President of Ireland

The President of Ireland (Irish: Uachtarán na hÉireann) is the head of state of Ireland and the Supreme Commander of the Irish Defence Forces.

The president holds office for seven years, and can be elected for a maximum of two terms.[2] The President is directly elected by the people, although there is no poll if only one candidate is nominated, which has occurred on six occasions to date. The presidency is largely a ceremonial office, but the President does exercise certain limited powers with absolute discretion. The President acts as a representative of the Irish state and guardian of the constitution. The President's official residence is Áras an Uachtaráin in Phoenix Park, Dublin. The office was established by the Constitution of Ireland in 1937, the first president took office in 1938, and became internationally recognised as head of state in 1949 following the coming into force of the Republic of Ireland Act.

The current President is Michael D. Higgins, who was first elected on 29 October 2011. His inauguration was held on 11 November 2011. He was re-elected for a second term on 26 October 2018.

President of Ireland
Uachtarán na hÉireann  (Irish)
Flag of the President of Ireland
Seal of the President of Ireland
President Higgins's visit FINIRISH BATT HQ, Lebanon (cropped)
Incumbent
Michael D. Higgins

since 11 November 2011
StylePresident (A Uachtaráin) or
Your Excellency (A Shoilse)
StatusHead of State
ResidenceÁras an Uachtaráin
SeatDublin
NominatorMembers of the Oireachtas or local councils
AppointerDirect popular vote
by Instant-runoff voting
Term lengthSeven years
(renewable once)
Inaugural holderDouglas Hyde
Formation25 June 1938
Salary€249,014[1]
Websitewww.president.ie

Ordinary duties and functions

The Constitution of Ireland provides for a parliamentary system of government, under which the role of the head of state is largely a ceremonial one. The President is formally one of three parts of the Oireachtas (national parliament), which also comprises Dáil Éireann (the house of representatives or lower house) and Seanad Éireann (the Senate or upper house).

Unlike most parliamentary republics, the President is not even the nominal chief executive. Rather, executive authority in Ireland is expressly vested in the Government (cabinet). The Government is obliged, however, to keep the President generally informed on matters of domestic and foreign policy. Most of the functions of the President may be carried out only in accordance with the strict instructions of the Constitution, or the binding "advice" of the Government. The President does, however, possess certain personal powers that may be exercised at his or her discretion.

Constitutional functions

The main functions are prescribed by the Constitution:

Appoints the government
The President formally appoints the Taoiseach (head of government) and other ministers, and accepts their resignations. The Taoiseach is appointed upon the nomination of the Dáil, and the President is required to appoint whomever the Dáil designates without the right to decline appointment. The remainder of the cabinet is appointed upon the nomination of the Taoiseach and approval of the Dáil; as with appointing the Taoiseach, the President is required to make the appointment without the right to appoint someone else. Ministers are dismissed on the advice of the Taoiseach and the Taoiseach must, unless there is a dissolution of the Dáil, resign upon losing the confidence of the house.
Appoints the judiciary
The President appoints the judges to all courts in Ireland, on the advice of the Government.[3]
Convenes and dissolves the Dáil
This power is exercised on the advice of the Taoiseach; government or Dáil approval is not needed. The President may only refuse a dissolution when a Taoiseach has lost the confidence of the Dáil.[3]
Signs bills into law
The President cannot veto a bill that the Dáil and the Seanad have adopted. However, he or she may refer it to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality. If the Supreme Court upholds the bill, the President must sign it. If, however, it is found to be unconstitutional, the President will decline to give assent.[3]
Represents the state in foreign affairs
[3] This power is exercised only on the advice of the Government. The President accredits ambassadors and receives the letters of credence of foreign diplomats. Ministers sign international treaties in the President's name. This role was not exercised by the President prior to the Republic of Ireland Act 1948
Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces
[4] This role is somewhat similar in statute to that of a commander-in-chief. An officer's commission is signed and sealed by the President. This is a nominal position, the powers of which are exercised on the advice of the Government. (See Minister for Defence.)
Power of pardon
The President, on the advice of the Government, has "the right of pardon and the power to commute or remit punishment".[5] Pardon, for miscarriages of justice, has applied rarely: Thomas Quinn in 1940, Brady in 1943, and Nicky Kelly in 1992.[6] The current procedure is specified by Section 7 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1993.[7] There were plans in 2005 for paramilitary "on the runs" to receive pardons as part of the Northern Ireland peace process, to supplement the 1998 early release of serving prisoners after the Good Friday Agreement.[8] This was controversial and was soon abandoned along with similar British proposals.[9][10][11] Power of commutation and remittance are not restricted to the President,[12] though this was the case for death sentences handed down prior to the abolition of capital punishment.[13]

Other functions specified by statute or otherwise include:

Special limitations

  • The President may not leave the state without the consent of the Government.[23]
  • Every formal address or message "to the nation" or to either or both Houses of the Oireachtas must have prior approval of the Government.[24] Other than on these two (quite rare) occasions, there is no limitation on the President's right to speak. While earlier presidents were exceptionally cautious in delivering speeches and on almost every occasion submitted them for vetting, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese made much more use of their right to speak without government approval, with McAleese doing many live television and radio interviews. Nonetheless, by convention Presidents refrain from direct criticism of the Government.

Discretionary powers

The President possesses the following powers exercised "in his absolute discretion" according to the English version of the Constitution. The Irish version states that these powers are exercised as a chomhairle féin which is usually translated as "under his own counsel." Lawyers have suggested that a conflict may exist in this case between both versions of the constitution. In the event of a clash between the Irish and English versions of the constitution, the Irish one is given supremacy. While "absolute discretion" appears to leave some freedom for manoeuvre for a president in deciding whether to initiate contact with the opposition, "own counsel" has been interpreted by some lawyers as suggesting that no contact whatsoever can take place. As a result, it is considered controversial for the president to be contacted by the leaders of any political parties in an effort to influence a decision made using the discretionary powers. It is required that, before exercising certain reserve powers, the President consult the Council of State. However, the President is not compelled to act in accordance with the council's advice.

Refusal of a Dáil dissolution

The Taoiseach is required to resign if he has "ceased to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Eireann," unless he asks the President to dissolve the Dáil. The President has the right to refuse such a request, in which case the Taoiseach must resign immediately. This power has never been invoked. However, the necessary circumstances existed in 1944, 1982 and 1994. The apparent discrepancy, referred to above, between the Irish and English versions of the Constitution has discouraged Presidents from contemplating the use of the power. On the three occasions when the necessary circumstances existed, presidents have adopted an ultra-strict policy of non-contact with the opposition. The most notable instance of this was in January 1982, when Patrick Hillery instructed an aide, Captain Anthony Barber, to ensure that no telephone calls from the opposition were to be passed on to him. Nevertheless, three opposition figures, including Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey, demanded to be connected to Hillery, with Haughey threatening to end Barber's career if the calls weren't put through. Hillery, as Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces, recorded the threat in Barber's file and recorded that Barber had been acting on his instructions in refusing the call[25]. Even without this consideration, refusing such a request would arguably create a constitutional crisis, as it is considered a fairly strong constitutional convention that the head of state always grants a parliamentary dissolution.

Reference of bills to the people

If requested to do so by a petition signed by a majority of the membership of the Seanad, and one-third of the membership of the Dáil, the President may, after consultation with the Council of State, decline to sign into law a bill (other than a bill to amend the constitution) they consider to be of great "national importance" until it has been approved by either the people in a referendum or the Dáil reassembling after a general election, held within eighteen months. This power has never been used, and no such petition has been invoked. Of the 60 Senators, 11 are nominated by the Taoiseach, so there is rarely a majority opposed to a government bill.

Other

The President may appoint up to seven members of the Council of State, and remove or replace such appointed members. (See list of presidential appointees to the Council of State.) The following powers all require prior consultation with the Council of State, although the President need not take its advice:

Referral of bills to the Supreme Court
The President may refer a bill, in whole or part, to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality. If the Supreme Court finds any referred part unconstitutional, the entire bill falls. This power may not be applied to a money bill, a bill to amend the Constitution, or an urgent bill the time for the consideration of which has been abridged in the Seanad. This is the most widely used reserve power;[26] a full list is at Council of State (Ireland)#Referring of bills. In a 1982 judgment delivered under such a referral, Chief Justice Tom O'Higgins bemoaned the crude strictures of the prescribed process; especially the fact that, if the court finds that a bill does not violate the Constitution, this judgment can never subsequently be challenged.[27]
Abridgement of the time for bills in the Seanad
The President may, at the request of the Dáil, impose a time-limit on the period during which the Seanad may consider a bill. The effect of this power is to restrict the power of the Seanad to delay a bill that the Government considers urgent.
Appointment of a Committee of Privileges
The President may, if requested to do so by the Seanad, establish a Committee of Privileges to solve a dispute between the two Houses of the Oireachtas as to whether or not a bill is a money bill.[28]
Address to the Oireachtas
The President may address, or send a message to, either or both Houses of the Oireachtas. Four such addresses have been made: one by de Valera, two by Robinson, and one by McAleese.[26] The approval of the government is needed for the message; in practice, the entire text is submitted.[29]
Address to the Nation
The President may "address a message to the Nation" subject to the same conditions as an address to the Oireachtas. This power has never been used.[26] Commonplace messages, such as Christmas greetings, are not considered to qualify.[29]
Convention of meetings of the Oireachtas
The President may convene a meeting of either or both Houses of the Oireachtas. This power would allow the President to step in if, in extraordinary circumstances, the ordinary procedures for convening the houses had broken down.

Selection

The President is directly elected by secret ballot using the instant-runoff voting, the single-winner analogue of the Single Transferable Vote.[n 1] Under the Presidential Elections Act, 1993 a candidate's election formally takes place in the form of a 'declaration' by the returning officer.[30] Where more than one candidate is nominated, the election is 'adjourned' so that a ballot can take place, allowing the electors to choose between candidates. A Presidential election is held in time for the winner to take office the day after the end of the incumbent's seven-year term. In the event of premature vacancy, an election must be held within sixty days.[2]

Only resident Irish citizens aged eighteen or more may vote; a 1983 bill to extend the right to resident British citizens was ruled unconstitutional.[31]

Candidates must be Irish citizens and over 35 years old.[32][33] However, there is a discrepancy between the English- and Irish-language texts of Article 12.4.1º. According to the English text, an eligible candidate "has reached his thirty-fifth year of age", whereas the Irish text has this as "ag a bhfuil cúig bliana tríochad slán" ("has completed his thirty-five years"). Because a person's thirty-fifth year of life begins on their thirty-fourth birthday, this means there is a year's difference between the minimum ages as stated in the two texts. Various proposals have been made to amend the Constitution so as to eliminate this discrepancy.[34] At present, however, the Irish version of the subsection prevails in accordance with the rule stated in Article 25.5.4º. The current government has introduced the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015 to reduce the age of candidacy from 35 to 21, which was put to referendum in May 2015[35][36] but the bill was heavily defeated, with approximately 73% of voters voting against reducing the age of eligibility.

Presidents can serve a maximum of two terms, consecutive or otherwise.[3] They must be nominated by one of the following:[3]

Where only one candidate is nominated, he or she is deemed elected without the need for a ballot.[33] For this reason, where there is a consensus among political parties not to have a contest, the President may be 'elected' without the occurrence of an actual ballot. Since the establishment of the office this has occurred on six occasions.

The most recent presidential election was held on 26 October 2018.

Absence of a President

There is no office of Vice President of Ireland. In the event of a premature vacancy a successor must be elected within sixty days. In a vacancy or where the President is unavailable, the duties and functions of the office are carried out by a Presidential Commission, consisting of the Chief Justice, the Ceann Comhairle (speaker) of the Dáil, and the Cathaoirleach (chairperson) of the Seanad. Routine functions, such as signing bills into law, have often been fulfilled by the Presidential Commission when the President is abroad on a state visit. The government's power to prevent the President leaving the state is relevant in aligning the diplomatic and legislative calendars.

Technically each president's term of office expires at midnight on the day before the new president's inauguration.[37] Therefore, between midnight and the inauguration the following day the presidential duties and functions are carried out by the Presidential Commission. The constitution also empowers the Council of State, acting by a majority of its members, to "make such provision as to them may seem meet" for the exercise of the duties of the president in any contingency the constitution does not foresee. However, to date, it has never been necessary for the council to take up this role. Though an outgoing President of Ireland who has been re-elected is usually described in the media as "president" before the taking of the Declaration of Office, that is actually incorrect. The Irish Constitution makes it clear that a president's term of office expires on the day before the inauguration of their successor.[37] In the interregnum period, the Presidential Commission acts as president, though given that it is usually for less than 11 hours no Presidential Commission has ever been called on to do anything in that period. Technically for that period the outgoing president is a former president and, if re-elected, President-elect.

Vacancies in the presidency have occurred three times: on the death of Erskine Hamilton Childers in 1974, and on the resignations of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh in 1976 and Mary Robinson in 1997.

Official residence, salute, style and address

Áras an Uachtaráin 2010
Áras an Uachtaráin is the official residence of the President.

The official residence of the President is Áras an Uachtaráin, located in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. The ninety-two room building formerly served as the 'out-of-season' residence of the Irish Lord Lieutenant and the residence of two of the three Irish Governors-General: Tim Healy and James McNeill. The President is normally referred to as 'President' or 'Uachtarán', rather than 'Mr/Madam President' or similar forms. The style used is normally His Excellency/Her Excellency (Irish: A Shoilse/A Soilse); sometimes people may orally address the President as 'Your Excellency' (Irish: A Shoilse [ə ˈhəʎʃ̪ʲə]), or simply 'President' (Irish: A Uachtaráin [ə ˈuːəxt̪ˠəɾaːn̥] (vocative case)). The Presidential Salute is taken from the National Anthem, "Amhrán na bhFiann". It consists of the first four bars followed by the last five,[38] without lyrics.

Inauguration

The Constitution provides that the President of Ireland is inaugurated in a major public ceremony. The ceremony takes place on the day following the expiry of the term of office of the preceding President.[39] No location is specified in the constitution, but all inaugurations have taken place in Saint Patrick's Hall in the State Apartments in Dublin Castle. The ceremony is transmitted live by national broadcaster RTÉ on its principal television and radio channels, typically from around 11 am. To highlight the significance of the event, all key figures in the executive (the Government of Ireland), the legislature (Oireachtas) and the judiciary attend, as do members of the diplomatic corps and other invited guests.

During the period of the Irish Free State (1922 to 1937), the Governor-General had been installed into office as the representative of the Crown in a low-key ceremony, twice in Leinster House (the seat of the Oireachtas), but in the case of the last Governor-General, Domhnall Ua Buachalla, in his brother's drawing room. By contrast, the Constitution of Ireland adopted in 1937, provided that the President of Ireland would be inaugurated in state in a major public ceremony.

Oath of Office

Under the Constitution, in assuming office the President must subscribe to a formal declaration, made publicly and in the presence of members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court, and other "public personages".[40] The inauguration of the President takes place in St Patrick's Hall in Dublin Castle. The declaration is specified in Article 12.8:

I láthair Dia na nUilechumhacht, táimse, [ainm], á ghealladh agus á dhearbhú go sollúnta is go fírinneach bheith i mo thaca agus i mo dhídin do Bhunreacht Éireann, agus a dlíthe a chaomhnú, mo dhualgais a chomhlíonadh go dílis coinsiasach de réir an Bhunreachta is an dlí, agus mo lándícheall a dhéanamh ar son leasa is fónaimh mhuintir na hÉireann. Dia do mo stiúradh agus do mo chumhdach.[40]
In the presence of Almighty God, I, [name], do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and the welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me.[40]

To date every President has subscribed to the declaration in Irish. Erskine H. Childers, who never learnt Irish and spoke with a distinctive Oxbridge accent that made pronouncing Irish quite difficult, opted with some reluctance for the Irish version in 1973. Pictures of the event show Childers reading from an exceptionally large board where it had been written down phonetically for him. At his second inauguration in 2018, Michael D. Higgins first made the declaration in Irish, then repeated it in English.

In 1993 the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern that, because of its religious language, the declaration amounts to a religious test for office. The Oireachtas Committee in 1998 recommended that the religious references be made optional.

Presidential address

Having taken the Declaration of Office, the new President traditionally delivers an address to the guests. Constitutionally all addresses or messages to 'the Nation' or to 'the Oireachtas' are supposed to have prior government approval. Some lawyers have questioned whether the speech at the inauguration should fall into the category requiring government approval. However, as it is impractical to get approval given that the new president is only president for a matter of moments before delivering the speech and so has not had a time to submit it, any constitutional questions as to its status are ignored.

Religion

Inauguration Day involves a lot of ritual and ceremonial. Until 1983 the morning saw the President-elect, accompanied by his spouse, escorted by the Presidential Motorcycle Escort to one of Dublin's cathedrals. If they were Catholic they were brought to St Mary's Pro-Cathedral for a Pontifical High Mass. If they were Church of Ireland, they were brought to St Patrick's Cathedral for a Divine Service. In the 1970s instead of separate denominational ceremonies a single ecumenical multi-faith service was held in the Cathedral of the faith of the President-elect. Some additional religious ceremonies also featured: President-elect Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh attended a prayer ceremony in a synagogue in Dublin to reflect his longstanding relationship with the Jewish Community in Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Hall Dublin Castle 2014
Saint Patrick's Hall, where presidents are inaugurated.

In 1983, to reduce the costs of the day in a period of economic retrenchment, the separate religious blessing ceremony was incorporated into the inauguration ceremony itself, with the President-elect blessed by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, Methodism, the Society of Friends, and the Jewish and Islamic faiths. This inter-faith service has featured in the inaugurations since 1983.

Dress codes

For the first inauguration in 1938 President-elect Douglas Hyde wore a morning suit, with black silk top hat. Morning suits continued to be a standard feature of Irish presidential inaugurations until 1997 when Mary McAleese, whose husband disliked wearing formal suits, abolished their use for inaugurations (and for all other presidential ceremonial). From then, guests were required to wear plain business suits, and judges were prohibited from wearing their distinctive wigs and gowns. Ambassadors were also discouraged from wearing national dress.

End of the day

The President-elect (unless they are already a serving president, in which case they will already be living in the presidential residence) are usually driven to the inauguration from their private home. After the ceremony they are driven through the streets of Dublin to Áras an Uachtaráin, the official presidential residence, where they are welcomed by the Secretary-General to the President, the head of the presidential secretariat.

That evening, the Irish government hosts a reception in their honour in the State Apartments (the former Royal Apartments) in Dublin Castle. Whereas the dress code was formerly white tie affair, it is now more usually black tie.

Impeachment and removal from office

The President can be removed from office in two ways, neither of which has ever been invoked. The Supreme Court, in a sitting of at least five judges, may find the President "permanently incapacitated",[2] while the Oireachtas may remove the President for "stated misbehaviour".[41] Either house of the Oireachtas may instigate the latter process by passing an impeachment resolution, provided at least thirty members move it and at least two thirds support it. The other house will then either investigate the stated charges or commission a body to do so; following which at least two thirds of members must agree both that the President is guilty and that the charges warrant removal.[41]

Security and transport

Seán T. O'Kelly being escorted to his inauguration as President of Ireland in 1945
The Inauguration of Seán T. O'Kelly in 1945. The 2nd Cavalry Squadron of the Blue Hussars escort the President, who travelled in the late Queen Alexandra's landau. The Landau and the Hussars were later scrapped.

As head of state of Ireland, the President receives the highest level of protection in the state. Áras an Uachtaráin is protected by armed guards from the Garda Síochána and Defence Forces at all times, and is encircled by security fencing and intrusion detection systems. At all times the President travels with an armed security detail in Ireland and overseas, which is provided by the Special Detective Unit (SDU), an elite wing of the Irish police force. Protection is increased if there is a known threat. The Presidential limousine is a Mercedes-Benz S-Class LWB. The Presidential Limousine is dark navy blue and carries the Presidential standard on the left front wing and the tricolour on the right front wing. When travelling the Presidential limousine is always accompanied by support cars (normally BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Volvo S60 driven by trained drivers from the SDU) and several Garda motorcycle outriders from the Garda Traffic Corps which form a protective convoy around the car.

The President-elect is usually escorted to and from the ceremony by the Presidential Motorcycle Escort ceremonial outriders. Until 1947 they were a cavalry mounted escort, wearing light blue hussar-style uniforms. However to save money the first Inter-Party Government replaced the Irish horses by Japanese motorbikes, which the then Minister for Defence believed would be "much more impressive."

At the presidential inauguration in 1945, alongside the mounted escort on horseback, President-elect Seán T. O'Kelly rode in the old state landau of Queen Alexandra the Queen Mother. The use of the state carriage was highly popular with crowds. However an accident with a later presidential carriage at the Royal Dublin Society Horse show led to the abolition of the carriage and its replacement by a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith in 1947. The distinctive 1947 Rolls-Royce is still used to bring the President to and from the inauguration today.

The Presidential State Car is a 1947 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith landaulette, which is used only for ceremonial occasions.

The President also has the full use of all Irish Air Corps aircraft at his/her disposal if so needed, including helicopters and private jets.

History

The office of President was established in 1937, in part as a replacement for the office of Governor-General that existed during the 1922–37 Irish Free State. The seven-year term of office of the President was inspired by that of the presidents of Weimar Germany. At the time the office was established critics warned that the post might lead to the emergence of a dictatorship. However, these fears were not borne out as successive Presidents played a limited, largely apolitical role in national affairs.

Head of state from 1937 to 1949

During the period of 1937 to 1949 it was unclear whether the Irish head of state was actually the President of Ireland or George VI, the king of Ireland. This period of confusion ended in 1949 when the state was declared to be a republic. The 1937 constitution did not mention the king, but neither did it state that the president was head of state, saying rather that the president "shall take precedence over all other persons in the State". The president exercised some powers that could be exercised by heads of state but which could also be exercised by governors or governors-general, such as appointing the government and promulgating the law.

However, in 1936, George VI had been declared "King of Ireland" and, under the External Relations Act of the same year, it was this king who represented the state in its foreign affairs. Treaties, therefore, were signed in the name of the King of Ireland, who also accredited ambassadors and received the letters of credence of foreign diplomats. This role meant, in any case, that George VI was the Irish head of state in the eyes of foreign nations. The Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which came into force in April 1949, proclaimed a republic and transferred the role of representing the state abroad from the monarch to the president. No change was made to the constitution.

Evolving role

After the inaugural presidency of Douglas Hyde, who was an interparty nominee for the office, the nominees of the Fianna Fáil political party won every presidential election until 1990. The party traditionally used the nomination as a reward for its most senior and prominent members, such as party founder and longtime Taoiseach Éamon de Valera and European Commissioner Patrick Hillery. Most of its occupants to that time followed Hyde's precedent-setting conception of the presidency as a conservative, low-key institution that used its ceremonial prestige and few discretionary powers sparingly. In fact, the presidency was such a quiet position that Irish politicians sought to avoid contested presidential elections as often as possible, feeling that the attention such elections would bring to the office was an unnecessary distraction,[42] and office-seekers facing economic austerity would often suggest the elimination of the office as a money-saving measure.[43]

Despite the historical meekness of the presidency, however, it has been at the centre of some high-profile controversies. In particular, the fifth President, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, faced a contentious dispute with the government in 1976 over the signing of a bill declaring a state of emergency, which ended in Ó Dálaigh's resignation. His successor, Patrick Hillery, was also involved in a controversy in 1982, when then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald requested a dissolution of the Dáil Éireann. Hillery was bombarded with phone calls from opposition members urging him to refuse the request, an action that Hillery saw as highly inappropriate interference with the President's constitutional role and resisted the political pressure.

The presidency began to be transformed in the 1990s. Hillery's conduct regarding the dissolution affair in 1982 came to light in 1990, imbuing the office with a new sense of dignity and stability. However, it was Hillery's successor, seventh President Mary Robinson, who ultimately revolutionized the presidency. The winner of an upset victory in the highly controversial election of 1990, Robinson was the Labour nominee, the first President to defeat Fianna Fáil in an election and the first female President. Upon election, however, Robinson took steps to de-politicize the office. She also sought to widen the scope of the presidency, developing new economic, political and cultural links between the state and other countries and cultures, especially those of the Irish diaspora. Robinson used the prestige of the office to activist ends, placing emphasis during her presidency on the needs of developing countries, linking the history of the Great Irish Famine to today's nutrition, poverty and policy issues, attempting to create a bridge of partnership between developed and developing countries.[43]

Remuneration and expenses

After the 2018 presidential election the official salary or "personal remuneration" of the President will be 249,014.[44] The incumbent, Michael D. Higgins, chooses to receive the same salary although he is entitled to a higher figure of €325,507.[45][44] The President's total "emoluments and allowances" includes an additional €317,434 for expenses.[46] The Office of the President's total budget estimate for 2017 was €3.9 million, of which €2.6 million was for pay and running costs, and the balance for the "President's Bounty" paid to centenarians on their hundredth birthday.[47]

The salary was fixed at IR£5000 from 1938 to 1973, since when it has been calculated as 10% greater than that of the Chief Justice.[48] After the post-2008 Irish economic downturn most public-sector workers took significant pay cuts, but the Constitution prohibited a reduction in the salary of the President and the judiciary during their terms of office, in order to prevent such a reduction being used by the government to apply political pressure on them. While a 2011 Constitutional amendment allows judges' pay to be cut, it did not extend to the President, although incumbent Mary McAleese offered to take a voluntary cut in solidarity.[49][45]

Issues of controversy

Role of the President in relation to Northern Ireland

President wreath
The President's wreath (in green) laid at Ireland's Remembrance Day ceremonies in St. Patrick's Cathedral in 2005. Presidents have attended the ceremony since the 1990s.

The text of the Constitution of Ireland, as originally enacted in 1937, made reference in its Articles 2 and 3 to two geopolitical entities: a thirty-two county 'national territory' (i.e., the island of Ireland), and a twenty-six county 'state' formerly known as the Irish Free State. The implication behind the title 'President of Ireland' was that the President would function as the head of all Ireland. However, this implication was challenged by the Ulster Unionists and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland which was the state internationally acknowledged as having jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. Articles 2 and 3 were substantially amended in consequence of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Ireland in turn challenged the proclamation in the United Kingdom of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 as '[Queen] of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. The Irish government refused to attend royal functions as a result; for example, Patrick Hillery declined on Government advice to attend the wedding of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, to which he had been invited by Queen Elizabeth, just as Seán T. O'Kelly had declined on government advice to attend the 1953 Coronation Garden Party at the British Embassy in Dublin. Britain in turn insisted on referring to the President as 'President of the Republic of Ireland' or 'President of the Irish Republic'.[n 2] Letters of Credence from Queen Elizabeth, on the British government's advice, appointing United Kingdom ambassadors to Ireland were not addressed to the 'President of Ireland' but to the President personally (for example: 'President Hillery').

The naming dispute and consequent avoidance of contact at head of state level has gradually thawed since 1990. President Robinson (1990–97) chose unilaterally to break the taboo by regularly visiting the United Kingdom for public functions, frequently in connection with Anglo-Irish Relations or to visit the Irish emigrant community in Great Britain. In another breaking of precedent, she accepted an invitation to Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II. Palace accreditation supplied to journalists referred to the "visit of the President of Ireland". Between 1990 and 2010, both Robinson and her successor President McAleese (1997–2011) visited the Palace on numerous occasions, while senior members of the British royal family – The Prince of Wales, The Duke of York, The Earl of Wessex and The Duke of Edinburgh - all visited both Presidents of Ireland at Áras an Uachtaráin. The Presidents also attended functions with The Princess Royal. President Robinson jointly hosted a reception with the Queen at St. James's Palace, London, in 1995, to commemorate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Queen's Colleges in 1845 (the Queen's Colleges are now known as The Queen's University of Belfast, University College, Cork, and National University of Ireland, Galway). These contacts eventually led to a state visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland in 2011.

Though the President's title implicitly asserted authority in Northern Ireland, in reality the Irish President needed government permission to visit there. (The Constitution of Ireland in Article 3 explicitly stated that "[p]ending the re-integration of the national territory" the authority of the Irish state did not extend to Northern Ireland. Presidents prior to the presidency of Mary Robinson were regularly refused permission by the Irish government to visit Northern Ireland.)

However, since the 1990s and in particular since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the president has regularly visited Northern Ireland. President McAleese, who was the first President to have been born in Northern Ireland, continued on from President Robinson in this regard. In a sign of the warmth of modern British-Irish relations, she has even been warmly welcomed by most leading unionists. At the funeral for a child murdered by the Real IRA in Omagh she symbolically walked up the main aisle of the church hand-in-hand with the Ulster Unionist Party leader and then First Minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble. But in other instances, Mary McAleese had been criticised for certain comments, such as a reference to the way in which Protestant children in Northern Ireland had been brought up to hate Catholics just as German children had been encouraged to hate Jews under the Nazi regime, on 27 January 2005, following her attendance at the ceremony commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp.[50][51] These remarks caused outrage among Northern Ireland's unionist politicians, and McAleese later apologised[52] and conceded that her statement had been unbalanced.

Suggestions for reform

There have been many suggestions for reforming the office of President over the years. In 1996, the Constitutional Review Group recommended that the office of President should remain largely unchanged. However, it suggested that the Constitution should be amended to explicitly declare the President to be head of state (at present that term does not appear in the text), and that consideration be given to the introduction of a constructive vote of no confidence system in the Dáil, along the lines of that in Germany. If this system were introduced then the power of the President to refuse a Dáil dissolution would be largely redundant and could be taken away. The All-party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution's 1998 Report made similar recommendations.

In an October 2009 poll, concerning support for various potential candidates in the 2011 presidential election conducted by the Sunday Independent, a "significant number" of people were said to feel that the presidency is a waste of money and should be abolished.[53]

List of Presidents of Ireland

The functions of the President were exercised by the Presidential Commission from the coming into force of the Constitution on 29 December 1937 until the election of Douglas Hyde in 1938, and during the vacancies of 1974, 1976, and 1997.

No. Name
(Birth–Death)
Portrait Previous service Term of office Nominated by Election
1. Douglas Ross Hyde
(1860–1949)
Douglas Hyde - Project Gutenberg eText 19028 Senator
(1922–25, 1938)
25 June 1938 24 June 1945 Fianna Fáil 1938
Fine Gael
2. Seán Thomas O'Kelly
(1882–1966)
Sean T OKelly WhiteHouse 19390517 Tánaiste
(1932–1945)
25 June 1945 24 June 1959 Fianna Fáil 1945
Himself 1952
3. Éamon de Valera
(1882–1975)
Éamon de Valera, President of Ireland, in 1960s (43915959314) Taoiseach
(1932–1948, 1951–1954, 1957–1959)
25 June 1959 24 June 1973 Fianna Fáil 1959
Fianna Fáil 1966
4. Erskine Hamilton Childers
(1905–1974)
Tánaiste
(1969–1973)
25 June 1973 17 November 1974 Fianna Fáil 1973
5. Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh[54]
(1911–1978)
Chief Justice of Ireland
(1961–1973)
19 December 1974 22 October 1976 All-party nomination 1974
6. Patrick John Hillery
(1923–2008)
Irish President Patrick Hillery in the Netherlands 1986 (cropped) European Commissioner for Social Affairs
(1973–1976)
3 December 1976 2 December 1990 Fianna Fáil 1976
Fianna Fáil 1983
7. Mary Therese Winifred Bourke Robinson
(born 1944)
Mary Robinson, President of Ireland 1996 (cropped) Senator
(1969–1989)
3 December 1990 12 September 1997 Labour Party 1990
Workers' Party
Independent
8. Mary Patricia Leneghan McAleese
(born 1951)
Mary McAleese Reid Professor of Criminal law, Criminology and Penology
at Trinity College Dublin
11 November 1997 10 November 2011 Fianna Fáil 1997
Progressive Democrats
Herself 2004
9. Michael Daniel Higgins
(born 1941)
Michael D. Higgins 2006 Minister for Arts, Culture and Gaeltacht
(1993–1997)
11 November 2011 Incumbent Labour Party 2011
Himself 2018

Living former presidents

Currently, there are two living former presidents, both of them women, both of them first named Mary and both of them elected consecutively, presiding during almost 21 years in a row: Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese. Former presidents who are able and willing to act are members of the Council of State.[55]

Statistics

  • Douglas Hyde was the oldest president to enter office, aged 78.
  • Éamon de Valera was the oldest president to leave office, aged 90.
  • Mary McAleese was the youngest president to enter office, aged 46.
  • Mary Robinson was the youngest president to leave office, aged 53.
  • Erskine Childers, who died in office, had the shortest presidency of 511 days.
  • Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, who resigned, served for 674 days.
  • Four presidents have served for two terms, or fourteen years in total: Seán T. O'Kelly, Éamon De Valera, Patrick Hillery, and Mary McAleese.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ While Article 12.2.3º specifies "proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote", the Constitution Review Group and the All-Party Oireachtas Committee both recommend deleting "proportional representation", which does not apply to a single-winner election.
  2. ^ The office of "President of the Irish Republic" existed in the separatist Irish Republic of 1919–21.

References

  1. ^ Ryan, Philip (8 April 2018). "Revealed: How much the Office of the President costs over seven years". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Constitution of Ireland: Article 12.3
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Office of the President". www.president.ie. 2005. Retrieved 11 August 2007.
  4. ^ Constitution of Ireland: Article 13.4
  5. ^ Constitution of Ireland: Article 13.6
  6. ^ Criminal Procedure Bill, 1993: Report Stage Dáil debates, 30 November 1993
  7. ^ Petition for grant of pardon. Criminal Procedure Act, 1993; Irish Statute Book
  8. ^ "McCabe suspects excluded, says McDowell". RTÉ News. 9 November 2005. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  9. ^ Leaders’ Questions. Dáil debates, 30 November 2005
  10. ^ "Sinn Féin Withdraws Support for Amnesty Legislation". Bloomberg L.P. 21 December 2005. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  11. ^ Settle, Michael (12 January 2006). "Hain drops amnesty for fugitive killers; U-turn over Northern Ireland plan to free terrorists". The Herald. Glasgow. p. 11. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  12. ^ O'Mahony, Paul (March 2002). Criminal justice in Ireland. Institute of Public Administration. pp. 84–5. ISBN 978-1-902448-71-8. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  13. ^ "explanatory leaflet Proposed changes to the articles in the Constitution relating to the Death Penalty". Referendum Commission. 2001. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  14. ^ Red Cross Act, 1944 Irish Statute Book
  15. ^ Institute For Advanced Studies Act, 1940 Archived 19 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine Irish Statute Book
  16. ^ Central Bank Act, 1942 Archived 19 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine Irish Statute Book
  17. ^ Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003 Archived 19 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine Irish Statute Book
  18. ^ Ombudsman Act, 1980 Archived 19 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine Irish Statute Book
  19. ^ Garda Síochána Act 2005 Archived 19 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine Irish Statute Book
  20. ^ Chester Beatty Library Act, 1968 Irish Statute Book
  21. ^ Finance Act, 1985; §16: Gifts to the President's Award Scheme Irish Statute Book
  22. ^ On the President's behalf, Leo Varadkar, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, awarded "Companionship" in this Order of Clans of Ireland to several nominees at a ceremony in the Mansion House, Dublin on 28 April 2012.[1]
  23. ^ Constitution of Ireland: Article 12.9
  24. ^ Constitution of Ireland: Article 13.7
  25. ^ Fergus Finlay, Snakes & Ladders (New Island Books, 1998). p.91.
  26. ^ a b c Meetings of the Council of State Office of the President
  27. ^ In the matter of Article 26 of the Constitution and in the Matter of The Housing (Private Rented Dwellings) Bill, 1981 1983 IRSC 185–7
  28. ^ Constitution of Ireland: Article 22
  29. ^ a b Oireachtas Committee report, p.21
  30. ^ Presidential Elections Act, 1993 Archived 19 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine Irish Statute Book
  31. ^ In the Matter of Article 26 of the Constitution and in the Matter of The Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1983 Supreme Court
  32. ^ "Presidential Election in Ireland". Citizens Information Board Ireland. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  33. ^ a b c d e Constitution of Ireland: Article 12.4
  34. ^ Ó Cearúi, Micheál (1999). "Bunreacht na hÉireann: A study of the Irish text" (PDF). Dublin: Stationery Office. pp. 132–4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011.
  35. ^ McConnell, Daniel (16 December 2014). "Government clears way for referendum to reduce presidential candidate age to 21". Irish Independent. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  36. ^ "Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015 (Number 6 of 2015)". Bills 1997-2015. Oireachtas. 2015-01-22. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  37. ^ a b "Constitution of Ireland". Retrieved 13 May 2014. Article 12 of the Constitution of Ireland defines the exact duration of the President's term of office (date information italicised for the purpose of this footnote): 'Article 12.3.1: The President shall hold office for seven years from the date upon which he enters upon his office, unless before the expiration of that period he dies, or resigns, or is removed from office, or becomes permanently incapacitated, such incapacity being established to the satisfaction of the Supreme Court consisting of not less than five judges.' Also, 'Article 12.7: The first President shall enter upon his office as soon as may be after his election, and every subsequent President shall enter upon his office on the day following the expiration of the term of office of his predecessor or as soon as may be thereafter or, in the event of his predecessor's removal from office, death, resignation, or permanent incapacity established as provided by section 3 hereof, as soon as may be after the election.'
  38. ^ "National Anthem". Department of the Taoiseach. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  39. ^ Irish Constitution, Article 12.7
  40. ^ a b c Constitution of Ireland: Article 12.8
  41. ^ a b Constitution of Ireland: Article 12.10
  42. ^ Diarmaid Ferriter (2007). Uachtaráin - Mary McAleese (Television production) (in Irish). Dublin, Ireland: TG4. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  43. ^ a b Diarmaid Ferriter (2007). Uachtaráin - Mary Robinson (Television production) (in Irish). Dublin, Ireland: TG4. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  44. ^ a b "Statement from President Michael D. Higgins Regarding Voluntary Salary Reduction" (Press release). Office of the President. 1 December 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  45. ^ a b "Higher or lower: how does Michael D's new salary compare to other heads of state?". TheJournal.ie. 29 October 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  46. ^ €317,434 = IR£250,000 specified by "S.I. No. 67/1998 - Presidential Establishment Act, 1938 (Increase of Emoluments and Allowances) Order, 1998". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  47. ^ Kenny, Enda; Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach (16 February 2017). "Estimates for Public Services 2017 Vote 1 - President's Establishment (Revised)". Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees. KildareStreet.com. Retrieved 29 March 2018.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  48. ^ "Presidential Establishment Act, 1938, Section 1". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 29 March 2018.; "Presidential Establishment (Amendment) Act, 1973, Section 2". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  49. ^ "Judicial Remuneration". Association of Judges in Ireland. Retrieved 29 March 2018.; "Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Amendment) Act 2011, Section 12(2)". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  50. ^ "McAleese row over Nazi comments". BBC News. 28 January 2005. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  51. ^ BreakingNews.ie: Archives :2005-01-27
  52. ^ "McAleese 'sorry' over Nazi remark". BBC News. 29 January 2005. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  53. ^ Reilly, Jerome (11 October 2009). "Woman's place is still in the Aras -- poll". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  54. ^ His name is sometimes given in the alternative spelling of Carroll O'Daly. Harris M. Lentz, Heads of States and Governments Since 1945 (2014, ISBN 1134264909), p. 421
  55. ^ Constitution of Ireland: Article 31.2(ii)

Sources

  • "Constitution of Ireland". Department of the Taoiseach. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  • Constitution Review Group (July 1996). "Article XII – XIV: The President" (PDF). Report. Dublin: Stationery Office. pp. 19–28. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  • All-party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution (1998). The President (PDF). Progress Reports. 3. Dublin: Stationery Office. ISBN 978-0-7076-6161-2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2010.

Further reading

  • Coakley, John; Rafter, Kevin, eds. (2014). The Irish Presidency: Power, Ceremony and Politics. Irish Academic Press. ISBN 9780716532033.

External links

An Coimisinéir Teanga

The Coimisinéir Teanga (English: Language Commissioner) is an office created by the Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 (English: Official Languages Act) in the Republic of Ireland to promote and safeguard the respective language rights of Irish and English speakers in Ireland. The Coimisinéir is appointed by President of Ireland.

Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh

Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh (12 February 1911 – 21 March 1978; Irish pronunciation: [ˈcaɾˠwəlˠ oː ˈd̪ˠaːlˠə]) was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician, judge and barrister who served as the fifth President of Ireland from December 1974 to October 1976. He served as a Judge of the European Court of Justice from 1973 to 1974, Chief Justice of Ireland from 1961 to 1973, a Judge of the Supreme Court from 1953 to 1973 and Attorney General of Ireland from 1946 to 1948 and 1951 to 1953.

His name is sometimes given in the alternative spelling of Carroll O'Daly, which he also used during his legal career.

Coat of arms of Ireland

The coat of arms of Ireland is blazoned as Azure a Celtic Harp Or, stringed Argent (a gold harp with silver strings on a blue background). These arms have long been Ireland's heraldic emblem. References to them as being the arms of the king of Ireland can be found as early as the 13th century. These arms were adopted by Henry VIII of England when he ended the period of Lordship of Ireland and declared Ireland to be a kingdom again in 1541. When the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland were united in 1603, they were integrated into the unified royal coat of arms of kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. The harp was adopted as the emblem of the Irish Free State when it separated from the United Kingdom in 1922. They were registered as the arms of Ireland with the Chief Herald of Ireland on 9 November 1945.The depiction of the harp has changed over time. In the 17th century, during the period of the Kingdom of Ireland, the pillar of the harp began to be depicted as a bare-breasted woman. When the arms were restored as the arms of the independent Irish state in 1922, a late-medieval Gaelic harp (a cláirseach), the Trinity College Harp, was used as a model.

Several variants of the arms of Ireland exist, including a heraldic badge and an infrequently used crest and torse. The Lordship of Ireland, the medieval realm of Ireland that existed between 1171 and 1541 under the English crown, had a separate arms, which are blazoned Azure, three crowns in pale Or, bordure Argent (three golden crowns ordered vertically on a blue background with a white border). A variant of the arms of the ancient royal province of Meath were also apparently used at one time as the arms of Ireland.

Douglas Hyde

Douglas Ross Hyde (Irish: Dubhghlas de hÍde; 17 January 1860 – 12 July 1949), known as An Craoibhín Aoibhinn (lit. "the pleasant little branch"), was an Irish academic, linguist, scholar of the Irish language, politician and diplomat who served as the first President of Ireland from June 1938 to June 1945. He was a leading figure in the Gaelic revival, and first President of Gaelic League, one of the most influential cultural organisations in Ireland at the time.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle (Irish: Caisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath) is a major Irish government complex, conference centre, and tourist attraction. It is located off Dame Street in Dublin, Ireland.

Until 1922 it was the seat of the British government's administration in Ireland. Most of the current construction dates from the 18th century, though a castle has stood on the site since the days of King John, the first Lord of Ireland. The Castle served as the seat of English, then later British, government of Ireland under the Lordship of Ireland (1171–1541), the Kingdom of Ireland (1541–1800), and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1800–1922).

After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921, the complex was ceremonially handed over to the newly formed Provisional Government led by Michael Collins. It now hosts the inauguration of each President of Ireland, and various State receptions.

The castle was built by the dark pool ("Dubh Linn") which gave Dublin its name. This pool lies on the lower course of the River Poddle before its confluence with the River Liffey; when the castle was built, the Liffey was much wider, and the castle was effectively defended by both rivers. The Poddle today runs under the complex.

Erskine Hamilton Childers

Erskine Hamilton Childers (11 December 1905 – 17 November 1974) was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as the fourth President of Ireland from June 1973 to November 1974. He also served as Tánaiste and Minister for Health from 1969 to 1973, Minister for Transport and Power from 1959 to 1969, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs from 1951 to 1954 and 1966 to 1969, Minister without portfolio in July 1959, Minister for Lands from 1957 to 1959 and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government from 1944 to 1948. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1938 to 1973.His father Robert Erskine Childers, a leading Irish republican and author of the espionage thriller The Riddle of the Sands, was executed during the Irish Civil War.

Irish presidential election

The Irish presidential election determines who serves as the President of Ireland, the head of state of Ireland. The last election took place on 27 October 2018. Where only one candidate is nominated, that candidate is declared elected without a ballot; this has occurred on six occasions.

Martin McGuinness

James Martin Pacelli McGuinness (Irish: Séamus Máirtín Pacelli Mag Aonghusa; 23 May 1950 – 21 March 2017) was an Irish republican Sinn Féin politician who was the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland from May 2007 to January 2017.

A former Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader, McGuinness was the MP for Mid Ulster from 1997 until his resignation in 2013. Like all Sinn Féin MPs, McGuinness abstained from participation in the Westminster Parliament. Following the St Andrews Agreement and the Assembly election in 2007, as Sinn Féin's political leader in the North, he became deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland on 8 May 2007, with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley becoming First Minister. On 5 June 2008 he was re-appointed as deputy First Minister to serve alongside Peter Robinson, who succeeded Paisley as First Minister. McGuinness previously served as Minister of Education in the Northern Ireland Executive between 1999 and 2002. He was Sinn Féin's candidate for President of Ireland in the 2011 election.Working alongside US Special Envoy George Mitchell, McGuinness was also one of the main architects of the Good Friday Agreement which formally cemented the Northern Ireland peace process.On 9 January 2017, McGuinness resigned as deputy First Minister in a protest over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal. He announced on 19 January that he would not be standing for re-election to the Northern Ireland Assembly in the 2 March 2017 election due to ill health. He reportedly suffered from amyloidosis, a condition that attacks the vital organs, and retired shortly before his death on 21 March 2017, aged 66.

Mary McAleese

Mary Patricia McAleese (; née Leneghan; Irish: Máire Pádraigín Mhic Ghiolla Íosa; born 27 June 1951) is an Irish politician who served as the eighth President of Ireland from November 1997 to November 2011. She was the second female president of Ireland. McAleese was first elected in 1997, succeeding Mary Robinson, making her the first woman in the world to succeed another woman as president. She was reelected unopposed for a second term in office in 2004. On both occasions she was elected as an independent, although she was previously a member of Fianna Fáil. McAleese is the first president of Ireland to have come from either Northern Ireland or Ulster.McAleese graduated in Law from Queen's University Belfast. In 1975, she was appointed Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College, Dublin and in 1987, she returned to her alma mater, Queen's, to become director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. In 1994, she became the first female pro-vice-chancellor of Queen's University. She worked as a barrister and as a journalist with RTÉ. She is an Honorary Fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge.McAleese used her time in office to address issues concerning justice, social equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation. She described her presidency's theme as "Building Bridges". This bridge-building materialised in her attempts to reach out to the unionist community in Northern Ireland. These steps included celebrating the Twelfth of July at Áras an Uachtaráin and taking communion in a Church of Ireland cathedral in Dublin, for which she incurred some criticism from some of the Irish Catholic hierarchy. Though a practising Roman Catholic, McAleese holds liberal views on homosexuality and women priests. She is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders and was ranked the 64th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. In spite of some minor controversies, McAleese remained popular and her presidency is regarded as successful.

Michael D. Higgins

Michael Daniel Higgins (Irish: Mícheál Dónal Ó hUigínn; born 18 April 1941) is an Irish politician who has served as the President of Ireland since November 2011.

Higgins is a politician, poet, sociologist, and broadcaster. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Galway West constituency and was Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht from 1993 to 1997. He was the President of the Labour Party from 2003 until 2011, when he resigned following his election as President of Ireland.He has used his time in office to address issues concerning justice, social equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism, anti-racism and reconciliation. He made the first state visit by an Irish President to the United Kingdom in April 2014.

Higgins ran for a second term as President of Ireland in 2018 and was re-elected in a landslide victory. Higgins attained the largest personal mandate in the history of the Republic of Ireland, with 822,566 first preference votes. Higgins' second presidential inauguration took place on 11 November 2018.

Patrick Hillery

Patrick John Hillery (Irish: Pádraig J. Ó hIrghile; 2 May 1923 – 12 April 2008) was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as the sixth President of Ireland from December 1976 to December 1990. He also served as Vice-President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Social Affairs from 1973 to 1976, Minister for External Affairs from 1969 to 1973, Minister for Labour from 1966 to 1969, Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1965 to 1969 and Minister for Education from 1959 to 1965. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Clare constituency from 1951 to 1973. In 1973, he was appointed Ireland's first European Commissioner, upon Ireland's accession to the European Economic Community, serving until 1976, when he became President of Ireland. He served two terms in the presidency. Though seen as a somewhat lacklustre President, he was credited with bringing stability and dignity to the office, and won widespread admiration when it emerged that he had withstood political pressure from his own Fianna Fáil party during a political crisis in 1982.

Politics of the Republic of Ireland

Ireland is a parliamentary, representative democratic republic and a member state of the European Union. While the head of state is the popularly elected President of Ireland, it is a largely ceremonial position, with real political power being vested in the indirectly elected Taoiseach (leader of government), who is the head of the government.

Executive power is exercised by the government, which consists of no more than 15 cabinet ministers, inclusive of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste (the deputy leader of government). Legislative power is vested in the Oireachtas, the bicameral national parliament, which consists of Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and the President of Ireland. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The head of the judiciary is the Chief Justice, who presides over the Supreme Court.

While there are a number of political parties in the state, the political landscape has been dominated for decades by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, historically opposed and competing entities, which both occupy the traditional centre ground. From the 1930s until 2011 they were the largest and second-largest parties respectively. Both parties trace their roots back to the opposing sides of the Irish Civil War. The Labour Party, historically the state's third political party, has only ever been in power as part of a coalition with either of the two main parties. In 2011, there was a major political realignment in Ireland, with Fine Gael becoming the largest party, Labour the second, and Fianna Fáil dropping to third following a collapse in support, while Sinn Féin saw a substantial increase in support.

However, in 2016 Fianna Fáil managed to regain support and become the second-largest party, while Labour collapsed to fourth place following backlash over its role in the coalition government. Sinn Féin continued making gains, becoming the third-largest party, while Fine Gael remained the largest party, despite losing seats.

The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Ireland as a "full democracy" in 2016.

President of Ireland's Cup

The President of Ireland's Cup, also known simply as the President's Cup, is an association football super cup featuring clubs from the Republic of Ireland football league system. It is a play-off between the winners of the previous season's League of Ireland Premier Division and the FAI Cup. Because it is organised by the Football Association of Ireland, it is sometimes misleadingly referred to as the FAI President's Cup. However the president in the title refers to the President of Ireland and not the president of the FAI. The FAI has previously organised similar competitions, the Top Four Cup and the FAI Super Cup. A similarly named and formatted competition, the LFA President's Cup was organised by the Leinster Football Association.

Presidential Commission (Ireland)

The Presidential Commission (Irish: Coimisiún na hUachtaránachta) is the collective vice-presidency of Ireland.

Seán T. O'Kelly

Seán Thomas O'Kelly (Irish: Seán Tomás Ó Ceallaigh; 25 August 1882 – 23 November 1966), originally John T. O'Kelly, was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as the second President of Ireland from June 1945 to June 1959. He also served as Tánaiste from 1937 to 1945, Minister for Finance from 1939 to 1945, Minister for Local Government and Public Health from 1932 to 1939, Vice-President of the Executive Council from 1932 to 1937, Minister for Irish from 1920 to 1921 and Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann from 1919 to 1921. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1923 to 1945.

State visit of the President of Ireland to the United Kingdom

The State visit of the President of Ireland to the United Kingdom occurred on 7 April 2014. It was the first state visit of a President of Ireland to the United Kingdom. The visit came three years after the first state visit by a British monarch to Ireland following its independence.

President Michael D. Higgins and First Lady Sabina Higgins were welcomed by Queen Elizabeth II on 8 April at Windsor Castle on the first day of a four-day visit. The President attended a formal meeting with British prime minister David Cameron on the same day.He also met opposition party leaders at Westminster, and Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

Tánaiste

The Tánaiste (Irish pronunciation: [ˈt̪ˠaːn̪ˠəʃtʲə] (listen)) is the deputy head of the government of Ireland and thus holder of its second-most senior office. The Tánaiste is appointed by the President of Ireland on the advice of the Taoiseach. The current office holder is Simon Coveney, TD, who was appointed on 30 November 2017.

Áras an Uachtaráin

Áras an Uachtaráin ( (listen)), formerly the Viceregal Lodge, is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of Ireland. It is located off Chesterfield Avenue in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. The building, which has ninety-five rooms, was designed by Nathaniel Clements and completed in 1751.

Éamon de Valera

Éamon de Valera (; Irish pronunciation: [ˈeːmˠən̻ˠ dʲɛ ˈvˠalʲəɾʲə]; first registered as George de Valero; changed some time before 1901 to Edward de Valera; 14 October 1882 – 29 August 1975) was a prominent statesman and political leader in 20th-century Ireland. His political career spanned over half a century, from 1917 to 1973; he served several terms as head of government and head of state. He also led the introduction of the Constitution of Ireland.Prior to de Valera's political career, he was a Commandant at Boland's Mill during the 1916 Easter Rising, an Irish revolution that would eventually contribute to Irish independence. He was arrested, sentenced to death but released for a variety of reasons, including the public response to the British execution of Rising leaders. He returned to Ireland after being jailed in England and became one of the leading political figures of the War of Independence. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, de Valera served as the political leader of Anti-Treaty Sinn Fein until 1926, when he, along with many supporters, left the party to set up Fianna Fáil, a new political party which abandoned the policy of abstentionism from Dáil Éireann.

From there, de Valera would go on to be at the forefront of Irish politics until the turn of the 1960s. He took over as President of the Executive Council from W. T. Cosgrave and later Taoiseach, with the passing of Bunreacht Na hEireann (Irish constitution) in 1937. He would serve as Taoiseach on 3 occasions; from 1937 to 1948, from 1951 to 1954 and finally from 1957 to 1959. He remains the longest serving Taoiseach by total days served in the post. He resigned in 1959 upon his election as President of Ireland. By then, he had been Leader of Fianna Fáil for 33 years, and he, along with older founding members, began to take a less prominent role relative to newer ministers such as Jack Lynch, Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney. He would serve as President from 1959 to 1973, two full terms in office.

De Valera's political beliefs evolved from militant Irish republicanism to strong social, cultural and economic conservatism. He has been characterised by a stern, unbending, devious demeanor. His roles in the Civil War have also portrayed him as a divisive figure in Irish history. Biographer Tim Pat Coogan sees his time in power as being characterised by economic and cultural stagnation, while Diarmaid Ferriter argues that the stereotype of de Valera as an austere, cold and even backward figure was largely manufactured in the 1960s and is misguided.

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