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Irish presidential election, 1976

The 1976 Irish presidential election was precipitated by the sudden resignation of President Ó Dálaigh in October 1976, following an attack on him by Paddy Donegan, the Irish Minister for Defence in which the Minister called the President a "thundering disgrace" and implied he was disloyal to the state.1 Ó Dálaigh's resignation followed Dáil Éireann's decision to vote confidence in the minister in the ensuring row.

Fianna Fáil leader Jack Lynch proposed as the party's presidential election candidate Patrick Hillery, retiring European Economic Community Commissioner for Social Affairs and former Irish Minister for External Affairs. Charles J. Haughey, a critic of Lynch, proposed Donegal TD Joe Brennan, a former Minister for Social Welfare. However, Hillery easily won the party nomination.

The government parties, Fine Gael and Labour, could have nominated a joint candidate, but following the debacle over the events that led to the resignation of President Ó Dálaigh, it was thought unwise to do so.

With no other candidates nominated, Hillery was elected without the need for an electoral contest and was inaugurated as the sixth President of Ireland on 3 December 1976.


1 It was widely believed, including by Ó Dálaigh himself, that the actual comments used were "fucking bollocks and a thundering disgrace", and that the version published by the media was sanitised. Of more offence was Donegan's comment that "the fact is the army must stand behind the state", a comment which the President interpreted as implying that he, the Army's Commander-in-Chief, didn't. In the aftermath Donegan, an alcoholic whom his cabinet colleagues presumed was drunk when he made the comments, received treatment for his drink problem and was demoted to a more junior cabinet post.

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