Taoiseach

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Taoiseach of Ireland
Enda Kenny 2015 (cropped).jpg
Incumbent
Enda Kenny

since 9 March 2011
Member of
Reports to The Oireachtas
Seat Government Buildings,
Merrion Street, Dublin, Ireland
Nominator Dáil Éireann
Appointer President of Ireland, upon nomination by Dáil Éireann
Term length While commanding the confidence of the majority of Dáil Éireann. No term limits are imposed on the office.
Inaugural holder Éamon de Valera[note 1]
Formation 29 December 1937[note 1]
Deputy Tánaiste
Salary €185,350[1]
Website www.taoiseach.ie
Coat of arms of Ireland
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Republic of Ireland

The Taoiseach (Listeni/ˈtʃəx/, tee-shəkh,[2] pl. Taoisigh /ˈtʃi/, tee-shee) is the head of government or prime minister of Ireland. The Taoiseach is appointed by the President upon the nomination of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (parliament), and must, in order to remain in office, retain the support of a majority in the Dáil.[note 2]

The current Taoiseach is Enda Kenny, TD, who was appointed on 9 March 2011. On 10 March 2016, at the first sitting of the 32nd Dáil Kenny failed to gain the support of the house and tendered his resignation to the President. He remained in office in an acting capacity until being re-elected on 6 May 2016.

The word means "chieftain" or "leader" in Irish and was adopted in the 1937 Constitution of Ireland as the title of the prime minister.

Overview[edit]

Under the Constitution of Ireland, the Taoiseach is nominated by a simple majority of Dáil Éireann from among its members. He/She is then formally appointed to office by the President, who is required to appoint whomever the Dáil designates without the option of declining appointment. For this reason, it is often said that the Taoiseach is "elected" by Dáil Éireann.

If the Taoiseach loses the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann, he/she is not automatically removed from office but, rather, is compelled to either resign or persuade the President to dissolve the Dáil. The President may refuse to grant a dissolution and, in effect, force the Taoiseach to resign, but, to date, no president has exercised this prerogative, though the option arose in 1944 and 1994 and twice in 1982. The Taoiseach may lose the support of Dáil Éireann by the passage of a vote of no confidence, the failure of a vote of confidence or, alternatively, the Dáil may refuse supply.[note 3] In the event of the Taoiseach's resignation, he/she continues to exercise the duties and functions of his/her office until the appointment of a successor.

The Taoiseach nominates the remaining members of the Government, who are then, with the consent of the Dáil, appointed by the President. The Taoiseach also has authority to advise the President to dismiss cabinet ministers from office, advice the President is required to follow by convention. The Taoiseach is further responsible for appointing eleven members of the Seanad.

The Department of the Taoiseach is the government department which supports and advises the Taoiseach in carrying out his/her various duties.

Salary[edit]

Since 2013, the Taoiseach's annual salary is €185,350.[1] It was cut from €214,187 to €200,000 when Kenny took office, before being cut further to €185,350 under the Haddington Road Agreement in 2013.

A proposed increase of €38,000 in 2007 was deferred when Brian Cowen became Taoiseach[3] and in October 2008, the government announced a 10% salary cut for all ministers, including the Taoiseach.[4] However this was a voluntary cut and the salaries remained nominally the same with ministers and the Taoiseach essentially refusing 10% of their salary. This courted controversy in December 2009 when a salary cut of 20% was based on the higher figure before the refused amount was deducted.[5] The Taoiseach is also allowed an additional €118,981 in annual expenses.

Residence[edit]

There is no official residence of the Taoiseach. However, in 2008 it was reported speculatively that the former Steward's Lodge at Farmleigh adjoining the Phoenix Park would become the official residence of the Taoiseach, however no official statements were made nor any action taken.[6] The house, which forms part of the Farmleigh estate acquired by the State in 1999 for €29.2m, was renovated at a cost of nearly €600,000 in 2005 by the Office of Public Works. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern did not use it as a residence, but his successor Brian Cowen used it "from time to time".[7]

History[edit]

Origins and etymology[edit]

The words Taoiseach (Irish pronunciation: [t̪ˠiːʃəx]) and Tánaiste (the title of the deputy prime minister) are both from the Irish language and of ancient origin. Though the Taoiseach is described in the Constitution of Ireland as "the head of the Government or Prime Minister",[note 2] its literal translation is chieftain or leader.[8] Tánaiste in turn refers to the system of tanistry, the Gaelic system of succession whereby a leader would appoint an heir apparent while still living.

In Scottish Gaelic, tòiseach translates as clan chief and both words originally had similar meaning in the Gaelic languages of Scotland and Ireland.[note 4][9][10][note 5] The related Welsh language word tywysog (current meaning: prince) has a similar origin and meaning.[note 6] Both derive ultimately from the proto-Celtic *towissākos "chieftain, leader".

The plural of taoiseach is taoisigh (Irish: [t̪ˠiːʃiː] or [t̪ˠiːʃəɟ]).[8]

Debate on the title[edit]

In 1937 when the draft Constitution of Ireland was being debated in the Dáil, Frank MacDermot, an opposition politician, moved an amendment to substitute "Prime Minister" for the proposed "Taoiseach" title in the English text of the Constitution. It was proposed to keep the "Taoiseach" title in the Irish language text. The proponent remarked:[11]

It seems to me to be mere make-believe to try to incorporate a word like "Taoiseach" in the English language. It would be pronounced wrongly by 99 percent of the people. I have already ascertained it is a very difficult word to pronounce correctly. That being so, even for the sake of the dignity of the Irish language, it would be more sensible that when speaking English we should be allowed to refer to the gentleman in question as the Prime Minister... It is just one more example of the sort of things that are being done here as if for the purpose of putting off the people in the North. No useful purpose of any kind can be served by compelling us, when speaking English, to refer to the Taoiseach rather than to the Prime Minister.

The President of the Executive Council, Éamon de Valera gave the term's meaning as "chieftain" or "Captain". He said he was "not disposed" to support the proposed amendment and felt the word "Taoiseach" did not need to be changed. The proposed amendment was defeated on a vote and "Taoiseach" was included as the title ultimately adopted by plebiscite of the people.[12]

Modern office[edit]

Department of the Taoiseach at Government Buildings, Merrion Street, Dublin

The modern position of Taoiseach was established by the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, to replace the position of President of the Executive Council of the 1922–1937 Irish Free State. The positions of Taoiseach and President of the Executive Council differed in certain fundamental respects. Under the Constitution of the Irish Free State, the latter was vested with considerably less power and was largely just the chairman of the cabinet, the Executive Council. For example, the President of the Executive Council could not dismiss a fellow minister. Instead, the Executive Council had to be disbanded and reformed entirely in order to remove one of its number. The President of the Executive Council could also not personally ask the Governor-General to dissolve Dáil Éireann, that power belonging collectively to the Executive Council.

In contrast, the Taoiseach created in 1937 possesses a much more powerful role. He can both advise the President to dismiss ministers and dissolve Parliament on his own authority—advice that the President is almost always required to follow by convention.[note 7] His role is greatly enhanced because under the Constitution, he is both de jure and de facto chief executive, since the Constitution explicitly vests executive power in the Government. In most other parliamentary democracies, the head of state is at least the nominal chief executive.

Historically, where there have been multi-party or coalition governments, the Taoiseach has come from the leader of the largest party in the coalition. One exception to this was John A. Costello, who was not leader of his party, but an agreed choice to head the government, because the other parties refused to accept then Fine Gael leader Richard Mulcahy as Taoiseach.

List of office holders[edit]

Before the enactment of the 1937 Constitution, the head of government was referred to as the President of the Executive Council. This office was first held by W. T. Cosgrave of Cumann na nGaedheal from 1922–32, and then by Éamon de Valera of Fianna Fáil from 1932–37. By convention, Taoisigh are numbered to include Cosgrave,[13][14][15][16] for example Enda Kenny is considered the 13th Taoiseach, not the 12th.

President of the Executive Council[edit]

No. Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
Constituency
Term of office Party Exec. Council
Composition
Vice President Dáil
(elected)
1 William Thomas Cosgrave.jpg W. T. Cosgrave
(1880–1965)
TD for Carlow–Kilkenny until 1927
TD for Cork Borough from 1927
6 December
1922
9 March
1932
Sinn Féin
(Pro-Treaty)
1st SF(PT) (minority) Kevin O'Higgins 3 (1922)
Cumann na nGaedheal 2nd CnG (minority) 4 (1923)
3rd Ernest Blythe 5 (Jun.1927)
4th 6 (Sep.1927)
5th
2 Éamon de Valera.jpg Éamon de Valera
(1882–1975)
TD for Clare
9 March
1932
29 December
1937
Fianna Fáil 6th FF (minority) Seán T. O'Kelly 7 (1932)
7th 8 (1933)
8th 9 (1937)

Taoiseach[edit]

No. Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
Constituency
Term of office Party Government
Composition
Tánaiste Dáil
(elected)
(2) Éamon de Valera.jpg Éamon de Valera
(1882–1975)
TD for Clare
29 December
1937
18 February
1948
Fianna Fáil 1st FF (minority) Seán T. O'Kelly 9 ( ···· )
2nd FF 10 (1938)
3rd FF (minority) 11 (1943)
4th FF Seán Lemass 12 (1944)
3 John A. Costello
(1891–1976)
TD for Dublin South-East
18 February
1948
13 June
1951
Fine Gael 5th FGLabCnPCnTNL William Norton 13 (1948)
(2) Éamon de Valera.jpg Éamon de Valera
(1882–1975)
TD for Clare
13 June
1951
2 June
1954
Fianna Fáil 6th FF (minority) Seán Lemass 14 (1951)
(3) John A. Costello
(1891–1976)
TD for Dublin South-East
2 June
1954
20 March
1957
Fine Gael 7th FGLabCnT William Norton 15 (1954)
(2) Éamon de Valera.jpg Éamon de Valera
(1882–1975)
TD for Clare
20 March
1957
23 June
1959
Fianna Fáil 8th FF Seán Lemass 16 (1957)
4 Seán Lemass
(1899–1971)
TD for Dublin South-Central
23 June
1959
10 November
1966
Fianna Fáil 9th FF Seán MacEntee
10th FF (minority) 17 (1961)
11th FF Frank Aiken 18 (1965)
5 Jack Lynch 1967 (cropped).jpg Jack Lynch
(1917–1999)
TD for Cork Borough until 1969
TD for Cork City North-West from 1969
10 November
1966
14 March
1973
Fianna Fáil 12th FF
13th FF Erskine H. Childers 19 (1969)
6 Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave-Patricks Day 1976.jpg Liam Cosgrave
(1920–)
TD for Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown
14 March
1973
5 July
1977
Fine Gael 14th FGLab Brendan Corish 20 (1973)
(5) Jack Lynch 1967 (cropped).jpg Jack Lynch
(1917–1999)
TD for Cork City
5 July
1977
11 December
1979
Fianna Fáil 15th FF George Colley 21 (1977)
7 Charles Haughey 1967.jpg Charles Haughey
(1925–2006)
TD for Dublin Artane
11 December
1979
30 June
1981
Fianna Fáil 16th FF
8 Garret FitzGerald Lisbon 2009 crop.jpg Garret FitzGerald
(1926–2011)
TD for Dublin South-East
30 June
1981
9 March
1982
Fine Gael 17th FGLab (minority) Michael O'Leary 22 (1981)
(7) Charles Haughey 1967.jpg Charles Haughey
(1925–2006)
TD for Dublin North-Central
9 March
1982
14 December
1982
Fianna Fáil 18th FF (minority) Ray MacSharry 23 (Feb.1982)
(8) Garret FitzGerald Lisbon 2009 crop.jpg Garret FitzGerald
(1926–2011)
TD for Dublin South-East
14 December
1982
10 March
1987
Fine Gael 19th FGLab
FG (minority) from Jan 1987
Dick Spring 24 (Nov.1982)
Peter Barry
(7) Charles Haughey 1967.jpg Charles Haughey
(1925–2006)
TD for Dublin North-Central
10 March
1987
11 February
1992
Fianna Fáil 20th FF (minority) Brian Lenihan 25 (1987)
21st FFPD 26 (1989)
John P. Wilson
9 Albert Reynolds crop.jpg Albert Reynolds
(1932–2014)
TD for Longford–Roscommon
11 February
1992
15 December
1994
Fianna Fáil 22nd FFPD
23rd FFLab
FF (minority) from Nov 1994
Dick Spring 27 (1992)
Bertie Ahern
10 John Bruton 2011.jpg John Bruton
(1947–)
TD for Meath
15 December
1994
26 June
1997
Fine Gael 24th FGLabDL Dick Spring
11 BertieAhernBerlin2007-bis.jpg Bertie Ahern
(1951–)
TD for Dublin Central
26 June
1997
7 May
2008
Fianna Fáil 25th FFPDInd Mary Harney 28 (1997)
26th FFPD 29 (2002)
Michael McDowell
27th FFGreenPDInd Brian Cowen 30 (2007)
12 Brian Cowen in Philadelphia.jpg Brian Cowen
(1960–)
TD for Laois–Offaly
7 May
2008
9 March
2011
Fianna Fáil 28th FFGreenPDInd
FFGreenInd from Nov 2009
FF (minority) from Jan 2011
Mary Coughlan
13 Enda Kenny 2015 (cropped).jpg Enda Kenny
(1951–)
TD for Mayo
9 March
2011
Incumbent Fine Gael 29th FGLab Eamon Gilmore 31 (2011)
Joan Burton
30th FGInd (minority) Frances Fitzgerald 32 (2016)

Timeline[edit]

Enda Kenny Brian Cowen Bertie Ahern John Bruton Albert Reynolds Garret FitzGerald Charles Haughey Liam Cosgrave Jack Lynch Seán Lemass John A. Costello Éamon de Valera W. T. Cosgrave


Living former officeholders[edit]

There are four living former taoisigh:

Taoiseach Term of office Date of birth
Liam Cosgrave 1973–1977 (1920-04-13) 13 April 1920 (age 96)
John Bruton 1994–1997 (1947-05-18) 18 May 1947 (age 69)
Bertie Ahern 1997–2008 (1951-09-12) 12 September 1951 (age 65)
Brian Cowen 2008–2011 (1960-01-10) 10 January 1960 (age 56)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Before the enactment of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, the head of government was referred to as the President of the Executive Council. This office was first held by W. T. Cosgrave from 1922–32, and then by Éamon de Valera from 1932–37.
  2. ^ a b Article 13.1.1° and Article 28.5.1° of the Constitution of Ireland. The latter provision reads: "The head of the Government, or Prime Minister, shall be called, and is in this Constitution referred to as, the Taoiseach." [1]
  3. ^ One example of the Dáil refusing supply occurred in January 1982 when the then Fine GaelLabour Party coalition government of Garret FitzGerald lost a vote on the budget. [2]
  4. ^ John Frederick Vaughan Campbell Cawdor (1742). Innes Cosmo, ed. The book of the thanes of Cawdor: a series of papers selected from the charter room at Cawdor. 1236–1742, Volume 1236, Issue 1742. Spalding Club. p. xiii. Retrieved 23 June 2013. As we cannot name the first Celtic chieftain who consented to change his style of Toshach and his patriarchal sway for the title and stability of King's Thane of Cawdor, so it is impossible to fix the precise time when their ancient property and offices were acquired. 
  5. ^ "Tartan Details - Toshach". Scottish Register of Tartans. Retrieved 27 June 2013. Toshach is an early Celtic title given to minor territorial chiefs in Scotland (note Eire Prime Minister's official title is this). 
  6. ^ John Thomas Koch (2006), Celtic Culture: a Historical Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, p. 1062, ISBN 1851094407, An early word meaning 'leader' appears on a 5th- or 6th-century inscribed stone as both ogam Irish and British genitive TOVISACI: tywysog now means 'prince' in Welsh, the regular descriptive title used for Prince Charles, for example; while in Ireland, the corresponding Taoiseach is now the correct title, in both Irish and English, for the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic (Éire). 
  7. ^ Among the most famous ministerial dismissals have been those of Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney during the Arms Crisis in 1970, Brian Lenihan in 1990 and Albert Reynolds, Pádraig Flynn and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn in 1991.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Taoiseach, Ministers and every TD are having their pay cut today". TheJournal.ie. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Taoiseach: definition of Taoiseach in Oxford dictionary (British & World English). Meaning, pronunciation and origin of the word". Oxford Language Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  3. ^ "Taoiseach to receive €38k pay rise". RTÉ News. 25 October 2007. 
  4. ^ "Sharp exchanges in Dáil over Budget". RTÉ News. 15 October 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2009. 
  5. ^ "Opposition says Lenihan's salary cuts do not add up". Irish Independent. 10 December 2009. Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  6. ^ "Opulent Phoenix Park lodge is set to become 'Fortress Cowen'". Irish Independent. 18 May 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2008. 
  7. ^ "Cowen questioned on use of Farmleigh". The Irish Times. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2009. 
  8. ^ a b "Youth Zone School Pack" (PDF). Department of the Taoiseach. Retrieved 23 June 2010. 
  9. ^ E. William Robertson (2004). Scotland Under Her Early Kings: A History of the Kingdom to the Close of the Thirteenth Century Part One. Kessinger Publishing. p. 32. ISBN 9781417946075. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  10. ^ "DSL - SND1 TOISEACH". Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  11. ^ Frank Mr. MacDermot of the Centre Party (Ireland) - Bunreacht na hÉireann (Dréacht)—Coiste (Ath-thógaint) - Wednesday, 26 May 1937; Dáil Éireann Debate Vol. 67 No. 9.
  12. ^ - Bunreacht na hÉireann (Dréacht)—Coiste (Ath-thógaint) - Wednesday, 26 May 1937; Dáil Éireann Debate Vol. 67 No. 9.
  13. ^ "Coughlan new Tánaiste in Cowen Cabinet". The Irish Times. 17 May 2008. Retrieved 17 May 2008. 
  14. ^ "Taoiseach reveals new front bench". RTÉ News. 7 May 2008. Retrieved 17 May 2008. 
  15. ^ "Cowen confirmed as Taoiseach". BreakingNews.ie. 7 May 2008. Retrieved 17 May 2008. 
  16. ^ "Former Taoisigh". Department of the Taoiseach. Retrieved 23 June 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

The book Chairman or Chief: The Role of the Taoiseach in Irish Government (1971) by Brian Farrell provides a good overview of the conflicting roles for the Taoiseach. Though long out of print, it may still be available in libraries or from AbeBooks. Biographies are also available of de Valera, Lemass, Lynch, Cosgrave, FitzGerald, Haughey, Reynolds and Ahern. FitzGerald wrote an autobiography, while an authorised biography was produced of de Valera. There is a chapter by Garret FitzGerald on the role of the Taoiseach in a festschrift to Brian Farrell. There is a chapter by Eoin O'Malley on the Taoiseach and cabinet in 'Governing Ireland: From cabinet government to delegated governance'(Eoin O'Malley and Muiris MacCarthaigh eds.) Dublin: IPA 2012.

Biographies[edit]

Some biographies of former Taoisigh and Presidents of the Executive Council
  • Tim Pat Coogan, Éamon de Valera
  • John Horgan, Seán Lemass
  • Brian Farrell, Seán Lemass
  • T. P. O'Mahony, Jack Lynch: A Biography
  • T. Ryle Dwyer, Nice Fellow: A Biography of Jack Lynch
  • Stephen Collins, The Cosgrave legacy
  • Garret FitzGerald, All in a Life
  • Garret FitzGerald, "Just Garret: Tales from the Political Frontline"
  • Raymond Smith, Garret: The Enigma
  • T. Ryle Dwyer, Short Fellow: A Biography of Charles Haughey
  • Martin Mansergh, Spirit of the Nation: The Collected Speeches of Haughey
  • Joe Joyce & Peter Murtagh The Boss: Charles Haughey in Government
  • Tim Ryan, Albert Reynolds: The Longford Leader
  • Albert Reynolds, My Autobiography (Reviewed here)
  • Bertie Ahern, My Autobiography (Reviewed here)

External links[edit]