Irish Government

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The Government (Irish: Rialtas) is the cabinet that exercises executive authority in the Republic of Ireland. The Government is headed by a prime minister called the Taoiseach, and a deputy prime minister called the Tánaiste. The Taoiseach is appointed by the President after being designated by Dáil Éireann (the lower house of parliament). The President then appoints the remaining ministers after they have been chosen by the Taoiseach and approved by the Dáil. The Government must enjoy the confidence of the Dáil if it is to remain in office.

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Government Buildings, Dublin
Contents

Overview

The Constitution of Ireland is unusual among republican constitutions in that it does not make the President at least the nominal chief executive officer, but rather explicitly vests executive authority in the Government. The Irish cabinet is therefore not referred to as His or Her Excellency's Government. Under the constitution the Government must consist of between seven and fifteen members. Every member of the Government must be a member of the Oireachtas (parliament), but no more than two members may be chosen from the Senate, and the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister of Finance must all be members of the Dáil. The Government is advised by the Attorney-General who is not formally a member of the Government but participates in its meetings. Members of the Government are also assisted by Ministers of State who are nonetheless not part of the cabinet and do not take part in its meetings.

In the event that the Taoiseach ceases "to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann" there must either be a dissolution of the Dáil or the Taoiseach must resign1. The President may, however, refuse to grant a dissolution to a Taoiseach who does not enjoy the support of the Dáil, and thus force their resignation. When the Taoiseach resigns, the entire Government is deemed to have vacated office collectively. The Taoiseach can also direct the President to dismiss or accept the resignation of individual ministers. In any circumstance in which the Taoiseach or cabinet have been removed from office, however, they continue to exercise their powers until a successor, or successors, have been appointed. The executive authority of the Government is subject to certain limitations. In particular:

  • The state may not declare war, or participate in a war, without the consent of Dáil Éireann.
  • Treaties must be ratified by the Dáil.
  • The Government must act in accordance with the constitution.

If the Government fails to fulfill its constitutional duties, it may be ordered to do so by a court of law, by writ of mandamus. Ministers who fail to comply may, ultimately, be found to be in contempt of court, and even imprisoned.

26th Government (2002-present)

Main article: Government of the 29th Dáil

The current Cabinet (as of September 29, 2004) consists of:

Portfolio Minister
An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
An Tánaiste Mary Harney
Minister for Finance Brian Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern
Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform Michael McDowell
Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment Micheál Martin
Minister for Agriculture & Food Mary Coughlan
Minister for Arts, Sport & Tourism John O'Donoghue
Minister for Communications, Marine & Natural Resources Noel Dempsey
Minister for Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív
Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea
Minister for Education & Science Mary Hanafin
Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government Dick Roche
Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney
Minister for Transport Martin Cullen
Minister for Social & Family Affairs Séamus Brennan
Government Chief Whip Tom Kitt

Civil Service

The 'Civil Service of the Government' is the body of civil servants which advise and carry out the work of the Government. Each minister is responsible for a 'Department of State', of which there are fifteen (one for each assigned portfolio). As well as this, there may also be a number of Ministers of State assigned to a department. The permanent head of a department is known as the Secretary-General (equivilant to a Permanent Secretary in the British Civil Service). The head of the civil service is the Secretary-General to the Government, who is also Secretary-General of the Department of the Taoiseach. Most civil service positions are recruited openly by the Public Appointments Service (formerly the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission). It has become practice in recent times for some outside advisors to also work in government departments, such as 'programme managers', however this tends to differ from Government to Government.

One notable aspect of the Irish system is that ministers are 'corporations sole' - the department does not exist as a legal entity separate to the minister. This leads to the oft quoted phrase in correspondence with Irish Government departments - "the Minister has directed me to write" - on many letters or documents that the minister in question may in fact have never seen.

Origins

The Government was created by the 1937 Constitution of Ireland; the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924 and amendments, contains the detailed provisions regarding status and functions of the government in general2. The Government was preceded by the Executive Council of the 1922-1937 Irish Free State.

A number of government minister positions no longer exist, as distinct from renaming which occurs frequently, their powers are tranfered to other ministers - these "defunct" ministers are: Communications, Labour, Posts & Telegraphs, Public Service and Supplies. The office of Minister without portfolio has also being held several times, but not since 1977.

Since the 1990s it has been common for Irish cabinets to consist of coalitions of two or more parties, although coalitions have existed previous to this. The position of Tánaiste is often held by the smallest of the two largest coalition government partners.

List of Governments

See also: Irish cabinets since 1919

Dáil Election/formed Government Taoiseach Tánaiste Parties
9th 1937 election 1st Government Eamon de Valera Seán T. O'Kelly Fianna Fáil
10th 1938 election 2nd Government " " Fianna Fáil
11th 1943 election 3nd Government " " Fianna Fáil
12th 1944 election 4th Government " " Fianna Fáil
13th 1948 election 5th Government John A. Costello William Norton Fine Gael, Labour,
Clann na Poblachta, Clann na Talmhan,
National Labour
14th 1951 election 6th Government Eamon de Valera Sean Lemass Fianna Fáil
15th 1954 election 7th Government John A. Costello William Norton Fine Gael, Labour, Clann na Talmhan
16th 1957 election 8th Government Eamon de Valera Sean Lemass Fianna Fáil
1959 9th Government Sean Lemass Seán MacEntee Fianna Fáil
17th 1961 election 10th Government " " Fianna Fáil
18th 1965 election 11th Government " Frank Aiken Fianna Fáil
1966 12th Government Jack Lynch " Fianna Fáil
19th 1969 election 13th Government " Erskine H. Childers Fianna Fáil
20th 1973 election 14th Government Liam Cosgrave Brendan Corish Fine Gael, Labour
21st 1977 election 15th Government Jack Lynch George Colley Fianna Fáil
1979 16th Government Charles J. Haughey " Fianna Fáil
22nd 1981 election 18th Government Garret FitzGerald Michael O'Leary Fine Gael, Labour
23rd 1982 (Feb) election 18th Government Charles J. Haughey Ray MacSharry Fianna Fáil
24th 1982 (Nov) election 19th Government Garret FitzGerald Dick Spring Fine Gael, Labour
25th 1987 election 20th Government Charles J. Haughey Brian Lenihan Fianna Fáil
25th 1989 election 21st Government " " Fianna Fáil, Progressive Democrats
26th 1992 22nd Government Albert Reynolds John P. Wilson Fianna Fáil, Progressive Democrats
27th 1992 election 23rd Government " Dick Spring Fianna Fáil, Labour
1994 Rainbow Coalition 24th Government John Bruton " Fine Gael, Labour, Democratic Left
28th 1997 election 25th Government Bertie Ahern Mary Harney Fianna Fáil, Progressive Democrats
29th 2002 election 26th Government " " Fianna Fáil, Progressive Democrats

Footnotes

  1. Quoted text is from Article 28, Section 10 of the Constitution of Ireland.
  2. See Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924 (http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/1924_16.html) from IrishStatuteBook.ie (http://www.irishstatutebook.ie).

See also

External link


Government of Ireland Government of Ireland
An Taoiseach (Prime Minister) | An Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) edit  (http://footwww.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php?title=Template:GovernmentofIreland&action=edit)

Agriculture & Food | Arts, Sport & Tourism | Communications, Marine & Natural Resources | Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs | Defence | Education & Science | Enterprise, Trade & Employment | Environment, Heritage & Local Government | Finance | Foreign Affairs | Health & Children | Justice, Equality & Law Reform | Social & Family Affairs | Transport


Defunct:
Communications | Co-Ordination of Defensive Measures | Labour | Lands | Posts & Telegraphs | Public Service | Supplies

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