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.
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.
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.
|Citizenship||Local elections||European elections||Dáil Elections||Presidential elections||Referendums|
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. 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. Following an amendment to electoral law in 2022, early voting on the islands is allowed only in exceptional circumstances.
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. 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 had 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. 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.
||No.||Term||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/
Éamon de Valera[f]
|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]
|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 /|
|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 /|
|17 Jun 1938||Fri||7 June||10th||30 June 1938 – 26 June 1943[r]||1823||2nd GI|
|23 Jun 1943||Wed||9 June||11th||1 July 1943 – 7 June 1944||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/
|Éamon de Valera/
|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/
|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/
|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/
|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|
|6 Jun 1997||Fri||26 May||28th||26 June 1997 – 25 April 2002||1765||25th GI||Bertie Ahern||Fianna Fáil|
|17 May 2002||Fri||3 May||29th||6 June 2002 – 29 April 2007||1789||26th GI||Fianna Fáil|
|24 May 2007||Thu||9 May||30th||14 June 2007 – 1 February 2011||1329||27th/
|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/
|8 Feb 2020||Sat||22 Jan||33rd||20 February 2020 to date||1134
|32nd/33rd GI[af]||Micheál Martin/
|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|
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). Forty-three are elected by an electorate of serving politicians (members of the incoming Dáil, the outgoing Seanad, and city and county councillors) 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.
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. Ireland has 13 seats in the European Parliament.
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. 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.
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 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.
The Constitution of Ireland was approved by plebiscite on 1 July 1937.
For a proposal to change the name of a place, a plebiscite is required. The current 1956 regulations on conducting such plebiscites relate to a postal vote of ratepayers; in 2019 the relevant electorate was changed from ratepayers to local electors, but as of 16 January 2020[update] the regulations have not been updated accordingly. In a County Cork town, Charleville was chosen in a 1989 four-option plebiscite ahead of Ráth Luirc, An Rath, and Rathgoggan. 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.
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.
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". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
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.