Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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.
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 '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.
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
- Quoted text is from Article 28, Section 10 of the Constitution of Ireland.
- See Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924 from IrishStatuteBook.ie.
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