Domhnall Ua Buachalla: Wikis

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Domhnall Ua Buachalla

In office
1932 – 1936
Preceded by James McNeill
Succeeded by Office abolished

Born 5 February 1866(1866-02-05)
Died 30 October 1963 (aged 97)
Profession Politician
Religion Roman Catholic

Domhnall Ua Buachalla (English: Donal Buckley; 5 February 1866 – 30 October 1963) was an Irish politician, shopkeeper and member of the First Dáil who served as third and final Governor-General of the Irish Free State and later served as a member of the Council of State.

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1916–1932

An Irish language activist and member of the Irish Volunteers, Ua Buachalla, from Maynooth, County Kildare, was imprisoned after the Easter Rising. Like many Rising survivors, he joined Sinn Féin, a small separatist party that was wrongly blamed by the government for the Easter Rising. In the aftermath of the Rising, survivors led by Éamon de Valera took over the party and used it as a vehicle to struggle for the establishment of an Irish republic. Ua Buachalla was elected as a Sinn Féin MP for Kildare in 1918. He served in the First Dáil (1918–1921), and was re-elected to the Second Dáil in 1921. He sided with de Valera and opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He did not serve in the Third Dáil.

Irish governor-general

A minor political figure, he became a Fianna Fáil TD in 1927, only to lose that seat in the general election of 1932, which ironically his party won. He was chosen by Éamon de Valera to become Governor-General of the Irish Free State following James McNeill's resignation in November 1932.

Ordered to keep a low profile

De Valera explicitly instructed Ua Buachalla as governor-general to keep a low public profile, and not to fulfil any public engagements. This was part of de Valera's policy to make the governor-generalship an irrelevance by reducing it to invisibility. While he continued to give the Royal Assent to legislation, summon and dissolve Dáil Éireann and fulfil the other formal duties of the governor-generalship, he declined all public invitations and kept himself invisible, as advised by "his" Government. In fact in his period in office he performed only one public function: the receipt of the credentials of the French Ambassador in the Council Chamber, Government Buildings, 1933, on behalf of the King, George V.

However with the King's permission, de Valera subsequently had that duty moved from the Governor-General to his own post of President of the Executive Council. (One of the few other occasions Ua Buachalla was mentioned at all in public was when, in the aftermath of the death of King George V in January 1936, he had to reply to messages of condolence sent to the Irish people by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the United States Secretary of State. One of King George V's titles was King of Ireland, hence the message of sympathy.)

New residence

On de Valera's instruction, Ua Buachalla did not reside in the official residence of the Governor-General, the Viceregal Lodge (now called Áras an Uachtaráin, the residence of the President of Ireland). Instead a private mansion was hired for his use. Except in formal legal documents, during Ua Buachalla's term the office of governor-general came generally to be known by as Seanascal (pronounced, shan-ass-scall), the Irish language translation of governor-general. But contrary to claims made by a number of authors, the office's formal title remained 'governor-general', as shown in correspondence of the period, parliamentary dissolution proclamations, etc. Seanascal was only a translation, not a new name, for the governor-generalship.

Falling out with de Valera over expenses

Ua Buachalla fell out with de Valera over the manner of his exit from office, in December 1936. De Valera sought to use the abdication crisis surrounding King Edward VIII to amend the Irish Free State Constitution to abolish the Crown and governor-general. Having done so, he faced a threat of a court case from Ua Buachalla, who had been left personally liable for the remaining one year's expensive private lease on his residence, following the sudden abolition of his office. In practice, between 1933 and December, 1936, the Irish State had paid Ua Buachalla expenses from which he paid the rent on his expensive residence, one which they even picked for him.

From December 1936, however, the state insisted that it had no responsibility for paying for the residence. But he on de Valera's explicit advice, had leased the residence for a full five years, his expected term of office, meaning that there remained one year's outstanding lease, for a residence he could not now afford and for which had no need now in any case, now that he was no longer governor-general. Eventually de Valera was forced to grant Ua Buachalla a large pension and pay his outstanding rent and expenses to stop a potentially highly embarrassing court case going ahead. Ua Buachalla attended the inauguration of the first President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, in Dublin Castle in June, 1938.

One myth according to The Cynics guide to Irish History regarding the abolition of his office, was that de Valera had called Ua Buachalla over the telephone. De Valera simply said to Ua Buachalla; "You're abolished". Because of Ua Buachalla’s failing hearing, he had misinterpreted what de Valera had said and replied, "You’re an even bigger one."

Appointed to the Council of State in 1959

Ua Buachalla and de Valera subsequently patched up their differences, and in a symbolic act of apology, de Valera, when elected President of Ireland in 1959 appointed Ua Buachalla to his advisory Council of State.

He however returned to Maynooth to continue running his family hardware store, founded in 1853, which closed in October 2005 and bore the full Irish language spelling of his surname. The road beside this store is named after him, although translated to English, as Buckley's Lane. The building has been demolished, but the frontage - featuring notable 60 degree sloping windows - has been preserved.

Domhnall Ua Buachalla died, aged 97, in a nursing home in Dublin.

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