Áras an Uachtaráin
Before the Presidential Election campaign 2018 proper…We phoned legal Coffee Drinker to ask where exactly the Presidential manual is?
Broadsheet: “Hello Legal Coffee Drinker. where exactly is the Presidential manual?”
Legal Coffee Drinker: “The Presidential manual, such as it is, can be found in the Constitution of Ireland 1937. Article 12 says that there must be a President of Ireland, who shall take precedence over all other persons in the State and who shall exercise and perform the powers and functions conferred on the President by the Constitution and by law.”
Broadsheet: “How significantly super are these powers?”
LCD: “The powers of the President are set out in Article 13 of the Constitution. At first sight they look impressive:-
Article 13.1.1 – the power to appoint the Taoiseach
Articles 13.1.1 and 13.1.2 – the power to appoint and remove members of the Government
Article 13.2 – the power to dissolve and summon the Dail, and (at the President’s absolute discretion) to refuse to dissolve the Dail on the advice of a Taoiseach who has ceased to retain the support of a majority in Dail Eireann
Article 13.2.3 The power to convene a meeting of the Oireachtas
Article 13.3 – the power to sign Bills, making them legally binding Acts of the Oireachtas
Article 13.5 – the President is the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces
Article 13.6 – the power of pardon and power to commit or remit punishment
Article 13.7.1- the power to address the Oireachtas
Article 13.7.2 – the power to address the public.
Article 13.10 – the power to exercise such other powers as may be given by law.
Article 26 – the power to refuse to sign a Bill and instead refer it to the Supreme Court for its constitutionality to be assessed.
The above powers are, however, substantially curtailed by Article 13.9, which provides as follows:
“The powers and functions conferred on the President by this Constitution shall be exercisable and performable by him only on the advice of the Government,save where it is provided by this Constitution that he shall act in his absolute discretion or after consultation with or in relation to the Council of State, or on the advice or nomination of, or on receipt of any other communication from, any other person or body.”
This effectively leaves the President with three main powers:-
– The power in Article 13.2 to refuse to dissolve the Dail as stated above (described as being in the President’s absolute discretion)
– The power under Article 26 to refer the constitutionality of a Bill to the Supreme Court under Article 26 – exercisable after consultation with the Council of State
– The power under Article 13.2.3 to convene a meeting of the Oireachtas – exercisable after consultation with the Council of State.
As discussed above, there is also in Article 13.7.1 a right to address the Oireachtas. However Article 13.7.3, states that every such message or address must have received the approval of the government.. So a President could convene a meeting of the Oireachtas under 13.7.1 but not necessarily be allowed to address it.”
Broadsheet: “Legal Coffee Drinker, how can I be President?”
LCD: *long pause*
LCD: “By being elected President by the direct vote of citizens entitled to vote in Dail elections, held by secret ballot and according to the principle of proportional representation.”
Broadsheet: *fixes tie*
LCD: “But first, you have to be nominated as a Presidential candidate, either by (a) 20 members of the Oireachtas (b) the Councils of not less than four administrative counties, none of whom can nominate more than one candidate.”
Broadsheet: *loosens tie*
LCD: “You have to be 35 years or older, and be prepared to give up all other offices and emoluments for seven years, with the possibility of a further seven.”
Broadsheet: “I can live without emoluments for a few years.”
LCD: [drains Nespresso] “You also have to be prepared to make a following declaration, in the presence of members of Oireachtas and the judiciary, to promise and maintain the Constitution of Ireland.”
Broadsheet: “Whatever my people want.”
LCD: ‘You could be removed by by the Oireachtas, under Article 12.10 of the Constitution.”
Broadsheet: “Bring it on, say I.”
LCD: “Or removed by a five-member Supreme Court on the basis that you are or have become permanently incapacitated.”
Broadsheet: “Ah. There’s always a catch. A lot to consider there. Thank you very much Legal Coffee Drinker, you’ll always have our vote here at…
Broadsheet: “…the ‘sheet. Great stuff. Lovely. Thanks.”
Earlier: A Second Bite