The Government of Ireland (Rialtas na hÉireann) is the Cabinet that exercises executive authority in the Republic of Ireland.
The Constitution of Ireland vests executive authority in a government which is headed by the Taoiseach, the Head of Government. The government is composed of government ministers, all of whom must be members of the Irish parliament. The Taoiseach must be nominated and approved by Dáil Eireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas, the Irish legislature. Following the Dáil’s nomination, the President of Ireland appoints the Taoiseach to his role. The President also appoints members of the government, including the Tánaiste, the deputy head of government, on nomination of the Taoiseach. The government is dependent upon the Oireachtas to make primary legislation and as such, the government needs to command a majority in the Dáil in order to ensure support and confidence for budgets and government bills to pass. Collectively, the government is known as “the cabinet”. There are 17 ministerial departments namely:
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Department of Defence
Department of Education and Skills
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Department of Finance
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Department of Health
Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government
Department of Justice and Equality
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
Department of Rural and Community Development
Department of the Taoiseach
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Normally, the Government serves in office until the nomination of a new Taoiseach by Dáil Éireann. The maximum term is five years by law, though the constitution allows seven. Most governments in recent years have served 4–5 years.
The Government must enjoy the confidence of Dáil Éireann if it is to remain in office. If the Taoiseach ceases “to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann”, either Dáil Éireann must be dissolved or the Taoiseach must resign. This applies only in cases of a no-confidence vote or loss of supply (rejection of a budget), rather than a government bill being rejected. The President may refuse to grant a dissolution to a Taoiseach who does not enjoy the support of the Dáil, thus forcing the resignation of the Taoiseach.
When the Taoiseach resigns, the entire Government is deemed to have resigned as a collective. However, in such a scenario, according to the Constitution, “the Taoiseach and the other members of the Government shall continue to carry on their duties until their successors shall have been appointed”. The Taoiseach can also direct the President to dismiss or accept the resignation of individual ministers.
Upon the dissolution of Dáil Éireann, ministers are no longer members of the Oireachtas, and therefore at first glance ineligible for office. However, under a different clause in the Constitution, they “shall continue to hold office until their successors shall have been appointed”.
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