Irish Political System

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Date Submitted: 09/15/2012 06:53 PM

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What is the role of the President in modern Ireland?

The role of the President in the Republic of Ireland is primarily a symbolic and ceremonial one. The fact, however, that they are the only officer of state directly elected by all citizens of the state gives them a moral authority which allows them, through Article 12.1, to ‘take precedence over all other persons in the state’ (Bunreacht Na hÉireann, 1937). Several key attributes mark a successful President. The ability to co-operate with Government is hugely important, as is garnering the respect of the people. The single most important attribute however is to have independence of mind. It is imperative that he/she does not involve the office of President in any party or partisan politics. The President represents the face of the Republic of Ireland internationally, both on official foreign visits and in receiving foreign heads of state, thus can be beneficial in nurturing friendly foreign diplomatic relations and connecting with the many millions within the Irish diaspora.

They are afforded limited constitutional powers, contained in articles 12, 13 & 14 of the 1937 constitution. They do, however, exercise and perform these powers solely on the advice of the Government of the day. Article 13.4 also states that ‘the supreme command of the defence forces is hereby vested in the President’ (Bunreacht Na hÉireann, 1937). It is, however, followed by a provision requiring the exercise of this command is to be regulated by law. They are also responsible for appointments in the judiciary, the cabinet and ambassadorial roles, although this is merely a symbolic act. They cannot be appointed except on advice from the Government. The office of President merely bestows upon these appointments their seal of office, in turn reinforcing the moral authority instilled in the office. In the case of removals the office of President must also act on advice received from the Taoiseach alone.

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