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 can then run for re-election for another 7-year term but may not serve more than 2 terms.

The current President is Michael D. Higgins. He was inaugurated on 11 November 2011 and re-elected in 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 Ireland* 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.

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. Read more about registering to vote.

Who can run for President of Ireland?

To be eligible for election as President, you must be an Irish citizen who is 35 or older. You must be nominated either by:

  • At least 20 members of the Oireachtas
  • At least 4 local authorities
  • Former or retiring Presidents can nominate themselves

How does the presidential election work?

The election must take place within the 60 days before the current President's term of office expires. 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.

Most people will vote in person at their local polling station. Postal voting is available to certain people who may be unable to vote in person.

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. They also publish a report afterwards on the donations and spending of the presidential election. SIPO’s report on the 2018 presidential election is available to read.

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: 8 November 2021