1976 Irish presidential election

The 1976 Irish presidential election was precipitated by the resignation of President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh in October 1976. Patrick Hillery was elected unopposed as the sixth president of Ireland.

1976 Irish presidential election
Republic of Ireland
Not held
Patrick Hillery ran unopposed

Background to the electionEdit

Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh resigned as president soon after an attack on him by Paddy Donegan, the Minister for Defence, in which the minister called the President a "thundering disgrace" for having referred the Emergency Powers Bill 1976 to the Supreme Court.[1] Ó Dálaigh resigned on 22 October after Dáil Éireann supported the minister in a motion of no confidence.[2]

Nomination processEdit

Under Article 12 of the Constitution of Ireland, a candidate for president could be nominated by:

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

The government parties, Fine Gael and the Labour Party, did not nominate a candidate, and as no other candidate was nominated, it was not necessary to proceed to a ballot for the election.


1976 Irish presidential election[3]
Candidate Nominated by
Patrick Hillery Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil

Patrick Hillery was inaugurated as president on Friday, 3 December.


  1. ^ It was widely believed at the time, including by Ó Dálaigh himself, that Donegan's actual words were "thundering bollocks and fucking disgrace", and that the version published by the media was sanitised. However, the one journalist present at the occasion (a correspondent for The Cork Examiner newspaper) has always insisted that the actual words used were "thundering disgrace" and nothing else. 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, did not. Donegan was ultimately demoted from cabinet on 2 December, the day before Hillery took office as president, and received treatment for his drink problem.[citation needed]
  2. ^ "Dáil Éireann Debate: Call for Resignation of Minister: Motion". Houses of the Oireachtas. 21 October 1976. Archived from the original on 1 September 2018. Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Presidential Elections 1938–2011" (PDF). Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. p. 30. Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 December 2017. Retrieved 8 August 2018.