The Oireachtas (National Parliament)
The Constitution of 1937 provides that the Oireachtas shall consist of a President and two houses: Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (Senate).
The President is elected by the direct vote of the people and every citizen who has a right to vote at an election for membership of Dáil Éireann has a right to vote at an election for the President. The President’s term of office is seven years and allows for re-election once only.
Every citizen of 35 years of age or over is eligible for the office. A former or retiring President may become a candidate on his or her own nomination. Other candidates must be nominated by at least twenty persons, each of whom is a member of one of the Houses of the Oireachtas, or by the councils of at least four county councils (including county boroughs). The persons or bodies that may nominate candidates may subscribe to one candidate only. If only one candidate is nominated, there is no need to proceed to a ballot for election.
The President normally acts on the advice and authority of the government. Before a Bill becomes law it must have the President’s signature. The President has certain discretionary powers. Firstly the President may, after consultation with the Council of State, refer any Bill to the Supreme Court for a decision as to whether it contains anything repugnant to the Constitution.
Secondly, if a majority of the Seanad and not less than one third of the Dáil petition the President to decline to sign a Bill on the ground that it contains a proposal of such national importance that the will of the people thereon ought to be ascertained, the President may accede to the request after consultation with the Council of State and may sign only when the proposal has been approved by the people in a referendum, or by a new Dáil after a dissolution and a general election.
The Council of State is composed of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court, the Ceann Comhairle (Chairman or Chairwoman) of Dáil Éireann, the Cathaoirleach (Chairman or Chairwoman) of Seanad Éireann, the Attorney General, every person who has held office as President, Taoiseach or Chief Justice and any other persons (to a total of seven) whom the President may appoint at his of her own discretion. The President need not necessarily follow the advice of the Council.
There is no Vice President of Ireland. If the President dies during the term of office, or is incapacitated, or is abroad, or is removed from office or fails to carry out the functions enjoined by the Constitution, the Constitution provides for a Commission to act in the President’s place. Such a Commission would consist of the Chief Justice, the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann and the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. The Commission may act by any two of its number. In the event of the removal from office or death, resignation or permanent incapacity of the President, an election for President must take place within sixty days.
The Houses of the Oireachtas
A general election for Dáil Éireann must be held at least once every five years. For electoral purposes the countryis divided into areas known as constituencies, each of which elects either three, four or five members. Under the Constitution there must be one member for every 20,000 to 30,000 people. Voting is by the single transferable vote method of proportional representation.
The official complement of serving members, called Teachtaí Dála (TD) is 166. The TD’s are currently returned by the forty-three constituencies into which the country is divided. No constituency may return less than three members.
Senead Éireann has sixty members. Eleven are nominated directly by the Taoiseach. Forty-three are elected from five panels of candidates – the Cultural and Educational Panel, the Agricultural Panel, the Labour Panel, the Industrial and Commercial Panel and the Administrative Panel. The remaining six are elected by certain universities at present – three by the National University of Ireland and three by the University of Dublin.
The Role of the Consulate General of Ireland office in New Zealand
The Consulate office was first established in Auckland in 1976. At that time there was also an office in Wellington. In 1980 the Wellington office closed and all Honorary Consulate activities were transferred to Auckland.
The Auckland office has a compliment of four people. The main activities are the issuing of Passports, the registering of Foreign Births and the recording and issuing of Working Holiday Authorities and Entry Visas. Additional activities include assisting Irish citizens in distress, providing information on Ireland and representing Irish interests where appropriate.