In Ireland, direct elections by universal suffrage are used for the President, the ceremonial head of state; for Dáil Éireann, the house of representatives of the Oireachtas or parliament; for the European Parliament; and for local government. All elections use proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote (PR-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 second house of the Oireachtas, are partly nominated, partly indirectly elected, and partly elected by graduates of particular universities.

Coalition governments have been the norm since 1989. Fine Gael (or its predecessor Cumann na nGaedheal) or Fianna Fáil have led every government since independence in 1922. The current government is a coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party. Traditionally, the Labour Party was the third party, although since 2016 it has been surpassed by Sinn Féin, and since 2020 by the Green Party. Smaller parties and independents exist in the Dáil and more so in local government.

Since 2023, electoral operations and oversight of electoral integrity have been carried out by an independent Electoral Commission.

Eligibility to vote

See also: History of the franchise in Ireland

Entitlement to vote is based on citizenship. Residents of the state who are Irish citizens or British citizens may vote in elections to Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (parliament). Residents who are citizens of any EU state may vote in European Parliament elections, while any resident, regardless of citizenship, may vote in local elections.[1]

The right of Irish expatriates to vote is heavily restricted. Only members of the armed forces and diplomatic staff abroad may vote in Dáil elections, while only expatriates who are graduates of the National University of Ireland or Trinity College Dublin may vote in Seanad elections to the university constituencies.

Rights of residents to vote at Irish elections
Citizenship Local elections European elections Dáil Elections Presidential elections Referendums
Ireland checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY
United Kingdom checkY ☒N[a] checkY ☒N ☒N
EU checkY checkY ☒N ☒N ☒N
Other non-EU checkY ☒N ☒N ☒N ☒N
  1. ^ British citizens lost the right to vote in European elections after Brexit.

Early voting

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.[4] Voters living on islands off the west coast in counties 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.[5] Following an amendment to electoral law in 2022, early voting on the islands is allowed only in exceptional circumstances.[6]

General elections

See also: Dáil election results

Under the Constitution, the term of a Dáil is a maximum of seven years; statute law, currently the Electoral Act 1992, establishes a lower maximum of five years.[7] The Taoiseach may advise the president to dissolve at any time. If a Taoiseach has ceased to retain the support of the majority of the Dáil, the president may in their absolute discretion refuse to dissolve the Dáil. To date, no president has refused to dissolve the Dáil. Elections are by single transferable vote (STV), with each constituency returning between three and five deputies, each called a Teachta Dála or TD. Since 1981, constituencies have been redrawn by an independent Constituency Commission after each census, which was put on a statutory basis in 1997. From 2023, these functions have been carried out by the Electoral Commission

The erection and removal of campaign posters by candidates is governed by the Litter Pollution Act 1997 and the Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 2009.[8] Posters may only be erected for a certain specified time period before an election. This time period is either (a) 30 days before the poll date or (b) from the date the polling day order for the election has been made, whichever provides the shorter period of time. Posters must be removed within 7 days of polling day.

General elections to Dáil Éireann and resulting Irish governments
Polling Date of
Dáil Government
Date Day
No. Term[9] Days No.[a] Head[b] Party or parties
14 Dec 1918
Sat 4 Dec 1st 21 January 1919 – 10 May 1921[e] 841 1st DM/
2nd DM
Cathal Brugha/
Éamon de Valera[f]
Sinn Féin
24 May 1921 Tue 13 May[g] 2nd 16 August 1921 – 8 June 1922[h] 394 3rd DM Éamon de Valera Sinn Féin
4th DM[i] Arthur Griffith Sinn Féin (Pro-Treaty)
16 Jun 1922
Fri 6 Jun[k] 3rd 9 September 1922[l] – 9 August 1923 335 2nd PG/[m]
1st EC[n]
W. T. Cosgrave[m] Cumann na nGaedheal[o]
27 Aug 1923 Mon 18 Aug 4th 19 September 1923 – 23 May 1927 1343 2nd EC
9 Jun 1927 Thu 1 June 5th 23 June 1927 – 25 August 1927 64 3rd EC
15 Sep 1927 Thu 3 Sep 6th 11 October 1927 – 29 January 1932 1572 4th EC /
5th EC[p]
16 Feb 1932 Tue 8 Feb 7th 9 March 1932 – 2 January 1933 300 6th EC Éamon de Valera Fianna Fáil
24 Jan 1933 Tue 8th 11 January 1933 – 14 June 1937 1616 7th EC
1 Jul 1937 Thu 9th 21 July 1937 – 27 May 1938 311 8th EC /
1st GI[q]
17 Jun 1938 Fri 7 June 10th 30 June 1938 – 26 June 1943[10][r] 1823 2nd GI
23 Jun 1943 Wed 9 June 11th 1 July 1943 – 7 June 1944[12] 343 3rd GI
30 May 1944 Tue 19 May 12th 9 June 1944 – 12 January 1948 1313 4th GI
4 Feb 1948 Wed 13th 18 February 1948 – 7 May 1951 1175 5th GI John A. Costello Fine Gael
Clann na Poblachta
Clann na Talmhan
National Labour Party[s]
30 May 1951 Wed 17 May 14th 13 June 1951 – 24 April 1954 1047 6th GI Éamon de Valera Fianna Fáil
18 May 1954 Tue 4 May 15th 2 June 1954 – 12 February 1957 987 7th GI John A. Costello Fine Gael
Clann na Talmhan
5 Mar 1957 Tue 21 Feb 16th 20 March 1957 – 15 September 1961 1641 8th/
9th GI[t]
Éamon de Valera/
Seán Lemass[t]
Fianna Fáil
4 Oct 1961 Wed 17th 11 October 1961 – 18 March 1965 1255 10th GI Seán Lemass
7 Apr 1965 Wed 18th 21 April 1965 – 22 May 1969 1493 11th/
12th GI[u]
Seán Lemass/
Jack Lynch[u]
18 Jun 1969 Wed 19th 2 July 1969 – 5 February 1973 1315 13th GI Jack Lynch
28 Feb 1973 Wed 20th 14 March 1973 – 25 May 1977 1534 14th GI Liam Cosgrave Fine Gael
16 Jun 1977 Thu 21st 5 July 1977 – 21 May 1981 1417 15th/
16th GI[v]
Jack Lynch/
Charles Haughey[v]
Fianna Fáil
11 Jun 1981 Thu 22nd 30 June 1981 – 27 January 1982 212 17th GI Garret FitzGerald Fine Gael
18 Feb 1982 Thu 23rd 9 March 1982 – 4 November 1982 241 18th GI Charles Haughey Fianna Fáil
24 Nov 1982 Wed 24th 14 December 1982 – 21 January 1987 1500 19th GI Garret FitzGerald Fine Gael
17 Feb 1987 Tue 25th 10 March 1987 – 25 May 1989 808 20th GI Charles Haughey Fianna Fáil
15 Jun 1989 Thu 26th 29 June 1989 – 5 November 1992 1226 21st/
22nd GI[x]
Charles Haughey/
Albert Reynolds[x]
Fianna Fáil
Progressive Democrats[y]
25 Nov 1992 Wed 27th 14 December 1992 – 15 May 1997 1614 23rd GI Albert Reynolds Fianna Fáil
24th GI[aa] John Bruton Fine Gael
Democratic Left
6 Jun 1997 Fri 26 May 28th 26 June 1997 – 25 April 2002 1765 25th GI Bertie Ahern Fianna Fáil
Progressive Democrats
17 May 2002 Fri 3 May 29th 6 June 2002 – 29 April 2007 1789 26th GI Fianna Fáil
Progressive Democrats
24 May 2007 Thu 9 May 30th 14 June 2007 – 1 February 2011 1329 27th/
28th GI[ab]
Bertie Ahern/
Brian Cowen[ab]
Fianna Fáil
Progressive Democrats[ad]
25 Feb 2011 Fri 9 Feb 31st 9 March 2011 – 3 February 2016 1793 29th GI Enda Kenny Fine Gael
26 Feb 2016 Fri 11 Feb 32nd 10 March 2016 – 14 January 2020 1406 30th/
31st GI[ae]
Enda Kenny/
Leo Varadkar[ae]
Fine Gael
8 Feb 2020 Sat 22 Jan 33rd 20 February 2020 to date 1597
to date
32nd/33rd GI/34th GI[af] Micheál Martin/
Leo Varadkar/
Simon Harris[af]
Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
  1. ^ See table for the government title corresponding to each abbreviation.
  2. ^ See table for the title of the head of government.
  3. ^ Territorial constituencies only; in those the results were declared on 28 Dec, to allow time for votes by members of the British Armed Forces to be sent to the returning officers. The university constituencies voted as follows: Dublin University polling 16–20 Dec, declaration 21 Dec; National University polling 18–22 Dec, declaration 23 Dec and Queen's University of Belfast polling 16–20 Dec, declaration 20 Dec.
  4. ^ The 30th Parliament of the United Kingdom, convened after the December 1910 election, was dissolved on 25 November 1918.
  5. ^ Last meeting of the First Dáil. A resolution passed at that meeting provided for the First Dáil to be dissolved on the assembling of the Second Dáil.
  6. ^ a b De Valera (2nd) replaced Brugha (1st) on 1 April 1919.
  7. ^ Except National University of Ireland, where nominations closed on 14 May 1921
  8. ^ Last meeting of the Second Dáil. A meeting scheduled for 30 Jun 1922 was preempted by the outbreak of the Civil War. The Second Dáil was never formally dissolved and Irish republican legitimists have regarded it as de jure continuing while the Third Dáil was illegitimate.
  9. ^ De Valera resigned on 7 January 1922 after losing the Anglo-Irish Treaty Dáil vote. Griffith's pro-Treaty ministry was formed on 10 January.
  10. ^ The polling days for National University of Ireland were 12–15 Jun 1922, with the declaration being made on 16 Jun 1922.
  11. ^ Except Dublin University, where nominations closed on 8 Jun 1922.
  12. ^ Originally to have been 1 July 1922. The Dáil was prorogued on five occasions and eventually met on 9 Sep 1922.
  13. ^ a b The 1st Provisional Government with Michael Collins as chairman was formed on 14 January 1922, without reference to the then Second Dáil. Collins was killed on 22 August 1922 and Cosgrave's Provisional Government formed on 30 August, after the June election to the Third Dáil but before its first meeting in September.
  14. ^ On 6 December 1922, the Free State constitution came into force. The provisional government ceased to exit and the first Executive Council was appointed.
  15. ^ Cumann na nGaedheal was founded in early 1923, before which Cosgrave's pro-Treaty government was not affiliated to any party, Sinn Féin having ceased to function.
  16. ^ On 27 March 1930, the Executive Council resigned. On 2 April, Cosgrave was appointed again as President of the Executive Council and appointed a new Executive Council with the same membership.
  17. ^ The Constitution of Ireland came into force on 29 December 1937, with the former Free State's final executive council and president becoming the first government of Ireland and Taoiseach.
  18. ^ Exceptionally, because of the state of emergency arising from the Second World War, the 10th Dáil was not dissolved until after all the returns to the Clerk of the Dáil from all constituencies of the election.[11]
  19. ^ National Labour merged back into the Labour Party in 1950.
  20. ^ a b De Valera's 8th government was succeeded by Lemass's 9th in 1959.
  21. ^ a b Lemass's 11th government was succeeded by Lynch's 12th in 1966.
  22. ^ a b In 1979 Haughey (16th) succeeded Lynch (15th)
  23. ^ Labour Party left government on 20 January 1987.
  24. ^ a b On 11 February 1992 Reynolds (22nd) succeeded Haughey (21st)
  25. ^ Progressive Democrats left government on 4 November 1992.
  26. ^ Labour Party left government on 15 November 1994.
  27. ^ On 15 December 1994 the 24th government replaced the 23rd. This has been the only occasion on which there was a change in the government parties without a general election.
  28. ^ a b On 7 May 2008 Cowen (28th) replaced Ahern (27th)
  29. ^ Green Party left government on 23 January 2011.
  30. ^ The Progressive Democrats were dissolved in 2009 and their ministers and other TDs sat as independents thereafter.
  31. ^ a b On 14 Jun 2017 Varadkar (31st) succeeded Kenny (30th).
  32. ^ a b On 17 December 2022 Varadkar (32nd) succeeded Martin (33rd). On 9 April 2024, Harris (34th) succeeded Varadkar
Titles of the government and its head
Dates Abbr Title of government Head of government
1919–22 DM Dáil Ministry President of Dáil Éireann
1922 PG Provisional Government Chairman of the Provisional Government
1922–37 EC Executive Council of the Irish Free State President of the Executive Council
1937– GI Government of Ireland Taoiseach

Seanad elections

Elections to Seanad Éireann take place after the general election to the Dáil. There are sixty members of the Seanad. Of these, eleven are nominated by the Taoiseach appointed next after the dissolution of the Dáil. Six are elected by STV in university constituencies: three for the National University (by graduates) and three for Dublin University (by graduates and scholars of Trinity College Dublin).[13][14] Forty-three are elected by an electorate of serving politicians (members of the incoming Dáil, the outgoing Seanad, and city and county councillors)[15] for five vocational panels. These elections are also counted using STV, although using a different set of rules on the distribution of surpluses and the order of counts than in other elections in Ireland.[16]

European elections

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.[17] Ireland has 14 seats in the European Parliament.

Local elections

Elections to county councils, city councils and city and county councils are held every five years and by convention take place on the same day as European elections. Local electoral areas (LEAs) return between three and seven councillors by STV.[18] Until the Local Government Reform Act 2014, elections were also held for borough and town councils. The 2014 Act abolished borough and town councils with their functions transferred to municipal districts of the county 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 then all have been appointed by the government.[19][20]

Presidential elections

Main article: Irish presidential election

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 instant-runoff voting (although the Constitution describes it as "the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote"). While both Irish and British citizens resident in the state may vote in Dáil elections, 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 be nominated by one of the following:

Where only one candidate is nominated, that candidate is declared elected without a ballot. No one may serve as President for more than two terms.


The Constitution of Ireland was approved by plebiscite on 1 July 1937. The Constitution recognises two types of referendums:

There have been 38 referendums for amendments to the Constitution of Ireland. There have been no ordinary referendums. From 1998 to 2019, a Referendum Commission was established for each referendum to provide neutral information. From 2023, this function is carried out by the Electoral Commission. An organisation can register with the commission as an "approved body" in order to campaign publicly for or against the proposal, and to have monitors in polling stations and counting agents at count centres.

For a proposal to change the name of a place, a plebiscite is required.[21] The current 1956 regulations on conducting such plebiscites relate to a postal vote of ratepayers;[22] in 2019 the relevant electorate was changed from ratepayers to local electors,[21] but as of 16 January 2020 the regulations have not been updated accordingly.[21][23] In a County Cork town, Charleville was chosen in a 1989 four-option plebiscite ahead of Ráth Luirc, An Rath, and Rathgoggan.[24][25] The Official Languages Act 2003 prevented the plebiscite provision applying to places in the Gaeltacht, and so a 2005 plebiscite to change the name of Dingle, County Kerry was ruled invalid; in 2011 the 2003 act was amended to remove the restriction.[26]

Other local plebiscites include three in 2019 for directly-elected mayors for Cork City Council, Limerick City and County Council and Waterford City and County Council, of which only that for Limerick was passed.

Party positions on past amendments

Party same-sex marriage abortion Repeal of blasphemous laws divorces (The Family) Bill and (Care) Bill
Fianna Fáil checkY[27] Neutral[28] checkY[29] checkY[30] checkY[31]
Sinn Féin checkY[32] checkY[33] checkY[34] checkY[35] checkY[36]
Fine Gael checkY[37] Neutral[38] checkY[39] checkY[40] checkY[41]
Green checkY[42] checkY[43] checkY[44] checkY[45] checkY[46]
Labour checkY[47] checkY[48] checkY[49] checkY[50] checkY}[51]
Social Democrats checkY checkY[52] checkY[53] checkY[54] checkY[55]
PBP–Solidarity checkY[56] checkY[57] checkY[58] checkY[59] checkY[60]
The National Party ☒N[61] ☒N[62]

See also


  1. ^ "System seems complicated but your vote really does matter". Irish Independent. 23 May 2014.
  2. ^ Phelan, John Paul (6 March 2019). "European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019: Committee Stage – Seanad Éireann (25th Seanad)". Oireachtas. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  3. ^ "European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Act 2019". Irish Statute Book. §§ 2, 9. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Our peacekeepers among first to cast votes". Irish Independent. 23 May 2014.
  5. ^ "Defence Forces helicopter glitch delays island poll". Irish Independent. 23 May 2014.
  6. ^ Electoral Reform Act 2022, s. 200: Part 8: Polling on Islands (No. 30 of 2022, s. 200). Enacted on 25 July 2022. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 14 February 2023.
  7. ^ Electoral Act 1992, s. 33: Maximum duration of Dáil (No. 23 of 1992, s. 33). Enacted on 5 November 1992. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 28 March 2020.
  8. ^ Department of Climate Action and Environment - Election Posters FAQs
  9. ^ "Dáil and Seanad Terms". Houses of the Oireachtas. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  10. ^ "Mr. de Valera to be Taoiseach". The Irish Times. p. 1.
  11. ^ de Valera, Éamon (26 May 1943). "The General Election: Announcement by Taoiseach". pp. Vol.90 No.5 p.19 c.562. Retrieved 17 March 2020. the Dáil will rise to–day. ... It is my intention to advise the President so that on the 31st May he may issue his direction for the holding of a general election. His proclamation may be issued on the 31st May. ... the 22nd June [sic] will be the polling day and then the outgoing Dáil, the present Dáil, would have to be dissolved not later than 8th July. The House is aware that it will be dissolved as soon as the Clerk of the Dáil is able to inform us that he has got returns for all the writs.
  12. ^ "Dáil dissolved". The Irish Times. 8 June 1944. p. 3.
  13. ^ "Seanad Electoral (University Members) Act 1937, Third Schedule: Counting of the Votes". Irish Statute Book. 19 November 1937. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Seanad Electoral (University Members) Act 1937, Section 7: Franchise". Irish Statute Book. 19 November 1937. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  15. ^ "Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act 1947, Section 44: The electorate". Irish Statute Book. 19 December 1947. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  16. ^ "Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act 1947, Second Schedule: Counting of the Votes". Irish Statute Book. 19 December 1947. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  17. ^ "European Parliament Elections Act 1997, Schedule 2: Rules for the conduct of the election, etc., Rule 85". Irish Statute Book. 13 November 1995. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  18. ^ "Local Elections Regulations 1995, Regulation 83: Transfer of Surplus". Irish Statute Book. 19 November 1937. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  19. ^ "Údarás na Gaeltachta Act, 1979, Section 29". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  20. ^ "Gaeltacht Act 2012, Schedule". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  21. ^ a b c "Local Government Act 2001 Revised". Revised Acts. Law Reform Commission. 16 April 2019. p. §§189–190 [F244, F247]. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  22. ^ Local Government (Changing of Place Names) Regulations 1956 (S.I. No. 31 of 1956). Statutory Instrument of the Government of Ireland. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 19 April 2018.; "Proposed Change Of Name Of A Locality (Palmerston Village To Palmerstown Village)" (PDF). South Dublin County Council. 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2018. In accordance with Section 79 of the Local Government Act 1946 and the Local Government (Changing of Place Names Regulations) 1956 (as amended by Section 67 of Local Government Act 1994); Brophy, Daragh (13 January 2015). "Palmerston or Palmerstown? … Residents have voted on a name change". Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  23. ^ "Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011". Irish Statute Book. 16 January 2020. SIs made under the Act. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  24. ^ Hogan, Dick (11 December 1989). "King Charles wins handsome majority". p. 4.
  25. ^ Ferrie, Liam (17 December 1989). "Bits and Pieces". The Irish Emigrant. Archived from the original on 26 May 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2015. The people of the north Cork town of Rath Luirc (or Charleville, or An Rath, or Rathgoggan) have voted to use the name Charleville for their town. Road signs in the area will be replaced.
  26. ^ Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011, s. 48 (No. 20 of 2011, s. 48). Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 20 April 2018.; "Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011: Instruction to Committee – Dáil Éireann (31st Dáil)". Oireachtas. 21 July 2011. Vol.739 No.4 p.22. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
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  35. ^ [9]
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  37. ^ [11]
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  40. ^ [14]
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  42. ^ [16]
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  48. ^ [22]
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  60. ^ [34]
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  62. ^ [36]