Elections in the Republic of Ireland

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In Ireland, direct elections by universal suffrage are used for the President, the ceremonial head of state; for Dáil Éireann, the house of representatives of the Oireachtas or parliament; for the European Parliament; and for local government. All elections use the proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote (PR-STV) in constituencies returning three or more members, except that the presidential election and by-elections use the single-winner analogue of STV, elsewhere called instant-runoff voting or the alternative vote. Members of Seanad Éireann, the second house of the Oireachtas, are partly nominated, partly indirectly elected, and partly elected by graduates of particular universities.

Coalition governments have been the norm since 1989. Fine Gael (or its predecessor Cumann na nGaedheal) or Fianna Fáil have led every government since independence in 1922. Traditionally, Labour Party was the third party, although since 2016 it has been surpassed by Sinn Féin. Smaller parties and independents exist in the Dáil and more so in local government. At present, there are three Independent government ministers.

Eligibility to vote

Residents of the state who are Irish citizens or British citizens may vote in elections to the national parliament. Residents who are citizens of any EU state may vote in European Parliament elections, while any resident, regardless of citizenship, may vote in local elections.[1]

The right of Irish expatriates to vote is heavily restricted. Only members of the armed forces and diplomatic staff abroad may vote in Dáil elections, while only expatriates who are graduates of the National University of Ireland or Trinity College, Dublin may vote in Seanad elections to the university constituencies. However, in March 2017, the Taoiseach announced that a referendum would be held to amend the Constitution to allow expatriate Irish citizens to vote in presidential elections.[2]

Entitlement to vote is based on citizenship:

Resident citizens Local elections European elections Dáil Elections Presidential elections Referendums
Irish citizens Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
British citizens Yes Yes Yes No No
EU citizens Yes Yes No No No
Non-EU citizens Yes No No No No

Early voting

Military personnel, whether serving at home or abroad, vote by postal ballot. These votes are delivered by a courier service, usually a commercial one, but a military courier is used for ballots cast by Irish troops in Lebanon and Syria.[3] Voters living on islands off the west coast in Galway, Mayo, and Donegal traditionally voted two or three days before polling day, but in 2014 the gap was narrowed, when they voted just one day beforehand.[4]

General elections

Under the Constitution, the term of a Dáil is a maximum of seven years; statute law, currently the Electoral Act 1992, establishes a lower maximum of five years. Elections are by single transferable vote (STV), with each constituency returning between three and five deputies, each called a Teachta Dála or TD. Since 1981, constituencies have been redrawn by an independent Constituency Commission after each census.

Election Date President Party Days
1923 27 August 1923 W. T. Cosgrave Cumann na nGaedheal 1,382
Jun 1927 9 June 1927 98
Sep 1927 15 September 1927 1,615
1932 16 February 1932 Éamon de Valera Fianna Fáil 343
1933 24 January 1933 1,619
Election Date Taoiseach Party Days
1937 1 July 1937 Éamon de Valera Fianna Fáil 351
1938 17 June 1938 1,832
1943 23 June 1943 342
1944 30 May 1944 1,345
1948 4 February 1948 John A. Costello Fine Gael 1,211
Labour Party
Clann na Poblachta
Clann na Talmhan
National Labour
1951 30 May 1951 Éamon de Valera Fianna Fáil 1,084
1954 18 May 1954 John A. Costello Fine Gael 1,022
Labour Party
Clann na Talmhan
1957 5 March 1957 Éamon de Valera Fianna Fáil 1,674
1961 4 October 1961 Seán Lemass 1,281
1965 7 April 1965 1,533
1969 18 June 1969 Jack Lynch 1,351
1973 28 February 1973 Liam Cosgrave Fine Gael 1,569
Labour Party
1977 16 June 1977 Jack Lynch Fianna Fáil 1,456
1981 11 June 1981 Garret FitzGerald Fine Gael 252
Labour Party
Feb 1982 18 February 1982 Charles Haughey Fianna Fáil 279
Nov 1982 24 November 1982 Garret FitzGerald Fine Gael 1,546
Labour Party
1987 17 February 1987 Charles Haughey Fianna Fáil 849
1989 15 June 1989 Fianna Fáil 1,259
Progressive Democrats
1992 25 November 1992 Albert Reynolds Fianna Fáil 1,654
Labour Party
15 December 1994 John Bruton Fine Gael
Labour Party
Democratic Left
1997 6 June 1997 Bertie Ahern Fianna Fáil 1,806
Progressive Democrats
2002 17 May 2002 Fianna Fáil 1,833
Progressive Democrats
2007 24 May 2007 Fianna Fáil 1,343
Green Party
Progressive Democrats
7 May 2008 Brian Cowen Fianna Fáil
Green Party
2011 25 February 2011 Enda Kenny Fine Gael 1,803
Labour Party
2016 26 February 2016 Fine Gael 988 to date
14 June 2017 Leo Varadkar Fine Gael


Year Dissolution Dáil Nominations Polling Day Polling Date First Meeting
1918 25 November[nb 1] 1st 4 December Saturday 14 December 21 January 1919
1921 10 May[nb 2] 2nd 13 May Tuesday 24 May 16 August
1922 8 June[nb 3] 3rd 6 June Friday 16 June 9 September
1923 9 August 4th 18 August Monday 27 August 19 September
1927 23 May 5th 1 June Thursday 9 June 23 June
1927 25 August 6th 3 September Thursday 15 September 11 October
1932 29 January 7th 8 February Tuesday 16 February 9 March
1933 2 January 8th 11 January Tuesday 24 January 8 February
1937 14 June 9th Thursday 1 July 21 July
1938 27 May 10th 7 June Friday 17 June 30 June
1943 26 May 11th 9 June Wednesday 23 June 1 July
1944 10 May 12th 19 May Tuesday 30 May 9 June
1948 12 January 13th Wednesday 4 February 18 February
1951 7 May 14th 17 May Wednesday 30 May 13 June
1954 24 April 15th 4 May Tuesday 18 May 2 June
1957 12 February 16th 21 February Tuesday 5 March 20 March
1961 15 September 17th Wednesday 4 October 11 October
1965 18 March 18th Wednesday 7 April 21 April
1969 22 May 19th Wednesday 18 June 2 July
1973 5 February 20th Wednesday 28 February 14 March
1977 25 May 21st Thursday 16 June 5 July
1981 21 May 22nd Thursday 11 June 30 June
1982 27 January 23rd Thursday 18 February 9 March
1982 4 November 24th Wednesday 24 November 14 December
1987 21 January 25th Tuesday 17 February 10 March
1989 25 May 26th Thursday 15 June 29 June
1992 5 November 27th Wednesday 25 November 14 December
1997 15 May 28th 26 May Friday 6 June 26 June
2002 25 April 29th 3 May Friday 17 May 6 June
2007 29 April 30th 9 May Thursday 24 May 14 June
2011 1 February 31st 9 February Friday 25 February 9 March
2016 3 February 32nd 11 February Friday 26 February 10 March
  1. ^ The dissolution is of the 1910–1918 Parliament of the United Kingdom. The polling day relates to the territorial constituencies only. The result in those constituencies were declared on 28 December, to allow time for votes by members of the Armed Forces to be sent to the Returning Officers. The University constituencies voted as follows: University of Dublin polling 16–20 December, declaration 21 December; National University of Ireland polling 18–22 December, declaration 23 December and Queen's University of Belfast polling 16–20 December, declaration 20 December.
  2. ^ The dissolution is the date of the last meeting of the First Dáil. A resolution passed at that meeting provided for the Dáil to be dissolved on the assembling of the Second Dáil. The nominations date applied to all constituencies except National University of Ireland whose nominations closed on 14 May 1921.
  3. ^ The dissolution is the date of the last meeting of the Second Dáil in the view of the Ministry of Dáil Éireann. It is not clear when or if that Dáil was formally dissolved for the purposes of the laws of the Irish Republic: There was a dispute between pro– and anti–Anglo-Irish Treaty members of Sinn Féin about whether the Third Dáil was the legitimate successor of the Second Dáil. A resolution of the Second Dáil, passed on 20 May 1922, provided for a partial general election with the Deputies from the six counties of Northern Ireland continuing in office. The position for the purposes of British law is clear: On 27 May 1922, the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State issued a proclamation calling an election on 16 June 1922 for the "Provisional Parliament pursuant to the Free State (Agreement) Act" and not for the Third Dáil. The Provisional Government's proclamation made no mention of Northern Ireland. Lord Fitzalan, later in the day, declared that the Parliament of Southern Ireland was dissolved and "I hereby call a Parliament to be known as and styled the Provisional Parliament".[5] The nominations date applied to all constituencies except Dublin University whose nominations closed on 8 June 1922. The polling days for National University of Ireland were 12–15 June 1922, with the declaration being made on 16 June 1922. The date of the first meeting was originally to have been 1 July 1922. The Dáil was prorogued on five occasions and eventually met on 9 September 1922. In practice no representatives from Northern Ireland tried to participate in the Third Dáil, so the provisional government proclamation seems to have prevailed over the Second Dáil resolution.

European elections

Elections to the European Parliament are held simultaneously across Europe every five years. In Ireland, as for Dáil elections, STV is used in constituencies returning three to five members.

Local elections

Local elections are held on the same day as European elections. Local electoral areas (LEAs) return between six and ten councillors by STV. Until the Local Government Reform Act 2014, separate county councils and borough/town councils were elected in parallel. The 2014 act replaced borough and town councils with municipal district councils comprising the county councillors from the LEA coterminous with the district.

Some members of Údarás na Gaeltachta were directly elected by Gaeltacht residents between 1980 and 2012, since then all have been appointed by the government.[6][7]

Presidential elections

The President of Ireland is formally elected by the citizens of Ireland once in every seven years, except in the event of premature vacancy, when an election must be held within sixty days. The President is directly elected by secret ballot under the system of the instant-runoff voting (although the Constitution describes it as the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote). While both Irish and British citizens resident in the state may vote in Dáil elections, only Irish citizens, who must be at least eighteen years of age, may vote in the election of the President. The presidency is open to all citizens of the state who are at least 35. A candidate must, however be nominated by one of the following:

  • Twenty members of the Oireachtas (Dáil or Seanad).
  • Four local authorities.
  • Themselves (in the case of an incumbent or former president that has served only one term).

Where only one candidate is nominated, that candidate is declared elected without a ballot. No one may serve as President for more than two terms.


The Constitution of Ireland recognises two types of referendums:

  • On a proposed amendment to the Constitution, for which a referendum is always required, and the amendment is defeated by a majority of those voting;
  • An "ordinary referendum", on a bill other than an amendment to the Constitution, for which a referendum is only required on petition of Oireachtas members, and the bill is defeated by a majority of those eligible to vote;

There have been 38 referendums for amendments to the Constitution of Ireland. There have been no ordinary referendums.

For a proposal to change the name of a place, a "plebiscite" is required of "ratepayers": that is, residents of the place and businesses paying rates for property there. Such a plebiscite is carried out by the local authority via a postal vote.[8] In a County Cork town, Charleville was chosen in a 1989 four-option plebiscite ahead of Ráth Luirc, An Rath, and Rathgoggan.[9][10] The Official Languages Act 2003 prevented the plebiscite provision applying to places in the Gaeltacht, and so a 2005 plebiscite to change the name of Dingle, County Kerry was ruled invalid; in 2011 the 2003 act was amended to remove the anomaly.[11] The 2011 amendment also changes the electorate from ratepayers to local government electors, but has not yet been commenced.[12]

See also


  1. ^ "System seems complicated but your vote really does matter". Irish Independent. 23 May 2014.
  2. ^ Ruth, Maguire. "Announcement by the Taoiseach on Voting Rights in Presidential Elections for Irish Citizens outside the State". www.taoiseach.gov.ie. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  3. ^ "Our peacekeepers among first to cast votes". Irish Independent. 23 May 2014.
  4. ^ "Defence Forces helicopter glitch delays island poll". Irish Independent. 23 May 2014.
  5. ^ Source: Macardle (1999), pg 718 and DCU Website. Archived 12 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "Údarás na Gaeltachta Act, 1979, Section 29". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  7. ^ "Gaeltacht Act 2012, Schedule". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  8. ^ "S.I. No. 31/1956 - Local Government (Changing of Place Names) Regulations, 1956". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 19 April 2018.; "Proposed Change Of Name Of A Locality (Palmerston Village To Palmerstown Village)" (PDF). South Dublin County Council. 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2018. In accordance with Section 79 of the Local Government Act 1946 and the Local Government (Changing of Place Names Regulations) 1956 (as amended by Section 67 of Local Government Act 1994); Brophy, Daragh (13 January 2015). "Palmerston or Palmerstown? ... Residents have voted on a name change". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  9. ^ Hogan, Dick (11 December 1989). "King Charles wins handsome majority". p. 4.
  10. ^ Ferrie, Liam (17 December 1989). "Bits and Pieces". The Irish Emigrant. Archived from the original on 26 May 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2015. The people of the north Cork town of Rath Luirc (or Charleville, or An Rath, or Rathgoggan) have voted to use the name Charleville for their town. Road signs in the area will be replaced.
  11. ^ "Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011, Section 48". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 20 April 2018.; "Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011: Instruction to Committee". Dáil Éireann Debates. Oireachtas. 21 July 2011. Vol.739 No.4 p.22. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  12. ^ "Local Government Act 2001 Revised". Revised Acts. Law Reform Commission. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 20 April 2018. Prospective amending provision: section substituted by Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 (20/2011), s. 48, not commenced as of date of revision; amended by Local Government Reform Act 2014 (1/2014) as per F-note above.

External links

  • Citizens Information: Elections and referenda
  • Adam Carr's Election Archive
  • Parties and elections
  • NSD: European Election Database – Ireland publishes regional level election data; allows for comparisons of election results, 1992–2007
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