President of Ireland
The President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann) is the head of State, as set out in Articles 12-14 of the Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann). The President is elected directly by the people of Ireland.
The President’s term of office is 7 years and they may not serve more than 2 terms. The official residence is Áras an Uachtaráin, which is in the Phoenix Park in Dublin.
As head of State, the President has several important functions, which are outlined in our document Functions of the President.
The Constitution sets out how the President is elected and inaugurated, and what situations would lead to the President being removed. It also provides for the Council of State and the Presidential Commission, which both have important functions in relation to the President’s role.
Council of State
Article 31 of the Constitution provides for a Council of State, to help and advise the President when consulted. The Council of State has 3 categories of members:
- Ex-officio members: these are members by virtue of their office. They are the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal, the President of the High Court, the Ceann Comhairle (Chairperson) of Dáil Éireann, the Cathaoirleach (Chairperson) of Seanad Éireann and the Attorney General.
- Former office-holders: these include every former President, Taoiseach and Chief Justice who is able and willing to act.
- Members appointed by the President: the President can appoint up to 7 members, whose term on the Council of State can last for as long as the President is in office. The President can decide to end the appointment of any of these members.
The President must consult with the Council of State before exercising certain functions. For example, they must consult with the Council of State before convening a meeting of one or both Houses of the Oireachtas. The President must also consult with the Council of State in order to exercise some of their powers in relation to legislation.
Article 14 of the Constitution provides for a Commission to perform the functions of the President in certain situations – if the President is absent, becomes incapacitated, resigns, is removed from office, dies or fails to perform their functions.
The members of the Presidential Commission are the Chief Justice, the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad. If any member is unable to act, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Leas (Deputy) Ceann Comhairle and the Leas (Deputy) Cathaoirleach, respectively, can act as a member instead. Any 2 of the members can carry out the President’s functions when required.
The Commission frequently acts when the President is abroad - for example, by signing Bills into law. It has also appointed members of the Government (on the nomination of the Taoiseach and after approval by Dáil Éireann). It can also dissolve Dáil Éireann on the advice of the Taoiseach – this happened in 1992, when the President was abroad.
Inauguration of the President
After a presidential election, the candidate who has won becomes President of Ireland by publicly making the declaration set out in Article 12(8) of the Constitution. If a former or retiring President is re-elected unopposed, they make the declaration for a second time. This happened when Mary McAleese became President for a second term in 2004.
The President is inaugurated in St Patrick's Hall in Dublin Castle and makes the declaration in the presence of members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, the judges of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court and other public persons.
End of the President’s term of office
The President’s full term of office is 7 years and they are no longer President when the term ends. However, if re-elected, they can serve a second term.
The President can choose to resign at any time – this happened when Mary Robinson resigned in 1997.
There are also 2 situations when the President may be removed from office. The first is where at least 5 Supreme Court judges decide that the President has become permanently incapacitated. The second is where the President is impeached by either House of the Oireachtas for stated misbehaviour. Stated misbehaviour might include a criminal offence or a misuse of the President's powers. Article 12 (10) of the Constitution sets out the procedures for impeachment.