Who has the right to decide when the election takes place?


Amid the current sometimes fevered speculation over the date of the election to the 32nd Dáil, one constant refrain is that the timing of the election is the prerogative of the Taoiseach. Members of Fine Gael, while they might express a personal preference, are punctilious in adding that ‘of course’ it is entirely up to the Taoiseach when the election takes place. More surprisingly, Labour TDs also seem to defer to this notion.

In some ways this is natural enough. After all, the Constitution states quite categorically: ‘Dáil Éireann shall be summoned and dissolved by the President on the advice of the Taoiseach.’ (Article 13.2.1). The Taoiseach does not need to consult, let alone secure the agreement of, anyone else, be that the Tánaiste, the government, the Dáil, the Council of State, or the parliamentary party. Hence, if Enda Kenny, today or at any time over the next five months, were to travel up to the Park and advise the President to dissolve the Dáil, that would settle the matter.

Yet perhaps things are not quite so straightforward. After all, constitutions consist not only of what is written therein but also of interpretations and of conventions that have developed about how the political process is to be conducted. Conventions are not as rigid as the words of a constitution and thus can change over time in response to events or to changing beliefs about how politics should be carried on, but nonetheless they carry weight while they last. What is written in a constitution might in reality give a partial or unrealistic view of what actually happens, and political practice might be rather different from what a literal reading of the constitution would imply.

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Upcoming Workshop: Electoral Management Policies and Priorities

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Electoral Management Policies and Priorities

On 16 October 2015, there will be a half-day workshop looking at electoral management practices in Ireland and abroad. The programme includes election specialists working on electoral management bodies, voter registration and the regulation of political parties. The workshop is taking place in the Metropole Hotel in Cork and everyone is welcome. Please email Dr Theresa Reidy on t.reidy@ucc.ie to confirm attendance (for catering purposes). The event is funded by a grant from the Irish Research Council under the New Foundations Scheme. Continue reading

On the same-sex marriage and presidential age referendums

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By Michael Gallagher

The expectation was that the same-sex marriage referendum would deliver a comfortable Yes and the vote on reducing the minimum age for the president an equally decisive No, and that’s just how it worked out. The latter achieved the distinction of delivering the lowest Yes vote (only 27 per cent) of any of the 39 referendums held in this country to date but will otherwise be remembered only for being entirely forgettable, and the puzzle for future historians will be to work out how it ever got onto the ballot paper, given that no-one seemed sufficiently motivated to put together a leaflet or a poster about it, let alone canvass for it.

The same-sex marriage referendum, in contrast, evidently reached parts of the body politic that referendum proposals don’t usually get to. Turnout was just over 60 per cent, the highest since the divorce referendum of November 1995, implying that the issue at stake seemed to the electorate to be more important than the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the Nice and Lisbon Treaties, the election of a president in 1997 and 2011, and even, remarkable as it may seem, the possible abolition of the Seanad. Continue reading

A tale of two referendums


On Friday the Irish will vote on two issues. Both are being sold as reforms, one a social reform, the other a political reform. Both can be said to have come from the the ‘People’ via the Constitutional Convention. If polls are even broadly accurate one will pass comfortably, the other will be easily defeated.

Why will the marriage referendum pass and the proposal to lower the age of eligibility for election to the office of the President be defeated? The major difference is the genesis of the proposals. The marriage referendum is a result of years of campaigning Continue reading

Is Miliband inadvertently helping Scottish independence?

Salmond Miliband Call The Tune (3)

There are now so many red lines laid down during the UK general election that forming a coalition is going to resemble a scene from Mission Impossible. SNP won’t support the Tories, UKIP won’t support Labour, Sinn Féin won’t support (or oppose) anyone,… Most of this is just electioneering. Even the one party that’s keeping options reasonably open – the LibDems – is giving mixed messages probably in the hope it can save a few seats by appealing to Tory or Labour supporters that a vote for them in key marginals could help keep Labour or the Tories out of power.

Labour on the other hand has firmly ruled out ANY deal with the SNP. Again this is electioneering. It’s simultaneously hoping that it can convince Scottish voters that a vote for Labour is the only way to ditch the Tories, and English voters that a vote for Labour won’t damage the Union.  Continue reading

Its a Man’s World: Mediations of Women and Politics on Prime Time

women-in-politics2Posted on behalf of Dr Anne O’Brien, National University of Ireland Maynooth. This blog presents the arguments from a paper published in Irish Political Studies by the author. Free access to the paper is available for the month of March at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07907184.2014.922960#abstract


Media depictions of women in Irish politics are far from unproblematic. The mediated space for women on the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ’s flagship current affairs series Prime Time during General Election 2011 was structured on highly gendered terms. In the 11 episodes of election coverage, women’s engagement with politics was gendered through processes of numeric underrepresentation, gendered visual practices, the use of predominantly male sources and by structuring the content of women’s contribution to political debate. Continue reading

Government report on the diaspora snubs the diaspora, the Dáil and the Irish Constitutional Convention

The government launched its new diaspora policy last week – Global Irish – in which it applauded itself on its diaspora policy. Lots of warm words waft throughout the 57-page glossy document. But buried in the detail is a confirmation (on p. 21) that the government has chosen to ignore the recommendation of the Irish Constitutional Convention (ICC), which at its meeting in September 2013 proposed that emigrants and residents in Northern Ireland be given the right to vote in presidential elections (see here). Continue reading