So You Wanna Be Elected?


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*

Broadsheet: “Hypothetically.”

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…

LCD: *click*

Broadsheet: “…the ‘sheet.  Great stuff. Lovely. Thanks.”

Earlier: A Second Bite


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15 thoughts on “So You Wanna Be Elected?

  1. Martin

    the people wanting to run for president really need to brush up on the power involved….or lack of.

    They seem to have all sorts of odd ideas about what they can do, they need to be brought back down to earth very, very quickly as they are living in the clouds!

  2. Cian

    So the President really only has one power:
    The power in Article 13.2 to refuse to dissolve the Dail
    now that I look at it – they can only invoke this power “on the advice of a Taoiseach who has ceased to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann”.

    The other two powers you mention are limited.
    2. They can refer the constitutionality of a Bill to the Supreme Court – but if the SC says it’s okay – s/he has to sign it.
    3. And as you say – they can convene a meeting of the Oireachtas – but need the Government okay for what they say…

    So effectively no power at all.

    1. Barry the Hatchet

      You’re reading 13.2 wrong Cian. It is a power which the President can exercise in his absolute discretion (to refuse to dissolve the dail on the advice of a Taoiseach who has lost majority support). To my knowledge, it has never been exercised in the history of the state.

      The A26 power is probably the most significant one. But it’s a mixed bag. Very strict time limits for the challenge. Entirely hypothetical arguments because no one has yet been affected by the proposed law. And once a Bill is referred and declared constitutional, it can never be challenged again.

      1. The Old Boy

        Correct. Brian Lenihan Snr.’s presidential campaign was famously scuppered by revelations that as an opposition front-bencher he had telephoned President Patrick Hillery to try to cajole him into refusing to dissolve the Dáil at the request of then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald.

      2. Cian

        wait, is it that the Taoiseach advised the President to dissolve the Dail – but the president can refuse.
        okay. thanks.

        s/he has one power.

  3. Frilly Keane

    Ahhhh the bould LCD is back

    t wasn’t the same without ya
    we got ourselves inta all sorts of muck

    I hope you made the most of that Round-the-World cruise your last Legal Aid remittance paid for,
    ’cause you’re going t’ be kept busy

    (I’d say)

  4. Pat Harding

    Thanks for that Legal Coffee Drinker, really good article. Honestly other than having a king sized ego, I really don’t understand why anyone other than an experienced politician would want to go for that job. Michael D. Is a shoe-in in November for a second term.

  5. Slightly Bemused

    I could not help it: inspired by the headline.

    Imagined call to Joe Duffy (kudos to those who recognise the source):

    So you wanna be the Pres’dent
    In the Áras Uachtarán?
    Can you speak like a reg’lar culchie?
    Tell me just one thing
    Can you choose all your words for your press records
    If you need to?
    Can you hype, can you weave
    Can you dodge, and deceive when you need to?
    Well, you might as well quit
    If you haven’t got it

    So you wanna be the Pres’dent
    Can you pass the test?
    I can tell you’ve got it in you
    I’ve lobbied for the best
    When you lobby and you tweet
    And you bet that you meet the social media test
    Then you near lose your mind
    When you find that your little boy has bad past!
    So you might as well quit
    If you haven’t got it

    Put him in the ring, Joe
    Look at what you found
    We can use the fun, Joe
    Pushing him around
    Well show him the ropes
    And destroy his hopes
    Put him in the ring, Joe
    Give the guy a chance
    Let him feel the sting, Joe
    We can make him dance
    We’ll pulp him to bits
    Then he’ll call it quits for sure, Joe

    Apologies for the lack of inspiration: I am not an artist!

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