Rita Childers

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Rita Childers
First Lady of Ireland
In office
25 June 1973 – 1 December 1974
President Erskine H. Childers
Preceded by Sinéad de Valera
Succeeded by Máirín Bean Uí Dhálaigh
Personal details
Born Margaret Anne Dudley
(1915-07-19)19 July 1915
Ballsbridge, Dublin, Ireland
Died 9 May 2010(2010-05-09) (aged 94)
Glenageary, Dublin, Ireland
Resting place Roundwood, Wicklow, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Erskine Hamilton Childers (m. 1952; d. 1974)
Children Nessa
Alma mater City, University of London
Religion Roman Catholicism

Margaret "Rita" Childers (née Dudley; 19 July 1915 – 9 May 2010) was First Lady of Ireland from 1973 to 1974, as the wife of former Cabinet Minister and 4th President of Ireland, Erskine Hamilton Childers. She formerly worked as a press attaché in the British Embassy in Dublin.

Early life[edit]

Born as Margaret Dudley,[1] her father was James John Dudley.

Life as Mrs. Childers[edit]

Childers met her husband, a widower who was also a senior member of the Fianna Fáil, while working as an attaché for the British Embassy in Dublin. The couple's mixed marriage (Erskine Hamilton Childers was an Anglican, she a Roman Catholic) caused some controversy; the then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid tried to discourage them from marrying. They eventually opted to marry in Paris. (McQuaid reportedly later apologised to the couple for his behaviour.)[1]

Erskine was elected President of Ireland in June 1973, but died suddenly in November 1974. The political parties secretly agreed a deal to make Mrs Childers the new president. However, a political dispute in which a partially deaf Fine Gael minister in the National Coalition government, Tom O'Donnell, misheard a journalist's question about Mrs Childers and confirmed that she would be the next president led the plan to collapse. Her late husband's political party, Fianna Fáil, withdrew its support for her and instead proposed former Chief Justice Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh. Ó Dálaigh was eventually elected unopposed as the joint nominee of the government and main opposition parties in the presidential election of 1974.[1][2]

Having left Áras an Uachtaráin (the presidential residence) Mrs Childers became an outspoken critic both of her late husband's former colleagues in Fianna Fáil, and of the office of president. Following the resignation of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh as president in October 1976, Mrs Childers called for the office's suspension.[1]

Childers' daughter, Nessa, entered politics in 2004 when she was elected as a councillor on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council for the Green Party.[1] Childers' stepson, Erskine Barton Childers (her husband's son by his first marriage to Ruth Ellen Dow) served as a senior official in the United Nations.


  1. ^ a b c d e Minihan, Mary (May 14, 2010). "Mourners told of 'special woman' Rita Childers". The Irish Times. Retrieved May 24, 2016. 
  2. ^ Collins, Liam (May 16, 2010). "Political presidency no job for this lady of principle". Irish Independent. Retrieved May 24, 2016. 

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