|Department of the Taoiseach|
Irish: A Thaoisigh
|Seat|| Government Buildings,|
Merrion Street, Dublin, Ireland
|Appointer||President of Ireland|
|Term length||While commanding the confidence of the majority of Dáil Éireann. No term limits are imposed on the office.|
|Inaugural holder||Éamon de Valera|
|Formation||29 December 1937|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
the Republic of Ireland
The Taoiseach ( // (
The word taoiseach (plural taoisigh, pronounced [t̪ˠiːʃʲɪɟ] TEE-shee) means "chief" or "leader" in Irish and was adopted in the 1937 Constitution of Ireland as the title of the "head of the Government, or Prime Minister". Taoiseach is the official title of the head of government in both English and Irish, and is not used for other countries' prime ministers (who are referred to in Irish as Príomh Aire, [ˌpˠɾˠiːvˠ ˈaɾʲə] pree-VAIR-ə). The Irish form, An Taoiseach, is sometimes used in English instead of "the Taoiseach".
Micheál Martin TD is the current Taoiseach; he took office on 27 June 2020, following a coalition agreement between his party Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party.
Under the Constitution of Ireland, the Taoiseach is nominated by a simple majority of the voting members of Dáil Éireann. They are then formally appointed to office by the President, who is required to appoint whomever the Dáil designates, without the option of declining to make the appointment. For this reason, the Taoiseach may, informally, be said to have been "elected" by Dáil Éireann.
If the Taoiseach loses the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann, they are not automatically removed from office. Instead, they are compelled either to resign or to persuade the President to dissolve the Dáil. If the President refuses to grant a dissolution, this effectively forces the Taoiseach to resign. To date, no president has exercised this prerogative, although the option arose in 1944 and 1994, and twice in 1982. The Taoiseach may lose the support of Dáil Éireann by the passage of a vote of no confidence, or implicitly, through the failure of a vote of confidence. Alternatively, the Dáil may refuse supply.In the event of the Taoiseach's resignation, they continue to exercise the duties and functions of office until the appointment of a successor.
The Taoiseach nominates the remaining members of the Government, who are then, with the consent of the Dáil, appointed by the President. The Taoiseach is authorised to advise the President to dismiss cabinet ministers from office; by convention the President follows this advice. The Taoiseach is further responsible for appointing eleven members of the Seanad.
The Department of the Taoiseach is the government department which supports and advises the Taoiseach in carrying out their various duties.
Since 2013, the Taoiseach's annual salary is €185,350.It was cut from €214,187 to €200,000 when Enda Kenny took office, before being cut further to €185,350 under the Haddington Road Agreement in 2013.
A proposed increase of €38,000 in 2007 was deferred when Brian Cowen became Taoiseachand in October 2008, the government announced a 10% salary cut for all ministers, including the Taoiseach. However this was a voluntary cut and the salaries remained nominally the same with both ministers and Taoiseach essentially refusing 10% of their salary. This courted controversy in December 2009 when a salary cut of 20% was based on the higher figure before the refused amount was deducted. The Taoiseach is also allowed an additional €118,981 in annual expenses.
There is no official residence of the Taoiseach. In 2008 it was reported speculatively that the former Steward's Lodge at Farmleigh adjoining the Phoenix Park would become the official residence of the Taoiseach; however no official statements were made nor any action taken.The house, which forms part of the Farmleigh estate acquired by the State in 1999 for €29.2m, was renovated at a cost of nearly €600,000 in 2005 by the Office of Public Works. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern did not use it as a residence, but his successor Brian Cowen used it occasionally.
"Mór Chluana" ("More of Cloyne") is a traditional air collected by Patrick Weston Joyce in 1873."Amhrán Dóchais" ("Song of Hope") is a poem written by Osborn Bergin in 1913 and set to the air. John A. Costello chose the air as his musical salute. The salute is played by army bands on the arrival of the Taoiseach at state ceremonies. Though the salute is often called "Amhrán Dóchais", Brian Ó Cuív argues "Mór Chluana" is the correct title.
The words Taoiseach and Tánaiste (the title of the deputy prime minister) are both from the Irish language and of ancient origin. Though the Taoiseach is described in the Constitution of Ireland as "the head of the Government or Prime Minister",its literal translation is chieftain or leader. Although Éamon de Valera, who introduced the title in 1937, was neither a Fascist nor a dictator, it has sometimes been remarked that the meaning leader in 1937 made the title similar to the titles of Fascist dictators of the time, such as Führer (Hitler), Duce (Mussolini) and Caudillo (Franco). Tánaiste, in turn, refers to the system of tanistry, the Gaelic system of succession whereby a leader would appoint an heir apparent while still living.
In Scottish Gaelic, tòiseach translates as clan chief and both words originally had similar meanings in the Gaelic languages of Scotland and Ireland. * towissākos 'chieftain, leader'.The related Welsh language word tywysog (current meaning: 'prince') has a similar origin and meaning. It is hypothesized that both derive ultimately from the proto-Celtic
The plural of taoiseach is taoisigh (Northern and Western Irish: [t̪ˠiːʃiː] , Southern: [t̪ˠiːʃɪɟ] ).
Although the Irish form An Taoiseach is sometimes used in English instead of 'the Taoiseach',the English version of the Constitution states that he or she "shall be called ... the Taoiseach".
In 1937 when the draft Constitution of Ireland was being debated in the Dáil, Frank MacDermot, an opposition politician, moved an amendment to substitute "Prime Minister" for the proposed "Taoiseach" title in the English text of the Constitution. It was proposed to keep the "Taoiseach" title in the Irish language text. The proponent remarked:
It seems to me to be mere make-believe to try to incorporate a word like "Taoiseach" in the English language. It would be pronounced wrongly by 99 percent of the people. I have already ascertained it is a very difficult word to pronounce correctly. That being so, even for the sake of the dignity of the Irish language, it would be more sensible that when speaking English we should be allowed to refer to the gentleman in question as the Prime Minister... It is just one more example of the sort of things that are being done here as if for the purpose of putting off the people in the North. No useful purpose of any kind can be served by compelling us, when speaking English, to refer to An Taoiseach rather than to the Prime Minister.
The President of the Executive Council, Éamon de Valera, gave the term's meaning as "chieftain" or "Captain". He said he was "not disposed" to support the proposed amendment and felt the word "Taoiseach" did not need to be changed. The proposed amendment was defeated on a vote and "Taoiseach" was included as the title ultimately adopted by plebiscite of the people.
The modern position of Taoiseach was established by the 1937 Constitution of Ireland and is the most powerful role in Irish politics. The office replaced the position of President of the Executive Council of the 1922–1937 Irish Free State.
The positions of Taoiseach and President of the Executive Council differed in certain fundamental respects. Under the Constitution of the Irish Free State, the latter was vested with considerably less power and was largely just the chairman of the cabinet, the Executive Council. For example, the President of the Executive Council could not dismiss a fellow minister on his own authority. Instead, the Executive Council had to be disbanded and reformed entirely to remove a member. The President of the Executive Council also did not have the right to advise the Governor-General to dissolve Dáil Éireann on his own authority, that power belonging collectively to the Executive Council.
In contrast, the Taoiseach created in 1937 possesses a much more powerful role. The holder of the position can both advise the President to dismiss ministers and dissolve Parliament on his own authority—advice that the President is almost always required to follow by convention.His role is greatly enhanced because under the Constitution, he is both de jure and de facto chief executive. In most other parliamentary democracies, the head of state is at least the nominal chief executive, while being bound by convention to act on the advice of the cabinet. In Ireland, however, executive power is explicitly vested in the Government, of which the Taoiseach is the leader.
Since the Taoiseach is the head of government, and may remove ministers at will, many of the powers specified, in law or the constitution, to be exercised by the government as a collective body, are in reality at the will of the Taoiseach. The Government almost always backs the Taoiseach in major decisions, and in many cases often merely formalizes that decision at a subsequent meeting after it has already been announced. Nevertheless the need for collective decision making on paper acts as a safeguard against an unwise decision made by the Taoiseach.
Historically, where there have been multi-party or coalition governments, the Taoiseach has been the leader of the largest party in the coalition. One exception to this was John A. Costello, who was not leader of his party, but an agreed choice to head the government, because the other parties refused to accept then Fine Gael leader Richard Mulcahy as Taoiseach. In 2010 Taoiseach Brian Cowen, in the midst of highly unpopular spending cuts after the global financial crash, maintained his position as Taoiseach until new elections, but stood down as leader of Fianna Fáil and allowed Micheál Martin (who had resigned in protest at the way Cowen responded to the crises) to succeed him.
Before the enactment of the 1937 Constitution, the head of government was referred to as the President of the Executive Council. This office was first held by W. T. Cosgrave of Cumann na nGaedheal from 1922 to 1932, and then by Éamon de Valera of Fianna Fáil from 1932 to 1937. By convention, Taoisigh are numbered to include Cosgrave;for example, Micheál Martin is considered the 15th Taoiseach, not the 14th.
President of the Executive Council
|Term of office||Party||Exec. Council|
|1|| W. T. Cosgrave |
TD for Carlow–Kilkenny until 1927
TD for Cork Borough from 1927
| Sinn Féin|
|1st||SF (PT) (minority)||Kevin O'Higgins||3 (1922)|
|Cumann na nGaedheal||2nd||CnG (minority)||4 (1923)|
|3rd||Ernest Blythe||5 (Jun.1927)|
|2|| Éamon de Valera |
TD for Clare
|Fianna Fáil||6th||FF (minority)||Seán T. O'Kelly||7 (1932)|
|Term of office||Party||Government|
|(2)|| Éamon de Valera |
TD for Clare
|Fianna Fáil||1st||FF (minority)||Seán T. O'Kelly||9 ( ···· )|
|3rd||FF (minority)||11 (1943)|
|4th||FF||Seán Lemass||12 (1944)|
|3|| John A. Costello |
TD for Dublin South-East
|Fine Gael||5th||FG–Lab–CnP–CnT–NL–Ind||William Norton||13 (1948)|
|(2)|| Éamon de Valera |
TD for Clare
|Fianna Fáil||6th||FF (minority)||Seán Lemass||14 (1951)|
|(3)|| John A. Costello |
TD for Dublin South-East
|Fine Gael||7th||FG–Lab–CnT||William Norton||15 (1954)|
|(2)|| Éamon de Valera |
TD for Clare
|Fianna Fáil||8th||FF||Seán Lemass||16 (1957)|
|4|| Seán Lemass |
TD for Dublin South-Central
|Fianna Fáil||9th||FF||Seán MacEntee|
|10th||FF (minority)||17 (1961)|
|11th||FF||Frank Aiken||18 (1965)|
|5|| Jack Lynch |
TD for Cork Borough until 1969
TD for Cork City North-West from 1969
|13th||FF||Erskine H. Childers||19 (1969)|
|6|| Liam Cosgrave |
TD for Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown
|Fine Gael||14th||FG–Lab||Brendan Corish||20 (1973)|
|(5)|| Jack Lynch |
TD for Cork City
|Fianna Fáil||15th||FF||George Colley||21 (1977)|
|7|| Charles Haughey |
TD for Dublin Artane
|8|| Garret FitzGerald |
TD for Dublin South-East
|Fine Gael||17th||FG–Lab (minority)||Michael O'Leary||22 (1981)|
|(7)|| Charles Haughey |
TD for Dublin North-Central
|Fianna Fáil||18th||FF (minority)||Ray MacSharry||23 (Feb.1982)|
|(8)|| Garret FitzGerald |
TD for Dublin South-East
|Fine Gael||19th|| FG–Lab |
FG (minority) from Jan 1987
|Dick Spring||24 (Nov.1982)|
|(7)|| Charles Haughey |
TD for Dublin North-Central
|Fianna Fáil||20th||FF (minority)||Brian Lenihan||25 (1987)|
|9|| Albert Reynolds |
TD for Longford–Roscommon
|Fianna Fáil||22nd|| FF–PD |
FF (minority) from Nov 1992
|23rd|| FF–Lab |
FF (minority) from Nov 1994
|Dick Spring||27 (1992)|
|10|| John Bruton |
TD for Meath
|Fine Gael||24th||FG–Lab–DL||Dick Spring|
|11|| Bertie Ahern |
TD for Dublin Central
|Fianna Fáil||25th||FF–PD (minority)||Mary Harney||28 (1997)|
|27th||FF–Green–PD||Brian Cowen||30 (2007)|
|12|| Brian Cowen |
TD for Laois–Offaly
|Fianna Fáil||28th|| FF–Green–PD |
FF–Green–Ind from Nov 2009
FF (minority) from Jan 2011
|13|| Enda Kenny |
TD for Mayo
|Fine Gael||29th||FG–Lab||Eamon Gilmore||31 (2011)|
|30th||FG–Ind (minority)||Frances Fitzgerald||32 (2016)|
|14|| Leo Varadkar |
TD for Dublin West
|Fine Gael||31st||FG–Ind (minority)|
|15|| Micheál Martin |
TD for Cork South-Central
|Incumbent||Fianna Fáil||32nd||FF–FG–Green||Leo Varadkar||33 (2020)|
As we cannot name the first Celtic chieftain who consented to change his style of Toshach and his patriarchal sway for the title and stability of King's Thane of Cawdor, so it is impossible to fix the precise time when their ancient property and offices were acquired.
Toshach is an early Celtic title given to minor territorial chiefs in Scotland (note Eire Prime Minister's official title is this).
An early word meaning 'leader' appears on a 5th- or 6th-century inscribed stone as both ogam Irish and British genitive TOVISACI: tywysog now means 'prince' in Welsh, the regular descriptive title used for Prince Charles, for example; while in Ireland, the corresponding Taoiseach is now the correct title, in both Irish and English, for the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic (Éire).
Éamon de Valera was a prominent statesman and political leader in 20th-century Ireland, serving several terms as head of government and head of state, with a prominent role introducing the Constitution of Ireland.
The president of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State was the head of government or prime minister of the Irish Free State which existed from 1922 to 1937. He was the chairman of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, the Free State's cabinet. The president was appointed by the governor-general, upon the nomination of Dáil Éireann and had to enjoy the confidence of the Dáil to remain in office. The office was succeeded by that of Taoiseach, though subsequent Taoisigh are numbered from the first president of the Executive.
William Thomas Cosgrave was an Irish Fine Gael politician who served as President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1932, Leader of the Opposition in both the Free State and Ireland from 1932 to 1944, Leader of Fine Gael from 1934 to 1944, founder and leader of Fine Gael's predecessor, Cumann na nGaedheal, from 1923 to 1933, Chairman of the Provisional Government from August 1922 to December 1922, President of Dáil Éireann from September 1922 to December 1922, Minister for Finance from 1922 to 1923 and Minister for Local Government from 1919 to 1922. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1921 to 1944. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) for the North Kilkenny constituency from 1918 to 1922.
Patrick John Hillery was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as the sixth President of Ireland from December 1976 to December 1990. He also served as Vice-President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Social Affairs from 1973 to 1976, Minister for External Affairs from 1969 to 1973, Minister for Labour from 1966 to 1969, Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1965 to 1969 and Minister for Education from 1959 to 1965. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Clare constituency from 1951 to 1973.
Charles James Haughey was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as Taoiseach on three occasions – 1979 to 1981, March 1982 to December 1982 and 1987 to 1992. He was also Minister for the Gaeltacht from 1987 to 1992, Leader of the Opposition from 1981 to 1982 and 1982 to 1987, Leader of Fianna Fáil from 1979 to 1992, Minister for Social Welfare and for Health from 1977 to 1979, Minister for Finance from 1966 to 1970, Minister for Agriculture from 1964 to 1966, Minister for Justice from 1961 to 1964 and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Justice from 1959 to 1961. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1957 to 1992.
The President of Dáil Éireann was the leader of the revolutionary Irish Republic of 1919–1922. The office was created in the Dáil Constitution adopted by Dáil Éireann, the parliament of the Republic, at its first meeting in January 1919. This provided that the president was elected by the Dáil as head of a cabinet called the Ministry of Dáil Éireann. During this period, Ireland was deemed part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in international law, but the Irish Republic had made a unilateral Declaration of Independence on 21 January 1919. On 6 December 1922, after the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Irish Free State was recognised as a sovereign state, and the position of the President of Dáil Éireann was replaced by that of President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State but, as a Dominion of the British Empire, King George V was head of state.
Garret Desmond FitzGerald was an Irish economist, barrister, lecturer, public intellectual and Fine Gael politician who served as Taoiseach from 1981 to 1982 and 1982 to 1987, Leader of Fine Gael from 1977 to 1987, Leader of the Opposition from 1977 to 1981 and March 1982 to December 1982 and Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1973 to 1977. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1969 to 1992. He was a Senator for the Industrial and Commercial Panel from 1965 to 1969.
The Government of the 24th Dáil or the 19th Government of Ireland was the government of Ireland formed after the November 1982 general election. It was a coalition government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party led by Garret FitzGerald as Taoiseach.
The Government of the 23rd Dáil or the 18th Government of Ireland was the government of Ireland formed after the February 1982 general election. It was a minority Fianna Fáil government, reliant on the support of the Sinn Féin - The Workers' Party and Independent TD Tony Gregory, led by Charles Haughey as Taoiseach.
The Government of the 22nd Dáil or the 17th Government of Ireland was the government of Ireland formed after the 1981 general election. It was a minority coalition government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party led by Garret FitzGerald as Taoiseach.
The Government of the 20th Dáil or the 14th Government of Ireland was the government of Ireland formed after the 1973 general election held on 28 February 1973. It was a coalition government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, known as the National Coalition, led by Liam Cosgrave as Taoiseach with Brendan Corish as Tánaiste. It was the first time either of the parties had been in government since the Government of the 15th Dáil (1954–57), when they were in coalition with Clann na Talmhan.
The Government of the 11th Dáil or the 3rd Government of Ireland was the government of Ireland formed after the 1943 general election held on 23 June. It was a single-party Fianna Fáil government led by Éamon de Valera as Taoiseach. Fianna Fáil had been in office since the 1932 general election.
The Government of the 9th Dáil was successively the 8th Executive Council of the Irish Free State and the 1st Government of Ireland. They were led by Éamon de Valera, first as President of the Executive Council and then as Taoiseach. It was formed after the 1937 general election held on 1 July, the same day the new Constitution of Ireland was approved in a plebiscite. Fianna Fáil were continuing in office as a single-party government as they had since the 1932 general election.
The Taoiseach is the head of government of Ireland. Prior to the enactment of the Constitution of Ireland in 1937, the head of government was referred to as the President of the Executive Council. This office was first held by W. T. Cosgrave from 1922 to 1932, and then by Éamon de Valera from 1932 to 1937. By convention Taoisigh are numbered to include Cosgrave, for example Micheál Martin is considered the 15th Taoiseach.
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 the 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.
Fianna Fáil was founded on 23 March 1926 when a group of Dáil deputies led by Éamon de Valera split from the original Sinn Féin. This happened because de Valera's motion calling for elected members be allowed to take their seats in the Dáil, if and when the controversial Oath of Allegiance was removed, failed to pass at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis. The new party adopted its name on 2 April of the same year. From the formation of the first Fianna Fáil government on 9 March 1932 until the 2011 general election, the party was in power for 61 of 79 years. Its longest continuous period in office was 15 years and 11 months. Its single longest period out of office, in that time, has been four years and four months. All eight of its party's leaders have served as Taoiseach. It was the largest party in Dáil Éireann at every general election from the 1932 general election until the 2011 general election, when it suffered the worst defeat of a sitting government in the history of the Irish state.
The Leader of Fianna Fáil is the most senior politician within the Fianna Fáil political party in Ireland. Since 26 January 2011, the office has been held by Micheál Martin, following the resignation of Taoiseach Brian Cowen as leader of the party.
If a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach or Government of Ireland is passed by Dáil Éireann, or a motion of confidence is defeated, then the Constitution requires both the Taoiseach and the Government to resign. After this, either a replacement Taoiseach is elected by the Dáil, or the Dáil is dissolved and a general election is held. Motions have twice brought down the government, in each case resulting in an election: in November 1982 and again in November 1992.
The Taoiseach is the head of the Government of Ireland. Under Article 13 of the Constitution of Ireland, the Taoiseach is appointed by the President of Ireland on the nomination of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas. The Taoiseach must be a member of Dáil Éireann.
While Taoiseach itself carried with it some initially unpleasant assonances with Caudillo, Fuhrer and Duce, all but one of the 12 men who wielded the prime ministerial sceptre have managed to keep their megalomaniacal tendencies in check.
Eamon de Valera is An Taoiseach or "boss Gael." That title goes considerably beyond the English "prime minister" or the American "president." It is the Gaelic equivalent of the German "Fuehrer," the Italian "Duce" and the Spanish "Caudillo."Published in New York, 1944 (publisher not identified); Original from University of Minnesota; Digitized 6 May 2016
... and let alone the names of the Prime Minister (the Taoiseach, a word that is related to Duce, Fuhrer, and Caudillo) (translated from the original Irish: ... agus fiú amháin ainmeacha an Phríomh-Aire (An Taoiseach, focal go bhfuil gaol aige le Duce, Fuhrer, agus Caudillo)Original from the University of California; Digitized 6 December 2006
The Taoiseach has learnt with regret ...
The book Chairman or Chief: The Role of the Taoiseach in Irish Government (1971) by Brian Farrell provides a good overview of the conflicting roles for the Taoiseach. Though long out of print, it may still be available in libraries or from booksellers. Biographies are also available of de Valera, Lemass, Lynch, Cosgrave, FitzGerald, Haughey, Reynolds and Ahern. FitzGerald wrote an autobiography, while an authorised biography was produced of de Valera. There is a chapter by Garret FitzGerald on the role of the Taoiseach in a festschrift to Brian Farrell. There is a chapter by Eoin O'Malley on the Taoiseach and cabinet in Governing Ireland: From cabinet government to delegated governance (Eoin O'Malley and Muiris MacCarthaigh eds.) Dublin: IPA 2012.
Some biographies of former Taoisigh and presidents of the Executive Council:
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