State Papers: Stamps ‘should only depict dead taoisigh and presidents’

Official said in note that next of kin ‘will be less demanding in this regard than the living’

A proposed series of postage stamps featuring taoisigh and presidents were to include only deceased holders of the office, in part because next of kin would be less demanding “than the living”, State papers from 1985 show.

In documents from the Office of the Taoiseach, a memo for government from May 1985, prepared by the Department of Communications, sought approval for a series of stamps to commemorate “all deceased holders of the Office of President of Dáil Éireann, chairman of the Provisional Government, President of the Executive Council, Taoiseachs and Presidents of Ireland”.

The idea had come from "the minister himself", then minister for communications Jim Mitchell. Living taoisigh and presidents had been included in a provisional list.

A document from the Department of Communications in February said, apart from Michael Collins, there were seven presidents and eight taoisigh to be considered, with one president and four taoisigh being "still alive".


One note, between officials within the taoiseach’s office, said stamps of that nature normally depicted the monarch or head of state.

“This might give rise to some political imbalance with us, so it might be better to include taoisigh as well,” the note said. “Here difficulty might arise in getting the agreement of some subjects to the design of the stamp (I recall the delay in getting Mr Lynch to agree a painter for his portrait in the Dáil).”

The author said he felt the series should be confined to the deceased.

Standard practice

“This seems appropriate and dignified, conforms with standard international practice, and gives a convenient time scale for the various issues on the appropriate anniversary of birth or death,” he said.

He added in a handwritten note: “It might also speed up the approval process – next of kin will be less demanding in this regard than the living.”

Then president Patrick Hillery agreed it was best to adhere to "the normal practice of not having living persons commemorated".

In fact no series depicting former taoisigh and presidents was produced, although An Post did produce stamps commemorating some on the anniversaries of their births or deaths.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist