Erskine Hamilton Childers

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President of Ireland
Missing image

Rank: 4th
Term of Office: 25 June 1973 - 17 November 1974
died in office of a heart attack
Number of Terms: 1
Predecessor: Eamon de Valera
Successor: Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh
Date of Birth: November 11, 1905
Place of Birth: London
Date of Death: November 17, 1974
Place of Death: Dublin, Ireland
First Lady: Rita Childers
Profession: politician
Nominated by: Fianna Fáil
Other candidates: Fine Gael: Tom O'Higgins

Erskine Hamilton Childers (11 November 1905 - 17 November 1974), the son of Robert Erskine Childers (author of The Riddle of the Sands), served as the fourth President of Ireland from 1973 until his death in 1974. He was a TD (member of the Irish Chamber of Deputies) from 1938 until 1973. Childers served as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (1951-1954, 1959-1961, and 1966-1969), Minister for Lands (1957-1959), Minister for Transport and Power (1959-1969), and Minister for Health (1969-1973). He was appointed Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) of the Republic of Ireland in 1969.


Childers was born in London and educated in Britain, hence his striking British upper class accent. He became a naturalized Irish citizen in 1938. A member of Fianna Fáil, he held a number of ministerial posts in the cabinets of Eamon de Valera, Sean Lemass and Jack Lynch, becoming Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) in 1969. Erskine's period as a minister was controversial. One commentator described his ministerial career as "spectacularly unsuccessful". Others praised his willingness to take tough decisions. He was outspoken in his opposition to Charles J. Haughey in the aftermath of the Arms Trial, when Haughey and another minister, both having been sacked, were sent for trial amid allegations of a plot to import arms for the Provisional IRA. (Haughey and the other minister, Neil Blaney, were both acquitted.)

In a political upset, 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 a vibrant, extremely hard-working president who earned universal repect and popularity, in the process making the office of President of Ireland a highly visible and useful institution. However, he died suddenly of a heart attack in November 1974, while making a public speech in Dublin.

Childers's state funeral in St Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral in Dublin was attended by world leaders, including the Vice-President of the United States, Earl Mountbatten of Burma (representing Queen Elizabeth II), the British Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition, along with presidents and crowned heads of state from Europe and beyond. Initially it was expected that President Childers' popular 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.

Erskine was survived by his second wife, Rita, and children from both his marriages.

Political career

Preceded by:
Francis C. Ward
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government
Succeeded by:
Brendan Corish
Preceded by:
James Everett
Minister for Posts & Telegraphs
Succeeded by:
Michael Keyes
Preceded by:
Joseph Blowick
Minister for Lands
Succeeded by:
Micheál Ó Moráin
Preceded by:
Newly created office
Minister for Transport & Power
Succeeded by:
Brian Lenihan
Preceded by:
Joseph Brennan
Minister for Posts & Telegraphs
Succeeded by:
Patrick Lalor

Template:Succession box two to one

Preceded by:
Eamon de Valera
President of Ireland
Succeeded by:
Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh

Template:End box

Additional reading

John N. Young, Erskine Childers: President of Ireland

Template:Tánaistithe na hÉireann Template:Uachtaráin na hÉireannga:Erskine Childers


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