Government of Ireland

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The Government of Ireland (Irish: Rialtas na hÉireann) is the cabinet that exercises executive authority in the Republic of Ireland.

Members of the government

The structure of the Government of Ireland is regulated by the Article 28 of the Constitution of Ireland and by the Ministers and Secretaries Acts 1924 to 2017[1]. The Government is headed by a prime minister called the Taoiseach. The deputy prime minister is called the Tánaiste, and is nominated by the Taoiseach from among the members of the Government.

The Government must consist of between seven and fifteen members, according to the Constitution of Ireland.[2] Every member of the Government must be a member of the parliament of Ireland, called the Oireachtas. No more than two members of the Government may be members of Seanad Éireann, the upper house of the Oireachtas.[3] Therefore, all other members of the Government must be members of Dáil Éireann, the lower house. The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Finance must be members of the Dáil.[4] In practice, however, the members of the Government are invariably members of the Dáil; only Seán Moylan who served in 1957 as Minister for Agriculture and James Dooge who served as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1981 to 1982 served from the Seanad. The 7 to 15 Members of Government are generally referred to as "the Cabinet".

The Taoiseach is nominated by the Dáil and formally appointed by the President. Other members of the Government are nominated by the Taoiseach, approved by Dáil Éireann, and appointed by the President. Members of the Government in charge of Department of State are designated "Ministers of Government" (before 1977 a "Minister of State").[5] For distinction, "Ministers of State" (known before 1977 as "Parliamentary Secretaries") — informally called "junior ministers" — are not members of Government. A Government Minister (before 1977 a "Minister of State") is usually in charge of a Department of State and thus technically a "Minister of Government". A minister without portfolio may be appointed to the Government who is not the head of a Department of State; this occurred in 1939 during the period of the Emergency when Frank Aiken served as Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures until 1945.

Non-members attending cabinet

Non members have no voting rights at Cabinet but may otherwise participate fully and normally receive circulated Cabinet Papers on the same basis as a full member of Government.

The Government is advised by the Attorney General, who is not formally a member of the Government, but who participates in cabinet meetings as part of their role as legal advisor to the Government.

The Chief Whip may attend meetings of the cabinet, but is not a member of the Government.[6]

In addition, the Government can choose other Ministers of State (junior ministers), who may attend cabinet meetings. This person is informally known as a Super Junior Minister".[6] The current (2016) Super Junior Ministers are Paul Kehoe and Finian McGrath.

Term of office

Normally, the Government serves in office until the nomination of a new Taoiseach by Dáil Éireann. The maximum term is 5 years by law, though the constitution allows seven. Most governments in recent years have served 4–5 years.

The Government must enjoy the confidence of Dáil Éireann if it is to remain in office. If the Taoiseach ceases "to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann", either Dáil Éireann must be dissolved or the Taoiseach must resign.[7] The President may refuse to grant a dissolution to a Taoiseach who does not enjoy the support of the Dáil, thus forcing the resignation of the Taoiseach.

When the Taoiseach resigns, the entire Government is deemed to have resigned as a collective. However, in such a scenario, according to the Constitution, "the Taoiseach and the other members of the Government shall continue to carry on their duties until their successors shall have been appointed". The Taoiseach can also direct the President to dismiss or accept the resignation of individual ministers.

Upon the dissolution of Dáil Éireann, ministers are no longer members of the Oireachtas, and therefore at first glance ineligible for office. However, under a different clause in the Constitution, they "shall continue to hold office until their successors shall have been appointed".[8]

Authority and powers

Unlike the cabinets in other parliamentary systems, the Government is both the de jure and de facto executive authority in Ireland. The Constitution explicitly vests executive authority in the Government, not the President. In other parliamentary regimes, the head of state is usually the nominal chief executive, though bound by convention to act on the advice of the cabinet.

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 the Dáil Éireann. In the case of "actual invasion", however, "the Government may take whatever steps they may consider necessary for the protection of the State"[9]
  • Treaties must be laid before Dáil Éireann.
  • The Government must act in accordance with the Constitution.

Government ministers are collectively responsible for the actions of the government. Each minister is responsible for the actions of his or her department. Departments of State do not have legal personalities. Actions of departments are carried out under the title of ministers even, as is commonly the case, when the minister has little knowledge of the details of these actions. This contradicts the rule in common law that a person given a statutory power cannot delegate that power.[10] This leads to a phrase in correspondence by government departments, "the Minister has directed me to write", on letters or documents that the minister in question may never have seen.

The functions of government ministers are frequently transferred between departments during cabinet reshuffles or after elections. On occasion, a ministerial position will cease to exist, as its powers are entirely transferred to another office. Such defunct ministerial positions include the Ministers for Labour, Posts and Telegraphs, Public Service and Supplies.

If the Government should fail to fulfill its constitutional duties, it may be ordered to do so by a court of law, by a writ of mandamus. Ministers who fail to comply may, ultimately, be found to be in contempt of court, and even imprisoned.

History

The First Government of Ireland took office on 29 December 1937 on the coming into force of the Constitution of Ireland. It was preceded by the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, which operated from 1922 to 1937 as the executive of the Irish Free State.

The detail and structure of the Government of Ireland had its legislative basis in the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924; it has been amended on a number occasions, and these may be cited together as the Ministers and Secretaries Acts 1924 to 2017 and are construed together as one Act.

All Governments from 1989 to 2016 were coalitions of two or more parties. The first coalition government was formed in 1948. The Taoiseach has always been a member of the largest party in the coalition. The Taoiseach has almost always been the leader of that party, with John A. Costello, Taoiseach from 1948 to 1951 and from 1954 to 1957, the only exception to this rule.

Public service

The public service in Ireland refers to the totality of public administration in Ireland. As of Q3, 2016 the total number of employees in the Irish public service stands at 304,472 people. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform defines the public service as comprising seven sectors: the Civil Service, Defence Sector, Education Sector, Health Sector, Justice Sector, Local Authorities and Non-Commercial State Agencies; such as Bord Bia, IDA Ireland and the Commission for Energy Regulation. Commercial state-owned bodies such as RTÉ, ESB Group and An Post are not considered part of the public service in Ireland.

The largest sector is the health sector with over 105,000 employees (largely in the Health Service Executive), followed by the education sector with approximately 98,450.[11]

Public service employees

Sector Employees
Civil Service 37,523
Defence Sector 9,549
Education Sector 98,450
Health Sector 105,885
Justice Sector 13,261
Local Authorities 27,188
NCSA 12,616
Total 304,475

Largest single public sector bodies by employees

Agency/Body Employees
Health Service Executive 67,145
Garda Síochána 13,261
Irish Defence Forces 9,549
Revenue Commissioners 6,039
Dublin City Council 5,330
Irish Prison Service 3,247

Civil service

The civil service of Ireland consists of two broad components, the Civil Service of the Government and the Civil Service of the State. While this partition is largely theoretical, the two parts do have some fundamental operational differences. The civil service is expected to maintain political impartiality in its work, and some parts of it are entirely independent of Government decision making.

Current Government of Ireland

Leo Varadkar was elected as Taoiseach by Dáil Éireann on 14 June 2017, and the Dáil approved the new government later that day.[12]

Office Name Party Term
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Fine Gael 2017–present
Minister for Defence
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald
Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney
Minister for Justice and Equality Charles Flanagan
Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys
Minister for Health Simon Harris
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed
Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring
Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty
Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten Independent
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone

See also

References

  1. ^ "Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924 (Section 2 – Ministers to be corporations sole and to have certain powers.)". Attorney General of Ireland. 1924. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  2. ^ Constitution of Ireland, Article 28, Section 1.
  3. ^ Constitution of Ireland, Article 28, Section 2, Subsection 2.
  4. ^ Constitution of Ireland, Article 28, Section 2, Subsection 1.
  5. ^ "Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 1977 (Section 4 – Amendment of Interpretation Act, 1937)". Attorney General of Ireland. 1937. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "The Appointments". The Irish Times. 11 March 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Constitution of Ireland, Article 28, Section 10.
  8. ^ Constitution of Ireland, Article 28, Section 11.
  9. ^ Constitution of Ireland, Article 28, Section 3.
  10. ^ Devanney v. Shields [1998] 1 IR 231
  11. ^ "Department of Public Expenditure & Reform - Databank - Public Service Numbers". Department of Public Expenditure & Reform. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  12. ^ "List of Ministers and Ministers of State". Department of An Taoiseach. Retrieved 8 August 2017. 

External links

  • Government of Ireland e-portal
  • Merrionstreet.ie Irish Government news service
  • List of ministers and ministers of state
  • Ireland's Government and Economy at EuroLearn.org
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