Josep Irla

Josep Irla i Bosch

Irla in 1938

124th President of the Generalitat de Catalunya in exile
In office
15 October 1940  7 August 1954
Preceded by Lluís Companys
Succeeded by Josep Tarradellas
3rd President of the Parliament of Catalonia
In office
1 October 1938  15 October 1940
Preceded by Joan Casanovas i Maristany
Succeeded by Antoni Rovira
Personal details
Born (1874-10-24)24 October 1874
Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Baix Empordà
Died 19 September 1958(1958-09-19) (aged 83)
Saint-Raphaël, Provence
Political party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya

Josep Irla i Bosch (Catalan pronunciation: [ʒuˈzɛp ˈirɫə j ˈβɔsk]) (24 October 1874 – 19 September 1958)[1] was a Catalan businessman and politician.[2] He was a deputy in the Parliament of Catalonia and the Spanish Congress in 1932, as an Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya affiliate. He was also the last President of Parliament of Catalonia at the end of Republican Catalan resistance in the Spanish Civil War, before Francisco Franco abolished the Generalitat of Catalonia. He was elected President of the Parliament of Catalonia on 1 October 1938.[lower-alpha 1] In office, Irla pushed for cooperation with the allies, Basque nationalists and other anti-Francoist groups, though excluding the communists.[2] He became the President-in-exile of the Generalitat after Lluís Companys was executed.[2] During his time as President-in-exile, he established a Government in exile, and appointed Josep Tarradellas as Conseller en Cap (Prime Minister). He resigned as President in 1954.[2]

Early years

Josep Irla i Bosch was born on 24 October 1874 in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Baix Empordà. He was the eldest of the three sons of Josep Irla i Rovira, and Rita Bosch Anglada. His father was a laborer who later opened a tavern known as Cas Romagué. His younger brothers were Francesc (1881–1961) and Nicolau (1886–1943) with whom he always maintained a very close relationship, sharing business and political activities. He worked in his father's inn when he was young. He studied at the Academy of Arts and Crafts. He did not follow any higher study, but through hard work and willpower obtained a deeply assimilated self-education.

Irla gradually made his way into the world of business and politics. With his brothers, he began industrial and commercial activities from Sant Feliu de Guíxols. He created the company Josep Irla & Co. using the capital of the three brothers. From this base, they opened a factory of cork stoppers that was extended over the years. They were consignees of boats and owned a schooner, with which they traded in wine and cork with Barcelona, acting as customs agents. In 1902, Irla married Florence Bas and Parent, also of Sant Feliu de Guixols and descendant of a family of workers. The couple had no children, but if they had two godchildren, Incarnation, daughter of peasants from a farm from Romanyà de la Selva, and Lola Aimerich, a cousin who was orphaned.

Early political career

When Irla was young he followed the family tradition and identified with federal republicanism. He and his father were the drivers of the Catalan Republican Federal Center of Sant Feliu de Guíxols. They were also members of the Masonic Lodge. His brother Francis was the leader of the weekly "The Program".

Irla Museum in Sant Feliu de Guíxols

Irla was a pioneer of the Catalan republicanism in the surrounding region. In 1905, in a municipal election, he was elected councilor of the Municipality of Sant Feliu de Guíxols as candidate of Republican Federal Center. He was second deputy mayor and member of the Government Commission. After several changes he became mayor and chaired the City Council from 1906 until 1910. During his term in office he highlighted creation of public services and works, social assistance, promotion of popular culture and an economically austere and portentous administration, faced (with great skill) to the damage suffered in the municipality during downpours suffered in 1908. He always followed all the events of the Catalan political life and defined a Catalan nationalist and progressive sense. At the beginning of 1911, he participated in the establishment of the Republican Nationalist Federal Union, in the regions of Gerona and was president of the local branch.

Following the death of his father, then provincial deputy, he was presented to the provincial election was called to fill the vacancy in the district of La Bisbal. He got the appointment without election for lack of opponents. In the provincial elections of 1913, he was chosen as deputy again, and it happened on until 1923, with the arrival of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, provided by the District of La Bisbal. From his position as deputy, he gets involved in the government institution: the Commonwealth of Catalonia. He was a major contributor to the first president of the Commonwealth of Catalonia, Enric Prat de la Riba, and after his death, he continued to occupy positions of great responsibility chaired by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. He was also a member of the board of the Fund Credit Communal.

With the liquidation of the institutions by the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923–30) Irla focused on his business while maintaining some political activity. He always maintained a certain political activity within the small scope of action of that period.

Second Spanish Republic and Generalitat of Catalonia

Josep Irla and Bosch with his two goddaughters, Lola Aymerich to his left and Conception Pijoan (Ción) to his right, year approximated 1953

After the defeat of the dictatorship, with the proclamation of the Republic he was appointed member of the Provisional Provincial Committee of Girona. Immediately after Catalonian President Francesc Macià named him Commissioner Delegate of the Government of the Generalitat in Girona. In this position, he favored education and culture, especially targeting the popular sectors, promoted the use of the Catalan language in administrations, renewed actions to the restoration of archaeological monuments, became interested in social work and developed public works, low cost but high impact on large sections of the population.

In the elections for the Provincial Government of Catalonia, an organization was created to prepare and approve a draft statute for the autonomy of Catalonia. Irla and Lluís Companys were chosen vice presidents. Irla was involved in creating the draft statute of autonomy known as the Statute of Núria. On 9 September 1932, the Statute of Catalonia was approved definitively. In early 1932, he created and directed the Federal Republican Party of the Baix Empordà, a county group created basically to formalize a collective commitment to the Republican Left of Catalonia, which he did in the First National Congress of this political formation.

In the elections of the Parliament of Catalonia 20 November 1932, he headed the candidacy of Republican Left of Catalonia in the province of Girona. The victory was total and proportion, he was the candidate with the most votes in Catalonia. Throughout the republican period, he held various positions of responsibility within the Government of Catalonia, a fact which demonstrates its organizational efficiency and confidence that gave the president Francesc Macià and Lluís Companys.

He was appointed General Director of the Interior during the administration of President Macià, but a worsening of asthma he suffered prevented him from taking office and was replaced after a few days, by Joan Selves. Now restored, he was appointed Director General of Industry (1933), under the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Republican Spanish government, in the two successive governments headed by Manuel Azaña and Alejandro Lerroux, was dismissed after the rise to power of President Diego Martinez Barrio. In the summer of 1933, he joined the Department of Social Welfare, later becoming Director General of the Department of Social Welfare. In this capacity, he directed projects for the treatment of patients at risk of social exclusion, risk prevention in childhood or care to retirees without resources. The events of October 1934, with the suspension of the Statute and imprisonment of all members of the Catalan government, put on hold its political action for the next year and a half.

In 1936, with the restoration of the Government of Catalonia, he regained his place as Director General. However, the start of the Spanish Civil War returned to hinder his political activity, assuming leadership of the board of the Hospital General de Catalunya. With successive remodeling of the government, he remained in office, but he resigned before the appointment of Antonio García as Director, representative of the National Confederation of Labour (CNT). Soon after, in October 1936, he was appointed undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture, a newly created position, with Ventura Gassol as a counselor, but coinciding with the flight of this counselor of Catalonia, to the danger of being victim of an attack . Therefore, Josep had to expand their role and worked for the functioning of the schools and the preservation of archaeological and artistic heritage of Catalonia. In January 1937, just after President Josep Tarradellas published the decrees which sought to control and provide standards for the entire financial system of Catalonia, he was appointed Director General of Heritage and Revenue, a very complex position created in period of political exceptionalism.

President of the Parliament of Catalonia

1 October 1938, with part of the Catalan territory occupied by Franco's troops and imminent defeat, he agreed to become President of the Catalan Parliament. In his inauguration to the presidency, he said: "We were, we are and will Republicans and Catalan, because we are liberals, because it is a feeling of our soul that has led us to feel and know the needs of our people."


Villa Catalonia residence in exile of President Josep Irla, with his goddaughter Lola Aymerich and a niece, possibly Montserrat.

On 28 January 1939, Josep Irla, President of the Catalan Parliament, began his exile. With 62, he traveled to French territory with his wife, his daughter (Concepción Pijoan), his brother Francis and his sister in law Maria Duran, his nieces and the wife of his brother Nicholas. All their property in Sant Feliu de Guixols were confiscated by the fascist authorities. He lived for a time in Le Boulou (Roussillon) and later settled in Ceret (Vallespir), where he sought his livelihood dedicated to what he did best: the cork industry. In 1940, he was arrested by the Vichy French authorities and confined in Le Mans, where he could escape and return to Céret. With the execution of Lluis Companys, 15 October 1940, he refused to travel to America and became, automatically, President of the Generalitat of Catalonia according to the Interior Statute of Catalonia. He was the only modern president who would not set foot, as such, the Palace of the Generalitat. Then, he moved to Cogolin, where he resumed the manufacture of cork stoppers, an activity that provided the resources needed to survive.

Generalitat of Catalonia in Exile

The first years in office were marked by a very adverse context, with many limitations for minimum performance, resulting from the Second World War in progress, the problem of Catalan refugees and the permanent danger for those who remained in French territory, together with decreasing economic resources. In hiding, he maintained contacts with Catalans scattered throughout France. After the Second World War, he established an Advisory Council of the Presidency of the Generalitat, with the intention of preparing the structures for a future Catalan government. The council included Carles Pi i Sunyer, Pompeu Fabra, Antoni Rovira i Virgili, Josep Carner, Joan Comorera, Manuel Serra i Moret and Pau Padro.

During his rule, he prepared the return of the government to Catalonia, maintained relations with the Catalans who had been living in Spain, he was concerned about the situation of the Catalan exiles outside Spain always keeping alive the democratic will of Catalonia, defending Catalan and international reporting the situation of fascist repression. In this regard, in 1946, he directed a memorandum to the United Nations in which, after exposing the historical reality of Catalonia, denounced the actions of General Franco against autonomy, culture and economy of Catalonia, asking United Nations to condemn the Franco dictatorship and recognize the damage done to Catalonia. He obtained a fragile international condemnation that did not refer to the republican legality crushed by the military uprising, nor made any reference to the repression of Catalonia. However, the disagreement between the Catalans living in exile who hoped that the end of World War II meant the fall of the fascist regime in Spain, made into crisis his government in 1947 and he dissolved a year following. At that time, he said: "The work of the Government can not suffer any interruption and will continue to be exercised with the patriotic spirit of always". Since then, the institutional representation of the Generalitat was customized on its president.

Death and legacy

Josep Irla died on 19 September 1958, shortly before turning 82, in Saint-Raphaël, Var (Provence). In 1981, his remains were moved to Barcelona and received solemnly by the presidents Jordi Pujol and Heribert Barrera. Being celebrated a state funeral in the town of Sant Feliu de Guixols. Josep Irla had a hard face and was not a great orator nor a charismatic character, but was a political manager and efficient, which he connected important sectors of Catalan society at the time (he won every election whichHe presented) and retains the continuity of the Catalan institutions at a time of great adversity. Today, the foundation that bears his name, has undertaken to honor the president and keep his ideological legacy.


  1. «Presidents del Parlament. Josep Irla i Bosch (1938–1940)». [Consulta: 19 June 2010].
  2. Oliveira, Susanna. "El tercer president". Presència [Girona], núm. 2019, del 5 a l'11 de novembre de 2010, p. 46–49.
  3. Masanés, Cristina. "Tomba de Josep Irla. Porteu-me allà baix". Sàpiens [Barcelona], núm. 79, maig 2009, p. 59. ISSN 1695-2014.
  4. Bibliografia de la Fundació Irla
  5. Memoriaesquerra
  6. Família Soler – Aymerich
  7. «Exili i repressió contra la família de Josep Irla» de Àngel Jimenez


  1. "Por 36 votos a favor y 4 en blanco, es elegido presidente don José Irla Bosch. Este pasa a sentarse en la presidencia, y la Cámara, en pie, la dedica una cariñosa ovación."[3]
  1. "Bosch and Josep Irla (1938–1940)". Presidents of Parliament (in Catalan, Spanish, English, Basque, Galician, and Occitan). Parlament de Catalunya. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 The failure of Catalanist opposition to Franco (1939–1950), Casilda Güell, P87
  3. La Vanguardia, 2 de octubre de 1938, p. 5:
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