Erskine Hamilton Childers

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Erskine Childers
4th President of Ireland
In office
25 June, 1973 – 17 November, 1974
Preceded by Éamon de Valera
Succeeded by Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh
Personal details
Political party Fianna Fáil
Profession politician

Erskine Hamilton Childers (11 December 190517 November 1974), was the son of Robert Erskine Childers (author of the spy thriller The Riddle of the Sands. He was the fourth President of Ireland from 1973 until his death in 1974, and a TD from 1938 until 1973.

Childers was

He was appointed Tánaiste in 1969.

Biography[change | change source]

Memorial to Erskine Childers in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

Childers was born in London. He moved to Ireland after the First World War and lived in County Wicklow with his father Robert Erskine Childers. His father helped bring guns to Ireland for the Easter Rising, and opposed the treaty that set up the Irish Free State. The younger Childers was educated at Gresham's School, Holt, and Trinity College, Cambridge, hence his striking British upper class accent.

In 1922, when Childers was 16, his father was executed by the Irish Free State. Before his execution the older Childers made his son promise from to find every man who had signed his father's death warrant out and shake his hand. [1]

After finishing college in Britain Childers worked in a tourism board in Paris, until Éamon de Valera invited him back to Ireland to work for the Irish Press. He became a naturalised Irish citizen in 1938.

As member of Fianna Fáil, he held a number of ministerial posts in the cabinets of Éamon de Valera, Seán Lemass and Jack Lynch, becoming Tánaiste Deputy head of the government) in 1969. Erskine's period as a minister was controversial. One commentator described his ministerial career as "spectacularly unsuccessful", but others praised his willingness to take tough decisions.

Childers was elected the fourth President of Ireland on 30 May, 1973, defeating Tom O'Higgins by 635,867 votes to 578,771. Childers, though 67, was an extremely hard-working and He died suddenly of a heart attack in November 1974, while making a public speech to the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin.

Childers' state funeral in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, was attended by world leaders including Nelson Rockefeller, Vice-President of the United States, Earl Mountbatten of Burma (representing Queen Elizabeth II), Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and presidents and crowned heads of state from Europe and beyond. He was buried County Wicklow. At first it was expected that President Childers' widow, Rita, would be offered the office of president to continue his work, but it went instead to the former Chief Justice, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh.

One of Childers' sons, also called Erskine was a UN civil servant and Secretary General of the World Federation of United Nations Associations. A daughter by 2nd wife Rita, Nessa Childers, is a councillor for the Green Party on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

Political career[change | change source]

Oireachtas
Preceded by
Matthew Davis
(Fianna Fáil)
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Athlone-Longford
1938–1948
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Newly created constituency
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Longford-Westmeath
1948–1961
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Newly created constituency
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Monaghan
1961–1973
Succeeded by
Brendan Toal
(Fine Gael)
Political offices
Preceded by
Conn Ward
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government
1944–1948
Succeeded by
Brendan Corish
Preceded by
James Everett
Minister for Posts & Telegraphs
1951–1954
Succeeded by
Michael Keyes
Preceded by
Joseph Blowick
Minister for Lands
1957–1959
Succeeded by
Micheál Ó Móráin
Preceded by
Minister without portfolio
23 Jul. 1959–27 Jul. 1959
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Newly created office
Minister for Transport & Power
1959–1969
Succeeded by
Brian Lenihan
Preceded by
Joseph Brennan
Minister for Posts & Telegraphs
1966–1969
Succeeded by
Patrick Lalor
Preceded by
Frank Aiken
Tánaiste
1969–1973
Succeeded by
Brendan Corish
Preceded by
Seán Flanagan
Minister for Health
1969–1973
Preceded by
Éamon de Valera
President of Ireland
1973–1974
Succeeded by
Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh

Notes[change | change source]


Additional reading[change | change source]

John N. Young, Erskine H. Childers: President of Ireland