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 lower house of the Oireachtas or parliament; for the European Parliament; and for local government. All elections use the single transferable vote (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 upper house of the Oireachtas, are partly nominated, partly indirectly elected, and partly elected by graduates.

STV is a form of proportional representation, and coalition governments have been the rule since 1989. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were the largest parties in every general election from 1927 to 2007, with the Labour Party usually third. Smaller parties and independents exist in the Dáil and more so in local government.

Eligibility to vote[edit]

Residents of the state who are Irish citizens or British citizens may participate 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 participate in local elections.[1]

Entitlement to vote, 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[edit]

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.[2] 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.[3]

General elections[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Irish general election timetable.

Elections to Dáil Éireann are required at least every seven years by the Constitution; statute law, currently the Electoral Act 1992, establishes a lower maximum of five years. Elections are by single transferable vote (STV), with each geographic constituency returning between three and five deputies (each called a Teachta Dála or TD). Constituencies since 1981 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 1688+
Labour Party

European elections[edit]

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[edit]

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 when all have been appointed by the government.[4][5]

Presidential elections[edit]

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 Alternative Vote. While both Irish and UK citizens resident in the state may vote in elections to Dáil Éireann (the lower house of parliament), 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 (national parliament).
  • 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, he or she is deemed elected without the need for a ballot. For this reason, where there is a consensus among political parties, the President may be 'elected' without the occurrence of an actual ballot. No one may serve as President for more than two terms.


The Constitution of Ireland recognises two types of referendums:

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

See also[edit]


External links[edit]