Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Áras an Uachtaráin
The original house was designed by park ranger and amateur architect Nathaniel Clements, in the mid eighteenth century. It was bought by the administration of the British Lord Lieutenant to become his summer residence in the 1780s. His official residence was in the Viceregal Apartments in Dublin Castle. The house in the park later became the Viceregal Lodge, the 'out of season' residence of the Lord Lieutenant (also known as the Viceroy), where he lived for most of the year. During the Social Season (January to St. Patrick's Day in March) he lived in state in Dublin Castle.
Phoenix Park used to contain three official state residences. The Viceregal Lodge, the Chief Secretary's lodge and the Under Secretary's Lodge. The Chief Secretary's Lodge, now called Deerfield, is the residence of the United States Ambassador to Ireland; the Under Secretary's Lodge has served for many years as the Apostolic Nunciature.
Some historians have claimed that the garden front portico of Áras an Uachtaráin (which can be seen by the public from the main road through the Phoenix Park) was used as a model by the Irish architect who designed the White House. However the portico was built after he had left for the United States. (There is better evidence he did use Leinster House as a model.)
Various visiting British monarchs stayed at the Viceregal Lodge, notably Queen Victoria and George V. In 1881, its grounds became the location for a famous murder. The Chief Secretary for Ireland (in effect Prime Minister in the British administration in Ireland), Lord Frederick Cavendish, and the Under Secretary (chief civil servant), T.H. Burke, were stabbed to death with surgical knives while walking back to the residence from Dublin Castle. A small terrorist group called the Invincibles was responsible for the deed. The Lord Lieutenant, the 5th Earl Spencer, heard their screams from a ground floor window.
Residence of the Irish Governor-General
In 1911, the house underwent a large extension for the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. With the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922, the office of Lord Lieutenant was abolished. The new state planned to place the new representative of the Crown, Governor-General Tim Healy in a new, smaller residence, but because of IRA death threats, he was installed in the Viceregal Lodge temporarily. It remained the residence of the Governor-General of the Irish Free State until 1932, when the new Governor-General, Domhnall Ua Buachalla, was installed in a specially hired private mansion in the southside of Dublin.
Residence of the President of Ireland
The house was left empty for some years, until the office of President of Ireland was created in 1937. In 1938, the first President, Douglas Hyde lived there temporarily while plans were made to build a new presidential palace on the grounds. The outbreak of World War II saved the building, which had been renamed Áras an Uachtaráin (meaning house of the president in Irish), from demolition, as plans for its demolition and the design of a new residence were put on hold. By 1945 it had become too closely identified with the presidency of Ireland to be demolished, though its poor condition did mean that extensive demolition and rebuilding of parts of the building were necessary, notably the kitchens, servants' quarters and chapel.
Since then the house has undergone occasional bouts of restoration. The first president, Douglas Hyde lived in the residential quarters on the first floor of the main building. Later presidents moved to the new residential wing attached to the main house that had been built on for the visit of King George V in 1911. Mary Robinson in 1990 however moved back to the older main building. The current occupant, Mary McAleese lives in the 1911 wing.
Though Áras an Uachtaráin is not as palatial as many European royal and presidential palaces, with only a handful of state rooms (the state drawing room, large and small dining rooms, the President's Office and Library, a large ballroom and a presidential corridor lined with the busts of past presidents, and some fine eighteenth and nineteenth century bedrooms above, all in the main building), it is a relatively comfortable state residence.
The Ghost of Winston Churchill
There are stories of a small boy, allegedly a young Winston Churchill, running about the building. Churchill did grow up there as a child, where his grandfather, the Duke of Malborough, was Lord Lieutenant. It was supposed to be one of young Winston's favourite places.
Visitors to the building include Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, all of Irish descent. Other famous visitors are Princess Grace of Monaco and her husband, Prince Rainier III; King Baudouin of the Belgians; King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia; Pope John Paul II; Prince Charles, and Prince Philip.
Guests do not normally stay at the Áras. Although it has ninety-two rooms, many of these are used for storage of presidential files, for household staff and official staff, including military aides-de-camp, a Secretary to the President (somewhat equivalent to Chief of Staff in the White House, except it is a permanent civil service position) and a press office. The Irish state recently opened a guest palace nearby in Farmleigh, a former Guinness mansion.
Áras an Uachtaráin is now open for free tours every Saturday.
1. Áras an Uachtaráin is Irish Gaelic. It may be roughly pronounced Or-as on Ookh-tar-on.
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