Presidents of Ireland: all heads of state listed in order

Since the foundation of the Republic of Ireland in 1937, there has been a total of nine presidents of Ireland so far.

The presidents of Ireland have always been important public figures and ambassadors for the country, as well as being the official heads of state.

From helping to shape the nation to taking a visible stance on social and moral issues, the presidents of Ireland have always played an important role.

In this article, we will list all nine presidents of Ireland in order and describe each one.

Ireland Before You Die’s facts about Irish presidents:

  • Since the office was established in 1938, Ireland has had nine presidents.
  • The Irish president holds office for seven years and can serve a maximum of two terms.
  • The official residence of the Irish president is Áras an Uachtaráin in Phoenix Park, Dublin.
  • Mary Robinson was the first female president of Ireland who served from 1990 to 1997. She was also the youngest-ever Irish president.
  • The president of Ireland appoints the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) based on the recommendations of the Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament).

1. Douglas Hyde – the first president of Ireland (1938 – 1945)

Our list of presidents of Ireland starts with Douglas Hyde.

Douglas Hyde had the honour of becoming the first-ever president of Ireland in 1938, as the nation was just declared a republic. 

Douglas Hyde was a long-time promoter of everything Irish as he was a co-founder of Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League), as well as being an accomplished playwright, poet, and a professor of Irish at UCD.

2. Sean T. O’Ceallaigh – second president of Ireland (1945 to 1959)

Sean T. O’Ceallaigh was the second president of Ireland.

Ireland’s second president was Sean T. O’Ceallaigh, who succeeded Douglas Hyde in 1945 to become president of Ireland. 

Sean T. O’Ceallaigh was a founder of Sinn Féin and also took part in the fighting during the 1916 Easter Rising. He served as president for two terms.

3. Éamon de Valera – third president of Ireland (1959 to 1973)

Éamon de Valera was one of the most influential presidents of Ireland.
Credit: Ireland’s Content Pool

The third president of Ireland, and one of the most famous and politically controversial figures to hold the role, was Éamon de Valera, who was elected in 1959 and served two terms in office up until 1973.

Widely regarded as one of the most important Irish figures in the 20th-century and one of the most famous Irish men of all time, he played a huge role in Ireland’s struggle for independence as he was one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising and fought in the Civil War on the anti-treaty side.   

READ: our guide to the most famous Irish men of all time

4. Erskine Childers – fourth president of Ireland (1973 to 1974)

Erskine Childers was the fourth president of Ireland.
Credit: Facebook / @PresidentIRL

The fourth president of Ireland was Erskine Childers, who was in office from 1973 to 1974. He served as a minister in five different governments before his election as president.

Unfortunately, his time in office was short-lived, as he died after just one year and five months in the role. He is the only Irish president to have died while in office.

5. Cearbhall O’Dálaigh – fifth president of Ireland (1974 to 1976)

Presidents of Ireland includes Cearbhall O’Dálaigh.
Credit: Twitter / @NicholasGSMW

The fifth Irish president was Cearbhall O’Dálaigh, who was a president of the Supreme Court and a Judge in the European Court of Justice before succeeding the previous Irish president Erskine Childers.

O’Dálaigh’s time in office was also short-lived, as he resigned in October 1976 after being criticized by a government minister for referring a bill to the Supreme Court before he signed it into law.

6. Patrick J Hillery – sixth president of Ireland (1976 to 1990)

Patrick Hillery was the sixth president of Ireland.

Patrick J. Hillery brought stability back to the Irish presidential office after a hectic time, which resulted in two different presidents in three years. He was elected in 1976 and served two terms until 1990.

Before he became president, he was minister for Foreign Affairs and helped to negotiate Ireland’s entry into the EEC (now the EU) in 1973. He also was Ireland’s first European Commissioner.

7. Mary Robinson – seventh president of Ireland (1990 to 1997)  

Presidents of Ireland includes Mary Robinson.

Mary Robinson became not only the seventh Irish president but also the first woman to ever hold the role. She was elected in 1990 and served for seven years before going on to become the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Besides being the first woman to become president of Ireland, at 46, she was also the youngest-ever Irish president as well.

She is hailed as one of the most famous Irish women of all time for using her time in office to take an active and visible stance on many social issues important to Irish society.

RELATED: 10 amazing Irish women who changed the world

8. Mary McAleese – eighth president of Ireland (1997 to 2011)

Mary McAleese was the eighth president of Ireland.

Mary McAleese succeeded Mary Robinson in 1997 and, similar to Robinson, she used her influence as the president of Ireland to great effect as she was a big supporter of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Mary McAleese was also similar to Mary Robinson in that she too was a barrister and a professor of Criminal Law at Trinity College Dublin, one of the top colleges in Ireland.

READ: IB4UD’S guide to the most famous Irish women of all time

9. Michael D. Higgins – ninth president of Ireland (2011 to present)

The most recent in our list of presidents of Ireland is Michael D. Higgins.
Credit: Robbie Reynolds

Michael D. Higgins is an Irish politician, poet, broadcaster, sociologist, and the ninth and current Irish president. He was elected in November 2011 and was re-elected for a second term in 2018. 

He has had a long political career as he was a TD for the Galway West constituency from 1981 to 1982 and 1987 to 2011.

Michael D. Higgins has proven to be a very popular political figure in Ireland and is regarded as a great ambassador for the country.

READ MORE: IB4UD’s facts about Michael D. Higgins you didn’t know

Your questions answered about the presidents of Ireland

If you still have questions, we have you covered! In this section, we’ve compiled some of our readers’ most frequently asked questions and popular questions that have been asked online about this topic.

Who are the nine presidents of Ireland?

Our article above lists the nine presidents of Ireland in order from 1938 to today.

Who was the first president of Ireland?

Douglas Hyde was Ireland’s first president.

How many American presidents were Irish?

Out of the 46 American presidencies so far, 23 have claimed Irish heritage.

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