10th President of Ireland is a campaign to symbolically appoint the deceased child William Delaney as Ireland's 10th President in 2018. A one-off symbolic and embedded gesture, which might affect a collective national sentiment of healing and solidarity, in honouring the survivors of State and Institutional abuse. William Delaney was one of many children who have died whilst in the care of the State and the religious orders appointed to the management of child care in Ireland and across the globe.
Technically although exceptional, with the support of the people of Ireland, the outgoing President Michael D Higgins, the council of state, and 20 members of the Oireachtas (the national parliament). It is proposed that, as in the case of retirement or impeachment of the president etc, the Presidential commission might fulfil all duties of the office of President whilst William Delaney is symbolically appointed the 10th president in name alone.
Willie Delaney 1957 – 1970
He was 10 years old in 1967 when he was sentenced to six years in Letterfrack, Industrial School. Operated by the congregation of Christian Brothers, the school was opened in 1887 following the 1868 Industrial schools act which facilitated lay child care management be replaced by religious orders. Between 1869 and 1969 145,899 children were committed to industrial and reformatory schools. St Joseph's was one of many units operating in the republic of Ireland, the largest figure of 61 centres in 1898. The school received a lasting notoriety through revelation of physical and sexual abuse of the boys by some of the Brothers there, with evidence of sexual abuse and extreme physical punishments going back to the 1930s. 147 children died in Letterfrack while in the care of the Christian Brothers mainly from abuse and neglect
At the end of June 1970, William was sent home to Kilkenny to start his summer holidays two weeks before the official recess. The young boy complained of terrible piercing headaches, and collapsed at his home. He was admitted to a local hospital but never regained consciousness. He died two days later. His death was, according to the attending doctor, caused by encephalitis.
Those who lived alongside Willie Delaney in Letterfrack didn't believe that their fellow inmate died from natural causes, and recalled how the 13-year-old was knocked unconscious by a blow from a broomstick yielded by a Christian Brother.
As a result of these statements, the body of Willie Delaney was disinterred as part of a police inquiry into allegations of physical and sexual abuse at Letterfrack. The initial post-mortem did not reveal conclusive evidence that the young boy died as a result of alleged head injuries.
The case of Willie Delaney is the first time that any Garda inquiry into such allegations at such an institution has resulted in an exhumation in a search for conclusive evidence of foul play. The original cause of death was upheld but the case had the effect of making public the debate around issues of memory creditability and the instrumentalisation of the victim by the media, the church, the state and the survivors.
The role Willy Delaney’s life has played in both the state appropriation of power and the victims search for justice and accountability has been unprecedented in the history of our state.
A one-off symbolic and embedded gesture, which might affect a collective national sentiment of healing and solidarity
Seamus Nolan | Artist
Legal & Technical Issues
It is proposed that for a nominal period, one minute, one hour or one day, the Office of the President of Ireland would be symbolically conferred upon the life and name of Willy Delaney. From that point forward being recognised as the legal and official 10th President of Ireland.
The technical issues are twofold, firstly that all parties involved agree to both the process and the candidate, and secondly fulfilling the legal and constitutional issues which might facilitate the idea. The first issue will be addressed in a campaign to gather support for the candidate William Delaney and the process or implementing a symbolic appointment in name alone. Secondly the legal and constitutional issues might be addressed by obtaining the consent of all parties involved and activating article 13.9 of the constitution. (ref 1)
Constitutionally the President of Ireland must be a living person. In exceptional cases the Presidential Commission assumes and fulfils all functions and duties of the office of President. The exceptions being when the office of President is vacant, or when the President is unavailable, such as on the death of the incumbent, on the resignation of the incumbent, by impeachment of the incumbent, and in the short interval between the conclusion of one President's term of office and the inauguration of a successor the next day. The Presidential commission comprises of the Chief Justice – President of the Supreme Court, Ceann Comhairle – Presiding officer of Dáil Éireann, and the Cathaoirleach – Chairman of Seanad Éireann.
Clearly a deceased person can not hold office, (ref 2) yet if the candidate was recognised in name alone, if the Presidential commission agreed in the Presidents absence to put forward this candidate for a specified time as a symbolic act, then with the support of the President, the council of state and 20 members of the Oireachtas, this may be possible.
Under Article 13.9 of the Constitution, the President and by extension the Presidential commission, does have undefined discretionary powers which, of which he or she is open to consider invoking.
(1) Article 13.9 of the Irish constitution states ‘‘The powers and functions conferred on the President by this Constitution shall be exercisable and performable by him only on the advice of the government, save where it is provided by this Constitution that he shall act in his absolute discretion or after consultation with or in relation to the Council of State …”
Speaking of the situation in 1991 where President Mary Robinson defied Taoiseach Charles j Haughey by referring a bill to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality before signing the bill into law. Vincent Browne wrote during the 2011 Presidential election on the possibility of expanding the Presidential role, concluding that the President may not enact a role contrary to the will of government or the constitution. Suggesting that in exceptional situations and most importantly, with the support of the government of the day, the President may act upon his or her own discretion.
(2) Article 4.1° of the Irish constitution states “Every citizen who has reached his thirty-fifth year of age is eligible for election to the office of President.”
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Letter of support
Write a letter to your local councilor, td or the presidents officE.
Please copy and paste this info and email or post to your local representative:
I am writing to you to as an elected official to let you know that I support the campaign to have William Delaney appointed as the 10th president of Ireland.
The campaign proposes that for a nominal period, one minute, one hour or one day, the Office of the President of Ireland would be symbolically conferred upon the life and name of William Delaney. From that point forward being recognized as the 10th President of Ireland.
In exceptional cases the Presidential Commission assumes and fulfills all functions and duties of the office of President. The exceptions being when the office of President is vacant, or when the President is unavailable, such as on the death of the incumbent, on the resignation of the incumbent, by impeachment of the incumbent, and in the short interval between the conclusion of one President's term of office and the inauguration of a successor the next day. The Presidential commission comprises of the Chief Justice – President of the Supreme Court, Ceann Comhairle – Presiding officer of Dáil Éireann, and the Cathaoirleach – Chairman of Seanad Éireann.
A deceased person can not fulfil the duties of the office of the president, yet in exceptional cases such as the death of the president before completing his or her full term, the presidents commission assumes the function of the office. With the consent of the people of Ireland, the Presidents commission, council of state, and the Oireachtas, it is proposed that William Delaney would be appointed the 10th president in name alone, as a symbolic act whilst the Presidential commission assumes the functions of the office.
I hereby offer my consent for William Delaney to be appointed the 10th president of Ireland and urge you as my elected representative to ensure this process might be enacted.
This proposal sets out a process which is relational in nature, and rather than operating as a physically permanent object the project foregoes this traditional manifestation in order to activate a dialogical, cultural and historic relationship between those that are honoured and those who have the power to honour.
This work operates as a grand gesture, an unprecedented act of acknowledgement and honour. The ramifications of the work around the world and into the future might set an extraordinary example for redress and social healing, and to some extent begin to address the waves of disbelief and abhorrence which have emanated from our countries recent history.
The most important issue, as I see it, was and is an unquestioned acceptance of authority over the rights of the individual, and the welfare of the most vulnerable. I recently read an article by Fintan O Toole entitled, ‘art has not reflected our grief’ which discussed the notion of the public monument and its role as catalyst to not only bring our grief and anger into focus but to positively contextualise this grief and activate agency in pursuing and creating a better society. Although it might not be possible to redeem the past, this commemoration might speak of a willingness to embrace it, to acknowledge those who have suffered, to value and learn from their experience, in the resounding pursuit of a better society.
From this proposed point forward every child who opens a history book will learn of the present generation’s willingness to embrace the mistakes of the past and value those who have suffered so deeply. This is a commemoration not just to the survivors of institutional abuse, but to those who did not survive, those who have been implicated by history in their silence and failure to intervene, and to those who are brave enough to acknowledge our collective failing and move forward in a process of healing. The Institution of the state and its citizens would acknowledge and pay homage to those who have been treated so wrongly by offering the highest accolade possible to one who suffered due to its indifference.