Do you know enough about the government of Ireland? Can you tell me the most important laws and regulations governing the country? This blog post will give you an insight into everything about the Irish government. So let’s get started!
The Republic Of Ireland
The Republic of Ireland, generally known as Ireland, is a northwest European country with more than 30 counties. The division in the opinions of the Irish people arose as some wanted to remain under the influence of the United Kingdom. In contrast, others wanted their free state.
Under the republic act of 1948, Ireland officially declared itself a republic in 1949. Northern Ireland has a separate form of government, whereas the UK has reserved and limited powers and authority. Ireland is a democratic state which exercises a parliamentary form of government. The central institutions of Ireland are the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary.
The Legislative Power Of Ireland
The legislative power of Ireland lies in the hands of the Oireachtas and the President. The Irish constitution holds the President of the Oireachtas (the Dail and the Seanad) responsible for making and executing laws.
The Office Of The President
In Ireland, Uachtarán na heireann (the President) is the head of the state. The people of Ireland elect him.
His term is seven years, and he can stand for re-election as well. The nominations for the presidential candidate are done by either 20 members of Dáil Eireann (the house of representatives) or Seanad Éireann (the Senate) or by four or more county councils.
The age criteria for the nomination is 35 and above, and the retired or former President can nominate themselves without being nominated by the members of the Senate or counties.
The person who has won the general election takes the oath publicly at St Patrick’s Hall (Dublin). The oath is taken in the presence of the members of Dáil and Seanad Éireann, judges of the high court, the supreme court, and the court of Appeals.
The Presidential Powers
The President exercises powers ascribed to him by the constitution of Ireland. He can take decisions on the government’s advice or the state’s advisory council but also has some absolute and discrete authority in some areas.
Some of the powers of the President are as follows.
- Appoints the Taoiseach (the prime minister) on the recommendation of Dáil Éireann.
- Appoints the other members and ministers on the recommendation and advice of the prime minister (Taoiseach).
- Acts as the commander of defense forces.
- Represents the people of Ireland and thus is the representative of public affairs.
- Guardian of the constitution and refers bills passed in the parliament to the supreme court.
- The President can appoint the commissioned officers of defense forces, the attorney general, judges, and the controller and auditor general, but on the government’s advice.
- He also has the power to dissolve the Dáil Éireann.
- Can convene an emergency meeting by consulting the advisory council of the state.
Removal Of President
There are only two conditions under which the President can be removed from office.
Firstly, if five or more judges of the supreme court decision for his removal as he has become incapacitated.
Secondly, the Dail or Seanad proposed his removal under the offense of stated misbehavior. Stated misbehavior refers to the misuse of presidential powers or criminal offenses.
Oireachtas, The Constitutional Framework
The form of government of the Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary democracy, where the head of the state is the President (uachtarán). At the same time, the prime minister is the head of the government.
Ireland’s Oireachtas (parliament) consists of two houses, namely the Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, i.e., the house of representatives and the Senate, respectively. The Oireachtas are responsible for making new laws and amending the existing ones.
More power lies and is invested in the house of representatives as they have the dominant legislative power, which is exercised by majority votes from the members. The total number of members of the Dáil is 158.
Seanad Éireann exercises comparatively lesser power as they can delay the passage of bills to the law but cannot indefinitely block them or oppose what has been passed by the house of representatives.
As the country is a democratic state, every person and citizen has the right to vote. People 18 years of age or above are eligible to vote for the representatives of their choice.
The people elect members of the Dáil and Seanad, and the general elections are conducted after five years, though there is some difference in the appointment of members of both houses. The members of Dáil are elected through a single transferable vote in the constituencies consisting of three to five members.
The election process of members of the Senate is a little different as out of 60 members, the prime minister appoints 11 members, and the universities of higher education appoint six members. The other 43 members are elected and represent various cultural and economic interests.
Single Transferable Vote
The Single transferable vote, generally known as STV, has been adopted by Ireland, and it gives the voters a choice for their preferences of the representatives. It is a proportional representation electoral system where a single vote is cast by the voters in a choice ballot where they rank the representatives under their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd preferences.
If one representative is eliminated, the vote is not wasted and gets shifted to the following preferred representative.
Women play quite a significant role in Irish politics and have also made substantial gains. But still, they make up about 22% of parliament. Ireland is working to improve the participation of women and thus has introduced some quotas so that more females can have representation in politics.
The government is formed after the elections, and the Dail elects the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach is the leader of the largest party in the house of representatives. The government must not be larger than 15 members and smaller than seven members. If no party gains the majority support from the members of Dail, then the coalition government may be formed through the alignment and coalition of two or more parties.
The coalition government can retain its status until and unless it has the majority’s support in the Dail. If they fail to form any government, the former Taoiseach may ask the President to dissolve the cabinet and ask for re-election.
The Executive Power Of Ireland
The executive power lies in the hands of ministers e.g Taoiseach (the prime minister) of a government body responsible for executing and giving effect to the laws. They do not have to go through the same procedures as ordinary people, e.g., staying in queues at the airports, etc.
Other bodies like the military, the police force, and the civil service department assist in carrying out the laws and thus the executive power. The Prime Minister heads the meetings as well as the cabinet.
He must be a member of the Dáil. The Tanaiste (the deputy prime minister) and the finance minister are members of the Dail. Other members can be members of either house, but only two members can be senators.
Taoiseach (The Prime Minister)
In Ireland, the Taoiseach (prime minister) is the head of the government. The Dail nominates, and the President appoints the prime minister. He then appoints the Tánaiste (the deputy) and advises the present on appointing other ministers for different government departments.
Taoiseachs even work on Christmas days sometimes.
The Taoiseach can remain in the office until and unless he has regained the support of the majority in the Dail. If he fails to gain the maximum support and the Dail gives the vote of no confidence, he can either resign from the position or the President will dissolve the house. If the President does not dissolve, the Taoiseach is compelled to resign.
The current Taoiseach of Ireland is Michael Martin. He is the leader of Fianna Fail and founded the coalition government with Fine Gael and Green Party in 2020.
Powers Of The Taoiseach
- He presides over the meeting of the cabinet and heads the cabinet.
- He nominates the deputy and other ministers, and then the President appoints them.
- Appoints eleven members of the Senate.
- He appoints the attorney general though he is not a cabinet member.
- Presents bills to be signed by the President.
- Keeps the President informed on policy matters of domestic and international affairs.
- He can propose the dismissal of the cabinet members to the President, and he has to follow the advice conventionally.
- He represents Ireland in the European Council.
- The prime minister exercises these powers through the assistance of ministers at the taoiseach department, and the most important of them is the chief whip.
The Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister)
The Tánaiste is the term used in the Irish language for the state’s deputy prime minister. The Taoiseach himself appoints him. He acts as a Taoiseach in the absence of a Taoiseach if he is abroad or ill.
The Tanaiste also performs the duties if the Taoiseach becomes incapacitated or dies. He may also act as the minister of the state department.
The Government Chief Whip
The chief whip acts as a bridge of communication and exchange of matters between the government and the opposition. He is responsible for ensuring the attendance of members of the Dail, especially when the vote is being taken.
He also has the authority to issue a whip for the member to attend the session. He organizes and coordinates the business of the government in Dáil Éireann.
The Judicial System Of Ireland
The judicial power is the power to implement and interpret the passed laws. The President appoints the judges, but they are independent bodies that can act according to the law without any pressure from any political party. They can only be removed based on incapacity or misbehavior. The judicial power resides in the courts.
The legal system of Ireland is also quite extensive. The President appoints the judges, and they can serve the offices until their retirement and cannot be removed from their offices unless they are incapable. The members of both the houses pass the resolution for the removal of a judge, and then he is removed from the court.
There are several courts for different kinds of cases like high courts, district courts, circuit courts, and the supreme court to run the social policy and ensure fundamental rights.
The district court deals with minor criminal matters and civil reports like contract cases, family laws, licensing, etc. The people can then refile the district court cases in the circuit court.
The circuit court has the authority to provide any decision considering the criminal issues except for murder, treason, and piracy. The cases it takes are those relating to defamation, property, and real estate matters with limited price and money. The ruling of the circuit court can be challenged in the high court.
The high court reviews the lower court’s decision and attends to severe cases like murder, piracy, rape, treason, etc. The high court’s verdict can be challenged in either the court of appeal or the supreme court.
The Court Of Appeal
It is the second highest tier in the rank of Ireland’s judiciary tier system and has the power to decide on civil and criminal cases. It gets hearings against the circuit criminal court, the particular criminal court, and the central criminal court. It also hears the appeals of the people convicted by court-martial.
The Supreme Court
The supreme court is the final court of appeal. The chief justice and seven judges regulate it. The presidents of the high court and court of appeal are additional supreme court judges. It can fire the President depending for misbehavior. It also has the authority to check the constitutionality of the bills passed by the Oireachtas.
Three types of courts have been established to deal with criminal cases: the special criminal court, the circuit criminal court, and the central criminal court.
The local government system comprises county councils and borough corporations.
The national department of the environment manages and supervises the local government. There are five borough corporations and 29 county councils, and several district councils and commissioners elected through voting.
The corporations’ and councils’ duties and services include roads, sewerage, physical planning, water supply, fire services, housing, and libraries. They don’t have any responsibilities related to police and education.
The councils make the decisions related to borrowing, taxes, and bylaws.
The county or city manager manages the administration and performs executive functions by consulting with the council members.
The political system of Ireland consists of four major parties, namely Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, and the Labour party. These political parties win most of the seats, but independent representatives also make a significant contribution and presence.
Fine Gael is the nationalist party of the representatives who favored the Irish free state and supported the 1921 treaty. It is the largest party in terms of its representation in the European Parliament and the third largest in the house of representatives. It has been the most significant rival and opposition of Fianna Fail.
It is the republican party of Ireland. It is the second major party of Ireland after Fine Gael, founded by Eamon de Valera in 1926. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael dominated the political arena throughout the 20th century, and these parties led the governments.
It is the democratic socialist party of Ireland. Arthur Griffith founded the party in 1905. It is also considered the parent party of Fianna Fail as Sinn Fein divided and split into two parties after the Irish civil war i,e. Fianna Fein and Fine Gael.
The current Sinn Fein stabilized in 1970 and gained importance under Garry Adams’s leadership in the 1980s. It got involved in the Northern Ireland peace process and created the Northern Ireland assembly. It is the biggest party in Northern Ireland.
The Labor Party
It is also a socialist democratic political party. William O’Brien, James Connolly, and James Larkin founded the party in 1912. It is a political arm of the Labour union and labor movement in Ireland, representing workers’ interests in national and local governments.
It has founded coalition governments several times and thus has served many years in government.
The legislative, judiciary, and executive are the three elements of the government of Ireland, like all the other democratic states of the world. There is a Parliamentary system in the Irish government and the President is the ceremonial head of the state. At the same time, the primary and significant power resides with the prime minister, i.e., the head of the government.
The parliament has two houses, i.e., the house of representatives and the Senate, where all the major decisions relating to the administration and local and international affairs are discussed and made.
The courts are independent bodies that can exercise their power through the judges. The courts include:
- Circuit courts.
- High courts.
- District courts.
- Special criminal courts.
- Central criminal courts.
- Circuit criminal courts.
- The court of appeal.
- The supreme court.
The executive power resides with the prime minister as he is the head of the government.
The constitution is above and beyond all, and this is the state’s ultimate power. It is responsible for the proper functioning of the state as it directs and regulates the different bodies of the government to work and perform.
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