The 1959 Irish presidential election is held on June 17, 1959. Éamon de Valera, then Taoiseach, is elected as President of Ireland. A referendum proposed by de Valera to replace the electoral system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote with first-past-the-post voting which is held on the same day is defeated by 48.2% to 52.8%.
Under Article 12 of the Constitution of Ireland, a candidate for president may be nominated by:
- at least twenty of the then 207 serving members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, or
- at least four of 31 councils of the administrative counties, including county boroughs, or
- themselves, in the case of a former or retiring president.
Outgoing president Seán T. O’Kelly had served two terms, and is ineligible to serve again. On April 27, the Minister for Local Government, Neal Blaney, signs the ministerial order opening nominations, with noon on May 19 as the deadline for nominations, and June 17 set as the date for a contest. All Irish citizens on the Dáil electoral register are eligible to vote.
De Valera who had served as President of Dáil Éireann and President of the Irish Republic from 1919 to 1922 during the Irish revolutionary period, as President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State from 1932 to 1937, and as Taoiseach from 1937 to 1948, from 1951 to 1954, and again from 1957 until his election as president, is nominated by Fianna Fáil on May 12. He had served as Fianna Fáil’s leader since its foundation in 1926.
Seán Mac Eoin, a Fine Gael TD who had been the party’s candidate in the 1945 Irish presidential election, is nominated again by the party on May 15.
Patrick McCartan, who had also been a candidate in the 1945 election and had served as a senator for Clann na Poblachta from 1948 to 1951, is nominated by two county councils only, short of the four required for nomination. Eoin O’Mahony also seeks and fails to secure a nomination by county councils.
De Valera wins the popular vote with 538,003 votes (56.3%) to Mac Eoin’s 417,536 votes (43.7%).
Éamon de Valera is inaugurated as the third President of Ireland on June 25, 1959.