Born in Sant Feliu de Guíxols (Baix Empordà County) in 1876, he held office in exile, thus embodying the institutional continuity of the Catalan Government following the victory by Franco's rebels in the Spanish Civil War.
Self-educated, Irla never attended university, but made headway in both business and politics, including stints in local politics and the Mancomunitat (federation of Catalonia's four provinces from 1914 to 1925, with a limited degree of self-rule). In 1932 Irla was elected to the Catalan Parliaments in 1932, as the leading ERC (Catalan Republican Left) candidate in Province of Girona. In October 1938, with the Spanish Civil War in full swing, he was elected speaker of parliament. In accordance with the law, following the execution of Prime Minister Companys in 1940, Irla succeeded him. His priority was to coordinate Catalans in exile and ensure that the international community was aware of Catalonia's plight. Poor health prompted him to resign in 1954.
Irla died in exile in 1958.