Irish presidential election

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The Irish presidential election determines who serves as the President of Ireland; the head of state of the Republic of Ireland. The most recent election took place on 27 October 2011, and the election takes place every 7 years.


Presidential elections are conducted in line with Article 12 of the Constitution[1] and under the Presidential Elections Act 1993,[2] as amended. 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. Constitutionally, the election must be held not more than 60 days before the ending of the term of office of the incumbent, or within 60 days of the office becoming vacant. The exact date will be fixed by an order made by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Elections are conducted by means of the alternative vote (also called instant-runoff voting), which is the single-winner analogue of the single transferable vote used in other Irish elections. Although the constitution calls the system "proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote", a single-winner election cannot be proportional.[3] All Irish citizens entered on the current electoral register are eligible to vote.[1][4] 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 of at least eighteen years of age may vote in the election of the President.

To qualify, candidates must:[1]

  • be a citizen of Ireland,
  • be at least 35 years of age, and[5]
  • be nominated by:
    • at least twenty of the 218 serving members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, or
    • at least 4 of the 31 county or city councils, or
    • him- or herself, in the case of an incumbent or former president who has served one term.

The election order will declare the last day on which nominations may be received. If a member of the Oireachtas or a County or City council nominate more than one candidate, only the first nomination paper received from them will be deemed valid.[2]

If there is only a single candidate they will be deemed elected without a poll.[1] 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.[1]

Spending limits and donations[edit]

The spending limits in a Presidential election were reduced in 2011. The limit is €750,000 (was €1.3 million) and the amount a candidate can be reimbursed from the State is €200,000 (was €260,000).[6] A candidate who is elected or who receives in excess of one quarter of the quota can seek reimbursement of their expenses.

The value of donations that may be accepted by candidates, their election agents and third parties at a presidential election is governed by law. In the case of candidates and presidential election agents, the maximum donation that may be accepted from a person (or a body) in a particular year cannot exceed €2,539. In the case of a third party, the maximum donation that may be accepted cannot exceed €6,348. The acceptance of donations from non-Irish citizens residing abroad is prohibited.[7]


Election Candidate Age Nominated by % 1st Pref. vote Winner
1938 Douglas Hyde 78 Fianna Fáil n/a Douglas Hyde
Fine Gael
1945 Patrick McCartan 67 Labour Party 19.6% Seán T. O'Kelly
Clann na Talmhan
Seán Mac Eoin 51 Fine Gael 30.9%
Seán T. O'Kelly 62 Fianna Fáil 49.5%
1952 Seán T. O'Kelly 69 Self-nomination n/a Seán T. O'Kelly
1959 Éamon de Valera 76 Fianna Fáil 56.3% Éamon de Valera
Seán Mac Eoin 65 Fine Gael 43.7%
1966 Éamon de Valera 83 Fianna Fáil 50.5% Éamon de Valera
Tom O'Higgins 49 Fine Gael 49.5%
1973 Erskine H. Childers 60 Fianna Fáil 51.9% Erskine H. Childers
Tom O'Higgins 56 Fine Gael 48.0%
1974 Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh 63 Fianna Fáil n/a Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh
Fine Gael
Labour Party
1976 Patrick Hillery 53 Fianna Fáil n/a Patrick Hillery
1983 Patrick Hillery 60 Self-nomination n/a Patrick Hillery
1990 Austin Currie 51 Fine Gael 17.0% Mary Robinson
Brian Lenihan 59 Fianna Fáil 44.1%
Mary Robinson 46 Labour Party 38.9%
Workers' Party
1997 Mary Banotti 58 Fine Gael 29.3% Mary McAleese
Mary McAleese 46 Fianna Fáil 45.2%
Progressive Democrats
Derek Nally 60 County and City Councils 4.7%
Adi Roche 42 Labour Party 6.9%
Democratic Left
Green Party
Dana Rosemary Scallon 46 County and City Councils 13.8%
2004 Mary McAleese 53 Self-nomination n/a Mary McAleese
2011 Mary Davis 57 County and City Councils 2.7% Michael D. Higgins
Seán Gallagher 49 County and City Councils 28.5%
Michael D. Higgins 70 Labour Party 39.6%
Martin McGuinness 61 Sinn Féin 13.7%
Independent TDs
Gay Mitchell 59 Fine Gael 6.4%
David Norris 67 County and City Councils 6.2%
Dana Rosemary Scallon 60 County and City Councils 2.9%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Article 12 of the Constitution of Ireland. "Constitution of Ireland". Department of the Taoiseach. June 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Presidential Elections Act 1993". Irish Statute Book database. Attorney General of Ireland. Retrieved 10 September 2010. 
  3. ^ Constitution Review Group (1996). "Article XII – XIV The President". Report (PDF). Government of Ireland. p. 22. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Electing a President – Preferential Voting". ACE: The Electoral Knowledge Network. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  5. ^ The 1995 report of the Constitution Review Group notes "There is an apparent discrepancy between the English and Irish versions. The Irish version has ‘ag a bhfuil cúig bliana tríochad slán’ (that is, has completed thirty-five years), whereas the English version is ‘who has reached his thirty-fifth year of age’, which could mean has entered rather than completed that year." As the Irish language text prevails, this means a candidate must be at least 35 years old
  6. ^ "Presidential Election in Ireland". Citizens Information Board Ireland. Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "How the President is elected" (PDF). Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. August 2011. 

External links[edit]