morning saw the President-elect, accompanied by his or her partner, escorted by the Blue Hussars to one of Dublin's cathedrals. If they were Catholic they were brought to St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral for a Pontifical High Mass. If they were Church of Ireland, they were brought to St. Patrick's Cathedral for a Divine Service. In the 1970s instead of separate denominational ceremonies a single ecumenical multi-faith service was held in the Cathedral of the faith of the President-elect. Some additional religious ceremonies also featured: President-elect Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh attended a prayer ceremony in a synagogue in Dublin to reflect his longstanding relationship with the Jewish Community in Ireland.

In 1983, to reduce the costs of the day in a period of economic retrenchment, the separate religious blessing ceremony was incorporated into the inauguration ceremony itself, with the President-elect blessed by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, Methodism, the Society of Friends, and the Jewish and Islamic faiths. This inter-faith service has featured in the inaugurations of 1983, 1990, 1997 and 2004.

However some criticism has been levelled at the inclusion of religion in the actual inauguration. Some guests to the inauguration may have conscientious objections to attending a ceremony including certain faiths (eg, Traditionalist Catholics attending blessings given by Protestant churchmen and women, members of the Orange Order attended blessings given by Catholic clergy, etc.) In addition some humanists suggest the new ceremony desecularises a supposedly secular ceremony (the only other mention of religion at all occurs in the Declaration of Office. The rest of the event is supposedly purely state and secular).

Dress Codes

For the first inauguration in 1938 President-elect Douglas Hyde decided to wear a morning suit, with black silk top hat. Morning suits were a standard feature of Irish presidential inaugurations until 1997 when Mary McAleese, whose husband disliked wearing formal suits, abolished their use for inaugurations (and for all other presidential ceremonial.) In her new "informal" inaugurations guests were required to wear plain business suits, and judges were prohibited from wearing their distinctive wigs and gowns. Ambassadors were also discouraged from wearing national dress.

While some have praised the new informality, others have criticised it as 'dumbing down' of the ceremony.

President-elect

Though an outgoing President of Ireland who has been re-elected is usually described in the media as "president" prior to the taking of the Declaration of Office, that is actually incorrect. The Irish Constitution makes it clear that a president's term of office expires on the day before the inauguration of their successor.ref|B2 In the interregnum period, the Presidential Commission acts as president, through given that it is usually for less than 11 hours no Presidential Commission has ever been called on to do anything in that period. Technically for that period the outgoing president is a "former" president and, if re-elected, "President-elect".

Footnotes

# Article 12.7. "Bunreacht na hÉireann"
# as above.


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