douglas hyde forgotten patriot

Forgotten Patriot: Douglas Hyde profiled in new book

douglas hyde forgotten patriot

In 1938, Roscommon man Douglas Hyde became the first President of Ireland. He made the office an inclusive one and determined to be a president for all the people of Ireland.

The accepted wisdom is that Hyde’s transition to the presidency was a seamless process, but Forgotten Patriot, a new book by historian Brian Murphy, shows it was only as a result of some significant shifts in the political landscape in the latter half of 1937 and early 1938 that the notion of an agreed candidate became an increasingly likely proposition.

It was against such an emerging backdrop, in which party candidates became undesirable, that Hyde’s candidacy became viable.

The author Brian Murphy, whose family hails from Ard na Greine, Roscommon Town, was a speechwriter for two former Taoisigh, said,

‘The reaction of the main opposition parties to the office of President was negative and, in particular, they held genuine sensitivities that the new presidency could be a staging post en route to a dictatorship. The word dictator or a derivative of it was used over 200 times in the Dáil debate on the draft Constitution with the vast majority of these references relating to the office of President.’

Hyde may have been the compromise candidate but with his non-partisan background as a Protestant nationalist and a leading figure in the language revival, he was also an inspired choice. He was to the forefront in providing leadership on the key political issues of his time. He also played a highly significant, but previously unheralded, role in the state’s policy of neutrality during the Second World War.
Murphy continued, ‘I became aware that the office was a hugely under-researched area in Irish historiography. It is also one of the most misunderstood. The lack of historical research into the presidency, especially in regard to the office’s early years, has allowed a number of misconceptions to take root. The most significant of these is that the formative presidencies were politically irrelevant. This train of thinking dismisses the presidency prior to 1990 as “a retirement home”, a largely ceremonial office, and a role far removed from the cut and thrust of political life.’

Forgotten Patriot is the first comprehensive analysis of Hyde’s presidency and uses significant new research to show Hyde’s considerable impact on the development and perception of the office of President of Ireland. Even today, Hyde’s wider achievements remain central to the life of our nation. He preserved for us our vibrant culture and, through his benign presidency, he progressed stability and constitutional order. He deserves more from history than to be a forgotten patriot.

Forgotten Patriot is available in shops now and is available here for the special price of €15.99. A launch of the book will take place in the Douglas Hyde Centre, Portahard, Frenchpark on Friday October 28th at 6pm. Denis Naughton, Minister for Communications, Climate Action & Environment, and Mary O’Rourke, former Minister, will do the honours.