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 Irish previously monarchist party that was wrongly blamed by the British for the Easter Rising. In the aftermath of the Rising, survivors led by Eamon 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 Sinn Féin MP for Kildare in 1918. He served in the First Dáil (1918 - 1921), and along with a minority of Sinn Féin MPs (or TDs as they were called) opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
A minor political figure, he became an 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 Eamon de Valera to become Governor-General of the Irish Free State following James McNeill's resignation in November 1932. De Valera explicitly instructed Ua Buachalla as governor-general to keep a low public profile, and not to fulfill 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 fulfill 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.)
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), a gaelic translation for governor-general. But contrary to claims made my 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.
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 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, the last surviving governor-general, attended the inauguration of the first President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, in Dublin Castle in June 1938.
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.
King of Ireland: |
(to January 1936)
|Governors-General of the Irish Free State||
Office Abolished. See Presidents of Ireland