Re: Re: Áras an UachtaráIn

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Actually it is 100% correct. In 1937 and 1938 plans were made to demolish the Aras and base the President either in a house in Castleknock, St Anne’s in Raheny or in the American Ambassador’s residence in the Park. The files on the planned demolition exist – I have read them. But the ‘alternatives’ fell through for various reasons. (The ambassador’s residence was condemned as old fashioned and needing extensive demolition work. The Castleknock one had no electricity, and a bishop refused to vacate St Anne’s to let the president move in.) With weeks to go the Lodge was made the ‘temporary’ Aras. It was so temporary large parts of it, including the ballroom, were locked away out of bounds for the President.

But the Minister for Finance wasn’t enthusiastic about the cost of building a new presidential bungalow in the Aras grounds and landscaping the location of the old Aras. He only gave I think £10 in the 1939 estimates. Then Hitler invaded Poland and the demolition plans were put on hold for the Emergency. By 1945 the building was in such a bad state that it was almost falling down anyway: the reason why presidents until Robinson was living in the wings was because, when they surveyed the house in 1942 to see how it would cope with bombing they judged it so unsafe they had to tell Hyde to move out of the main building that day (while wheeling his wheelchair very slowly in case a sudden movement brought the place down!) lest it fall down on him. In 1945 it was decided to renovate the building and abandon the plans for a presidential bungalow. But Michael McDunphy, the arrogant and difficult Secretary to the President, threw a tantrum (something he was famous for!) and demanded the Aras be knocked. He was annoyed as he had begun to collect art works for the new Aras and hated the old one, thinking it too old-fashioned and too British. But the building was in such a bad state in 1945 the oratory, the kitchens and large chunks of the place had to be knocked.

So Wikipedia is 100% right on that one.

BTW re the idea that the state in the 1930s was sensitive to Irish architecture – not so. I’ve read files where they made plans to demolish all the houses around Merrion Square!!! And they considered converting the GPO into a Catholic Cathedral. As late as the early 1960s Irish ministers were still advocating the demolition of all georgian buildings in Dublin while road engineers drew up plans for a motorway along the quays, with a flyover curving around the outside if the Four Courts!!! 😮

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