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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 8, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

    Time to Get Real on the Presidency

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    The race for the Presidency is intensely interesting, albeit at times a little silly. For some, it seems to be almost a vanity project, whereas this is a very serious political office. By way of a reminder, herewith the main section from the English-language version of Bunreacht na hÉireann/The Irish Constituion on the Presidency dealing with this topic. There’s more at http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/upload/static/256.htm

    THE PRESIDENT

    Article 12

    1.    There shall be a President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann), hereinafter called the President, 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 this Constitution and by law.

    2.    1° The President shall be elected by direct vote of the people.

    2° Every citizen who has the right to vote at an election for members of Dáil Éireann shall have the right to vote at an election for President.

    3° The voting shall be by secret ballot and on the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.

    3.    1° The President shall hold office for seven years from the date upon which he enters upon his office, unless before the expiration of that period he dies, or resigns, or is removed from office, or becomes permanently incapacitated, such incapacity being established to the satisfaction of the Supreme Court consisting of not less than five judges.

    2° A person who holds, or who has held, office as President, shall be eligible for re-election to that office once, but only once.

    3° An election for the office of President shall be held not later than, and not earlier than the sixtieth day before, the date of the expiration of the term of office of every President, but in the event of the removal from office of the President or of his death, resignation, or permanent incapacity established as aforesaid (whether occurring before or after he enters upon his office), an election for the office of President shall be held within sixty days after such event.

    4.    1° Every citizen who has reached his thirty-fifth year of age is eligible for election to the office of President.

    2° Every candidate for election, not a former or retiring President, must be nominated either by:

                                                                                   i.            not less than twenty persons, each of whom is at the time a member of one of the Houses of the Oireachtas, or

                                                                                ii.            by the Councils of not less than four administrative Counties (including County Boroughs) as defined by law.

    3° No person and no such Council shall be entitled to subscribe to the nomination of more than one candidate in respect of the same election.

    4° Former or retiring Presidents may become candidates on their own nomination.

    5° Where only one candidate is nominated for the office of President it shall not be necessary to proceed to a ballot for his election.

    5.    Subject to the provisions of this Article, elections for the office of President shall be regulated by law.

    6.    1° The President shall not be a member of either House of the Oireachtas.

    2° If a member of either House of the Oireachtas be elected President, he shall be deemed to have vacated his seat in that House.

    3° The President shall not hold any other office or position of emolument.

    7.    The first President shall enter upon his office as soon as may be after his election, and every subsequent President shall enter upon his office on the day following the expiration of the term of office of his predecessor or as soon as may be thereafter or, in the event of his predecessor’s removal from office, death, resignation, or permanent incapacity established as provided by section 3 hereof, as soon as may be after the election.

    8.    The President shall enter upon his office by taking and subscribing publicly, in the presence of members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, of Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Court, and other public personages, the following declaration:

    “In the presence of Almighty God I    ,do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me.”

    9.    The President shall not leave the State during his term of office save with the consent of the Government.

    10.                      
    1° The President may be impeached for stated misbehaviour.

    2° The charge shall be preferred by either of the Houses of the Oireachtas, subject to and in accordance with the provisions of this section.

    3° A proposal to either House of the Oireachtas to prefer a charge against the President under this section shall not be entertained unless upon a notice of motion in writing signed by not less than thirty members of that House.

    4° No such proposal shall be adopted by either of the Houses of the Oireachtas save upon a resolution of that House supported by not less than two-thirds of the total membership thereof.

    5° When a charge has been preferred by either House of the Oireachtas, the other House shall investigate the charge, or cause the charge to be investigated.

    6° The President shall have the right to appear and to be represented at the investigation of the charge.

    7° If, as a result of the investigation, a resolution be passed supported by not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the House of the Oireachtas by which the charge was investigated, or caused to be investigated, declaring that the charge preferred against the President has been sustained and that the misbehaviour, the subject of the charge, was such as to render him unfit to continue in office, such resolution shall operate to remove the President from his office.

    11.                      
    1° The President shall have an official residence in or near the City of Dublin.

    2° The President shall receive such emoluments and allowances as may be determined by law.

    3° The emoluments and allowances of the President shall not be diminished during his term of office.

    Article 13

    1.    1° The President shall, on the nomination of Dáil Éireann, appoint the Taoiseach, that is, the head of the Government or Prime Minister.

    2° The President shall, on the nomination of the Taoiseach with the previous approval of Dáil Éireann, appoint the other members of the Government.

    3° The President shall, on the advice of the Taoiseach, accept the resignation or terminate the appointment of any member of the Government.

    2.    1° Dáil Éireann shall be summoned and dissolved by the President on the advice of the Taoiseach.

    2° The President may in his absolute discretion refuse to dissolve Dáil Éireann on the advice of a Taoiseach who has ceased to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann.

    3° The President may at any time, after consultation with the Council of State, convene a meeting of either or both of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

    3.    1° Every Bill passed or deemed to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas shall require the signature of the President for its enactment into law.

    2° The President shall promulgate every law made by the Oireachtas.

    4.    The supreme command of the Defence Forces is hereby vested in the President.

    5.    1° The exercise of the supreme command of the Defence Forces shall be regulated by law.

    2° All commissioned officers of the Defence Forces shall hold their commissions from the President.

    6.    The right of pardon and the power to commute or remit punishment imposed by any court exercising criminal jurisdiction are hereby vested in the President, but such power of commutation or remission may also be conferred by law on other authorities.

    7.    1° The President may, after consultation with the Council of State, communicate with the Houses of the Oireachtas by message or address on any matter of national or public importance.

    2° The President may, after consultation with the Council of State, address a message to the Nation at any time on any such matter.

    3° Every such message or address must, however, have received the approval of the Government.

    8.    1° The President shall not be answerable to either House of the Oireachtas or to any court for the exercise and performance of the powers and functions of his office or for any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise and performance of these powers and functions.

    2° The behaviour of the President may, however, be brought under review in either of the Houses of the Oireachtas for the purposes of section 10 of Article 12 of this Constitution, or by any court, tribunal or body appointed or designated by either of the Houses of the Oireachtas for the investigation of a charge under section 10 of the said Article.

    9.    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.

    10.                       Subject to this Constitution, additional powers and functions may be conferred on the President by law.

    11.                       No power or function conferred on the President by law shall be exercisable or performable by him save only on the advice of the Government.


    Article 14

    1.    In the event of the absence of the President, or his temporary incapacity, or his permanent incapacity established as provided by section 3 of Article 12 hereof, or in the event of his death, resignation, removal from office, or failure to exercise and perform the powers and functions of his office or any of them, or at any time at which the office of President may be vacant, the powers and functions conferred on the President by or under this Constitution shall be exercised and performed by a Commission constituted as provided in section 2 of this Article.

    2.    1° The Commission shall consist of the following persons, namely, the Chief Justice, the Chairman of Dáil Éireann (An Ceann Comhairle), and the Chairman of Seanad Éireann.

    2° The President of the High Court shall act as a member of the Commission in the place of the Chief Justice on any occasion on which the office of Chief Justice is vacant or on which the Chief Justice is unable to act.

    3° The Deputy Chairman of Dáil Éireann shall act as a member of the Commission in the place of the Chairman of Dáil Éireann on any occasion on which the office of Chairman of Dáil Éireann is vacant or on which the said Chairman is unable to act.

    4° The Deputy Chairman of Seanad Éireann shall act as a member of the Commission in the place of the Chairman of Seanad Éireann on any occasion on which the office of Chairman of Seanad Éireann is vacant or on which the said Chairman is unable to act.

    3.    The Commission may act by any two of their number and may act notwithstanding a vacancy in their membership.

    4.    The Council of State may by a majority of its members make such provision as to them may seem meet for the exercise and performance of the powers and functions conferred on the President by or under this Constitution in any contingency which is not provided for by the foregoing provisions of this Article.

    5.    1° The provisions of this Constitution which relate to the exercise and performance by the President of the powers and functions conferred on him by or under this Constitution shall subject to the subsequent provisions of this section apply to the exercise and performance of the said powers and functions under this Article.

    2° In the event of the failure of the President to exercise or perform any power or function which the President is by or under this Constitution required to exercise or perform within a specified time, the said power or function shall be exercised or performed under this Article, as soon as may be after the expiration of the time so specified.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      First off 7 years is far too long – it should be reduced to 5 years and the vote held on the same day as the election with the reduced term starting immediately.

      What is it we want the President to do – McAleese did absolutely nothing to stop the government selling the future of possibly two generations of young Irish so it makes one wonder what exactly she’s been doing for the last 14 years – we seem to be expected to be delighted that she didn’t embarrass us yet isn’t that the very least we should expect from any President – that they can be let out in polite society without scaring the horses?

      So what is it we want the President to do. We would very soon grow tired of the self importance of Michael D, Niall O’Dowd? Gimme a break. Mary Davis? Enough of the Mary’s – my God is there no other name for a woman and in what way is her being President going to do anything to improve the lives of those with special needs because the President can’t do or say anything without it being approved by the government of the day so she will not be able to go on some crusade on their behalf so what’s the point of her campaign then?

      Ditto for Finlay and Norris – that is if they have an agenda about what they would do. Symbolism is all fine but given the issues Ireland faces it will take more than some special needs people/children or LGBT at the Áras to get the sort of change Ireland needs – is the new President going to take it to the establishment about the scale of reform needed by them to pay for what they’ve done to the country? Hardly.

      Interesting isn’t it that the passing of FitzGerald and Costello makes you look around and think will any of the current or most recent crop of politicos or senior public servants be recalled with the same respect they have been. John Bruton is a nice man but he’s no FitzGerald, I can’t even think of any current or recent civil servant to compare to Costello. Any good Des O’Malley did is more than wiped out by what the PDs unleashed and when you look into the detail of the likes of people like him, the record isn’t all that.

    • V says:

      Oh no! (Article 12, #4) – Candidates for the presidency must have reached their thirty-fifth birthday. I reckon that probably rules out my favourite (Eimear Ní Chonaola) who may be too young. Darn.
      (Btw – don’t know Ms Chonaola — never met her — don’t even know if she’d want the job — just love her persona that comes across on TG4 and she definitely has leadership qualities)

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      Well said Desmond Fitzgerald. The presently departing incumbent did nothing whatsoever to stop the gross betrayal of Ireland’s Cause to cowardice inhumanity and rapine by the traitorous spawn of terrorists: Fianna Fail and their minions in the late and unlamented ‘Green’ qua Yellow party. Much and all as I admire Mrs McAleese as a person and a President otherwise, I feel utterly disillusioned by her apparent inability to do other than convene a Council of State packed to the gills with FF cronies, yes men and of course Bartholemew Ahern. What was their ‘advice’ every going to be other than a slavish Yes to the 200 billion euro millstone of indentured servitude now hung about our necks and our children and grandchildren’s necks yea unto the hundreth generation? I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take the idea of an Irish President seriously again as a result. And that aside from the simple fact that for a slave-state, no, a PRovinCe once again of a new Imperium, to seek to clothe itself in the tattered cloak of some kind of Republic is in itself an insult to the Dead Generations whose legacy and sacrifice have now been so squandered and so spurned. Like I said. Get rid of the office of Irish President. Banish it and all the other gee-gaws and baubles proper to sovereign independent countries, which this one is no longer. Put the ensuant savings into debt repayment, rent out the vice-regal lodge to Mr Chopra and his team to save on the hotel bills they’ll otherwise add to the sucking chest wound inflicted on this country. Abandon this pretence. Have some bloody dignity at the last. Ireland is not an independent sovereign republic worthy of such a figurehead as a President. At most, all ye need’s a PRoCurator a PRefeCt or a Gauleiter. Pontius Pilate would do nicely for the likes of the Irish today, a bunch of mendicant sanhedrin who have been made strangers in their own land.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      I have to say listening to David Norris on RTE this morning my already enormous respect for him grew further. There is a man genuine, sincere, massively erudite, hugely deep-thinking, totally committed to the improvement of the human condition both in this kip and further abroad. He’ll be ripped to shreds by the shoneens the gombeens and the shleeveens. A man far too good for this dump entirely.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      Let me put it this way. I once met Mr Norris (in Shanghai when he was over one Bloomsday doing his usual Herculean work promoting Ireland and Irish literature to the Chinese). He was walking out of the Dublin Exchange pub in Pudong and I was walking in. One of us was badly hungover and it wasn’t him. We said hello to each other. That was it. Now. The acid test is this. If someone offered me the opportunity to leave any or all of my four daughters alone and in his company for an entire day so as they might glean some benefit from his wisdom, erudition, style, insousiance and so forth, I’d leap at the oppo in a heartbeat. And that’s more than I would say for just about anyone else in Irish politics with whom I have done no more than exchange a civil greeting. Which ain’t many, tbh.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      If I was an Irish citizen and could vote for your President (and if I still thought ye deserved to have one) Mr Norris or failing him running Mr Higgins would have my unqualified support. As for the rest, who are they again? No. Don’t tell me. I don’t care. But those two gentlemen have done more to promote your country and Her arts and literature to the world and at home than anyone else I can think of. And unlike Plato, I think artists are absolutely vital to a civilised republic. They’re the only ones have any hope of keeping the restaye on the straight and narrow. If there’s ever going to be an Irish renaissance of what I once believed true about this dump and now know in my bones to have been the biggest pile of bullshit ever, then you’ll need all the arts and artists ye can lay yer unworthy hands on. And that’s all I got to say about that.

    • festy o semtex says:

      President is only our answer to QE2, across the pond, and she does not interfere in daily workings of Westminister

    • KQ says:

      When it came to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts and the Irish constitution it became a case of Norris v. Ireland at the European Court of Human Rights (a contentious legislative body if ever there was one, in my opinion) and which, as we know, ruled against the judgement of the Supreme Court of Ireland. Given the recent highlighting of Norris’ attitude re certain practices in Ancient Greece – this kind of blathering is unacceptable in a presidential candidate. What next we might ask, in this Norris v. Ireland crusade? This man is not presidential material in my very strong opinion, since he most certainly does not speak for all the people especially those of us who are NOT HOMPHOBIC but hold strong views in relation to the gay agenda in this country at present. The last thing this country needs is a controversial figure installed in the highest office in the land.

    • Peter Barrins says:

      The system of candidate selection needs to be altered and removed from the political/local authority sphere. I think the practice of political parties selecting candidates is wrong. I am struck at the egotistical individuals who are making noises on the basis that they might in fact be suitable when they would have little to offer. It’s a bit of a side show really, mild entertainment, but little else. On one hand I think the current term of office is too long but on the other, when there is a good President, perhaps they should be retained for life and save us the bother of having to select and elect…

    • Alan M says:

      Ah now KQ, at least be honest – you’re definitely homophobic and you’d hate to see Norris or any other homosexual in the Aras. Are you saying that homosexuality should never have been legalised in Ireland or what? I’d be interested to hear your strong, non-homophobic views in realtion to the “gay agenda” in Ireland at present – perhaps you might specify what that agenda is. Maybe a controversial figure in the Office of President would do no harm…might liven it up a bit.

    • [&&&] says:

      Has John Hume been ruled out or ruled himself out of this contest…? Compared to the competition his candidacy would be a walk in the Park…a man of dignity integrity and stature with a real record of achievement and credibility in the International stage…The less said about the others the better…


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