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The Embassy’s History

Find out about the Embassy's history, including the establishment of diplomatic relations and some of our former Ambassadors.

Former site of the Embassy on Calle Zurbano, Madrid, in a photo taken c.1935

Former site of the Embassy on Calle Zurbano, Madrid, in a photo taken c.1935

Diplomatic relations between Ireland and Spain

Leopold H. Kerney presented his credentials as Ireland’s first Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the President of the Spanish Republic, Mr Alcalá Zamora, in September 1935. According to Mr Kerney’s report of their meeting, they spoke of the Spanish families of Irish origin, such as the O’Donnell and O’Shea families, and exchanged good wishes. Civil war broke out in Spain the summer of 1936, and in August 1936 the legation in Madrid was temporarily closed, with L. H. Kerney basing himself in St Jean de Luz, on the French border with Spain, for the duration of the war. Kerney presented credentials in Burgos in April 1939. In October 1950 Leo McCauley presented his credentials as Ireland’s first Ambassador to Spain, as Ireland had in 1949 left the commonwealth and declared itself a republic. Ireland’s first Ambassador to Spain following the democratic transition was Denis Holmes, who presented credentials to King Juan Carlos I in Madrid in 1978.

The Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series provides a fascinating insight into relations between Spain and Ireland, particularly in the period leading up to and during the Spanish Civil War. Much of this invaluable archive material is now available free online.

Previous Irish Ambassadors to Spain

Name Title Years served in Mission
L.H. Kerney Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary 1935 - 1946
John A. Belton Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary  1946 - 1949
Leo McCauley Ambassador 1949 - 1955
Michael (Andrew Lysaght) Rynne Ambassador 1955 -1962
Timothy J. Horan Ambassador 1962 - 1967
J.W. Lennon Ambassador 1967 - 1970
Brian Gallagher Ambassador 1970 - 1974
Charles Whelan Ambassador 1974 - 1978
Denis Holmes Ambassador 1978 - 1983
Gearóid O Clérigh Ambassador 1983 - 1988
Patrick Walshe Ambassador 1988 - 1994
Richard Ryan Ambassador 1994 - 1998
Pádraig Murphy Ambassador 1998 - 2001
Declan O’Donovan Ambassador 2001 - 2005
Peter Gunning Ambassador 2005 - 2009
Justin Harman Ambassador 2009 - 2014
David Cooney Ambassador 2014 -