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Sunday 25 June 2017

Wanted: chair fit for a President as old throne takes a back seat

President Mary McAleese, with the current presidential chair in the background, being greeted by Bertie Ahern during the swearing-in ceremony for her second term in 2004
President Mary McAleese, with the current presidential chair in the background, being greeted by Bertie Ahern during the swearing-in ceremony for her second term in 2004
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

WANTED: One chair, presidential and not regal in design. Should not contain illegally-logged timber.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is seeking a new chair for the inauguration of our ninth President next November.

A plain, kitchen-style seat is not wanted as this bespoke piece is not just for sitting on.

It should "reflect the history of Dublin Castle", the "national and pre-eminent role" of the President and should have a "national standing", tender documents state.

And it needs to be durable, and last for longer than the day of the inauguration. In fact, the chair should be of sufficient quality to make it "suitable for permanent exhibition".

Quite why the chair that was good enough for the inaugurations of our eight presidents to date is no longer deemed up to the job, the OPW would not say.

It is one of a pair of chairs called the Viceregal Thrones, which were made in the late 19th Century for the British crown's representative in Ireland, the Viceroy or Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

In 1938, a Viceregal Throne -- minus the crown which used to adorn its top and with the Irish harp stitched into the fabric -- was used in the inauguration of Douglas Hyde.

It sits on the dais during the ceremony in St Patrick's Hall in Dublin Castle, and has been used in all Irish presidential inaugurations since Hyde: Sean T O'Kelly, elected in 1945; Eamon de Valera (1959); Erskine Childers (1973); Cearbhall O Dalaigh (1974); Patrick Hillery (1976); Mary Robinson (1990); and Mary McAleese (1997).

But the OPW has now sought a new chair, and is exacting in its requirements.

Tender documents state that the 'Presidential Inauguration Chair' is considered one of the most important features within St Patrick's Hall, and a "high standard" of design is required.

It should be "presidential, not regal" and it must reflect the "national and pre-eminent role of the President" without being "overwhelming or dominating".

"It must be of a sufficient timeless design and character to be suitable for use for many future inaugurations," the OPW says.

"It must be of sufficient intrinsic artistic quality and craftsmanship to make it suitable for permanent exhibition. The material used in manufacturing must be of the best quality and reflect the national standing of the chair."

The tender adds that contractors should "avoid" using illegally logged timber, and that materials should be sourced locally where possible.

The OPW was not able to give details on costs or why the chair was being replaced.

"There should be very little wear on a presidential inauguration chair," one expert said.

Detailed costings, drawings and samples of materials to be used should be sent to the OPW as part of the bid.

Tenders close on June 3.

Irish Independent

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