The office of President of Ireland is merely a ceremonial office with little or no real power.
Critically analyse the above statement citing relevant case-law and academic commentary.
The office of President of Ireland is merely a ceremonial office with little or no real power.
President is the title that is provided to the Head of the State in most of the republics states. The function and the power that the president possesses within the country depend according to the constitutional law of the individual country. In the term of the parliamentary republic it can be seen that the power of the president is generally ceremonial. The president of Ireland also hold the highest post as the Head of the State and the Supreme Commander of the Defence Force of Ireland and stay in the position for 7 long years. At present, the president of Ireland is Michael D. Higgins who hold the office from 11th November 2011. The primary purpose of the paper is to discuss regarding the president role of Ireland whether it is ceremonial with the little or no power or not for making a decision regarding the benefit of the nation and performing ultimate power.
Irish Constitutional Law
The constitution of Ireland was sanctioned by the Irish people that also in the year 1937 and this is also the fundamental law of the nation. The constitution consists of the 50 articles that define regarding the legal and the fundamental condition of the nation. The article from 1-39 provides a clear view regarding the function of the states and its agencies. From the article 40 till 44 it provides the effective view regarding the fundamental right of the citizen. Article 45, 46 and 47 provides the view on the principle of social policy, amended of the constitution and referendums of the government respectively. In the constitutional law, various segments deal with the fundamental rights and the government activities within the country. Article 12 clearly provides the view that there shall be president within the country who will need to take the precedence of all the person within the state. The president also needs to exercise as well as perform the power along with the function that is conferred on the president of the country by the constitutional law. The vote of the Irish Citizen directly elects the president of the country. The voting is done on the secret ballot for maintaining the legal and the rightful deed during the election. The country maintains their constitutional law in the most suitable way, and as the citizen have the power to elect the president, it becomes much more suitable for getting the right candidate as President.
According to Article 12 of the Irish Constitutional Law, it can be seen that the president of the country should hold the position for seven years. If any problem happens to the president like death or the resign or the removed from the office must be done on the satisfaction of the Supreme Court with at least five judges. A person who has remained the president is eligible for the re-election but only for once. The election for the new president shall be done on the sixtieth day before the date of termination of present president office term. The constitutional the law also provides the view that every citizen who has achieved the age of 35 is highly eligible for the election of the offices of the president. The former President of the country or the retiring president can be the candidate by the help of their own nomination. It is also the fact that the president is not the member of either House of the Oireachtas. The power along with the function that is conferred to the president by the constitution should be exercisable only with the advice of the Irish Government. The country has a suitable constitutional law regarding the activities of the president that they need to perform within the field that also with the consent of the Government. In Ireland, the activities and the function of a president are effectively provided within the constitutional law that helps to provide a clear understanding regarding the power and function of a president.
The role of the office of president in Ireland has always been the most argumentative topic. It is the fact that being the president is the biggest position within the country, but at the same time, it shows that the office is just the ceremonial office where some of the power and function are automatic but did not possess extreme power. The president is the first person in the country but that does not mean that the president holds the ultimate power regarding the decision making for the nation. This role is the ceremonial as well as symbolic where the president has to face numerous restriction and obligation for performing their activity within the nation. The restriction is the biggest factor that most of the politicians find it difficult to hold the place of president of the country Ireland. It is the fact that the president cannot provide the speech regarding any significance without the permission of the government of the country. The position of the president is just as the position that every country have and nothing else. Most of the power or it can be said that the maximum powerful person in Ireland is the Prime Minister that is Taoiseach of Ireland.
The role of the Ireland President is just to keep the watch or act as the gatekeeper rather than acting as the leader within the country. Whatever the president perform have to get permission for performing that function in term of the nation. The Irish president is the Head of the State, but they are not the Head of the Government. The power and the function of the President are limited as they have to perform the task with the advice of the Government as stated in the Article 13.9 of the constitutional law. It clearly shows that the office of president is the ceremonial office where they cannot make the decision regarding the country by themselves. The position and the power are highly discussed within the constitution of the country that deals with the activities of the president. In Ireland the most of the power for controlling the state and the country is with the government and president is not the head of the government. There are numerous cases which clearly show the lack of power of the Irish president.
One of the cases is that the president did not have the authority to leave the state without the permission of the Government. They are bound to follow the rules and the words of Government for performing their presidential activity within the nation. Furthermore, it can also be seen that the President generally signs the Bills before it becomes the law of the country, but at the same time, they do not have the veto regarding the bill. For the signing of the Bill, the president has to refer it to the Supreme Court for the constitutionality of the Bill before signing them into law. Moreover, it can also be viewed from the Article 14 of the Constitutional law that if the president refuses to sign the bill by showing their protest regarding the contents, then it will be performed under the Presidential Commission and also have to face the impeachment proceeding according to the Article 12 of the Constitutional law. There is a various function that needs to be performed by the president, but they are only ceremonial. The function and the powers are just for the show or the title but in actual president did not have the power to deal with the situation.
One such position and power is that the President is titled to be the Supreme Commander of the Defence Force of Ireland. This is just the position with the name because the president did not have the actual power on the defence as well as the military affairs as these are all maintained by the Government of the country. For example; the Defence Act 1954 and the Defence Force Act 1937 clearly, show that the Government of the country takes the primary command and the decision regarding the military and the defence force. It is also the fact that the president of Ireland has the right of pardon as well as the power regarding the commute of the sentences but this is all done only with the advice of the Government of the country. It clearly shows that the power of the president is limited and they can only act with the advice of the government. The president performed this power on five occasions only in the history of Ireland that is in the year 1940 Thomas Quinn pardon was granted by Douglas Hyde, in 1943 Walter Brady pardon was granted by Douglas Hyde, in 1992 Nicky Kelly pardon was granted by Mary Robinson, 2015 and 2018.
The constitutional law of the country also shows regarding the ceremonial activity of the Irish President. The article 13.2 the president have the power to consult with the Council of the State or have the meeting with the House of the Oireachtas. But at the same time, it could be visualised that if the president wishes to communicate with the Oireachtas, then they have to get the approval of the government according to the article 13.7.3 under the constitutional law. The same condition is applied to the message that is being addressed to the states regarding the matter of national or public importance. This all clearly provides the view that the president of the country is the ceremonial office where they have the position without any proper power to perform regarding the benefit of the nation. It is undoubted that there is a various restriction on the activities and the function that are to be performed by the president of the country. Despite the numerous restriction the president has the right to raise their voice for any illegal issue within the country. The office is the ceremonial office but being the head of the state have some little power that position holds in term of respect and function.
The president of Ireland did not have the power to initiate any legislation, and even they cannot suggest any legislation. They can only sign the bill to make it law for the country and even they do not have the power to refuse the signing of the bill or check them for their legal activity. The checking for the constitutionality of the bill is done by the Supreme Court and the only function that president perform is to sign the bill. It is a clear fact from the constitutional law that the president of the country is merely a position and not the real power of the country. The president generally appoints the prime minister and the government ministers but only when the parliament is electing them. It is the fact that the president provided them the deal of the office but did not have the choice regarding the choice of the person that who will be appointed for the respective place. The senior judges then the army officers, as well as the ambassadors, are also appointed by the president but in the way of ceremonial the office where the president has to sign the appointment letter and nothing else to perform on behalf of that.
The formal function that the president can also perform in the country is to dissolve the parliament that is Dail that triggers the election within the country, but this is also done on the consent of the prime minister that is Taoiseach. It is not in the power of the president to decide regarding the general election of the country. The function of the president is highly debatable as they are the head of the state and the first person of the country, but at the same time, they are termed just as the position which stays as the gatekeeper in the constitutional law. It is a fact as discussed above that the president generally refers the bill to the Supreme Court for the checking of constitutionality in the bill and in the last 16 years this has taken place almost numerous times. If it gets back to the early years of the constitutional law, it can also be seen that in the year 1983 Bills to give the votes to the British Citizen is the best example for the case where the Supreme Court judges the bill.
The legal activity of the meeting and the discussion that the president perform in the country is highly based on the advice of the government as they did not have the power to perform them independently. In every stage and step performed by the president is the primary activity of the parliament and the government. It is the fact that the president of Ireland is the front face for performing some of the vital activity by the prime minister and the government of the country. It clearly shows the ceremonial role of the president within the country. This is the base reason that most of the political leader did not opt for the position of president as they lose all their power in the country. In Ireland Prime Minister is the biggest power of the political head and the prime minister takes a maximum number of the decision. This is the case that a Taoiseach did not have to consult with the president or the government bodies to make their decision, but the president has to take the permission of the government for performing the activities within the country.
The paper eventually concludes the fact that the president of Ireland has the ceremonial office with little or no power to perform within the state. The paper also concludes that the constitutional law clearly provides various restriction and the obligation regarding the function that is being performed by the president. Being the highest position within the country and the first person of the state, they are considered as the gatekeeper rather than the leader of the country. The paper also shows that the president has to take the permission of the government for performing any activity within the country and even they cannot leave the state without the permission of the government. This clearly shows the low power of the president within the country. It is considered according to the constitutional law of Ireland that the ideal president would be visible in the office and they are aloof from any of the political parties within the country. It also concluded that the president has the power to make the law with their sign, but at the same time, they cannot refuse to sign the bill. If they feel there are some mistake within the bill, then they have to refer it to the Supreme Court and the last decision of the court either to sign the bill or not. All this activity clearly conclude the ceremonial role of the president of Ireland.