Presidential elections in Ireland

Introduction

The President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann) is elected directly by the people of Ireland for a term of 7 years. The President may then serve a second term, but cannot serve for more than 14 years altogether.

The current President is Michael D. Higgins, who was inaugurated on 11 November 2011. His 7-year term ends shortly and an election will take place on Friday 26 October 2018.

Who can vote in a presidential election?

To vote in a presidential election, you must be:

  • An Irish citizen
  • Aged 18 or over
  • Ordinarily resident in the State* and
  • Registered to vote

* there are special arrangements for Irish officials on duty abroad (and their spouses or civil partners) who may register on the Postal Voters List. Read more in our document Registering to vote.

You can use checktheregister.ie to see if you are currently registered to vote. If you are not registered, you can apply to be added to the supplement to the relevant register. For the presidential election on Friday 26 October 2018, the local authority must have received your application by the following dates:

  • Monday 1 October 2018 for the supplement to the Postal Voters List
  • Monday 1 October 2018 for the supplement to the Special Voters List
  • Tuesday 9 October 2018 for the supplement to the Register of Electors

Who can run for President of Ireland?

To be eligible for election as President, you must be an Irish citizen and must have reached the age of 35. You must be nominated in one of the following ways:

  • By at least 20 members of the Oireachtas
  • By at least 4 local authorities
  • By yourself, if you are a former or retiring President (but you cannot serve more than 2 terms)

How does the presidential election work?

The election must take place by the date on which the current President's term of office expires but may not take place more than 60 days before this. If the current President resigns, becomes incapacitated, is removed or dies, then an election must be held within the following 60 days.

Voting is by secret ballot and based on proportional representation by the single transferable vote.

If only one candidate is nominated for the office of President, an election is not needed. This happened in November 2004, when Mary McAleese was inaugurated as President for a second term without an election, as she was the only candidate.


How much can a candidate spend?

The spending limit is €750,000 per candidate. If a candidate is elected, or gets more than 25% of the quota in the election, they can be reimbursed up to €200,000 from the State. Each candidate’s election agent must tell the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) how much the candidate spent.

There are also strict limits on the value of donations to candidates and each candidate’s election agent must report details of donations to SIPO.

SIPO publishes guidelines in advance of a presidential election. To ensure compliance with the guidelines and the legislation, SIPO carries out spot-checks on the statements from election agents. It then publishes a report on the presidential election.

SIPO’s report on the 2011 presidential election is on sipo.gov.ie.

Further information

There is more information about presidential elections on housing.gov.ie, including a detailed booklet (pdf) on how the President is elected.

You can read more about the role and functions of the President in our documents and on president.ie.

Page edited: 7 September 2018