Voting rights & political system

In Ireland, the right to vote is dependent on the type of election taking place. Local elections are open to all residents of Ireland but only Irish and UK citizens are eligible to vote in general elections to elect members of the parliament.

who can vote (2)Voting rights

  • Irish citizens may vote at every election (general, European & local) and referendum;
  • UK citizens may vote in General elections (Dáil/ parliament elections), European elections and local elections (not referendums);
  • EU citizens can vote in European and local elections (not General election/ Dáil election or referendums);
  • Non-EU citizens may vote in local elections only (not General election/ Dáil election, European elections, or referendums).

When is the next election in Ireland?

The most recent election was the General Election, which took place in February 2016. The next local election is due to take place in 2019.


What is a “General Election”?

The General Election will decide and elect members of the Dáil – Ireland’s lower house of Parliament, also known as the House of Representatives. In 2016, the General Election elected 158 members of the Dáil (known as TDs) elected to represent the citizens of Ireland across 40 electoral districts (constituencies). This will decide Ireland’s future Government, including the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister).

After the General Election, members of Dáil Eireann (TDs) elect the Taoiseach (Irish word for Prime Minister) and the Taoiseach then elects members of the Government who become Ministers of the Government Departments.


Who can vote in the General Elections?

In order to take part and vote in the Elections, you must be an Irish citizen or British citizen, aged over 18 years and ordinarily living in Ireland.


Who can vote in the local elections?

Residents of Ireland can vote in the local elections, including non-EU citizens and EU citizens who are ordinarily resident in Ireland.


How do I register to vote?

You will need to register to vote by adding your details to the Register of Electors – you are not automatically registered to vote. If you are not sure if you are registered, you can check online here: www.checktheregister.ie

When the register is being compiled, the details and application form are available to download at checktheregister.ie


Who is my local TD (member of the Dáil) and what can they do for me? 

To find the contact details of your local TD, see here: http://whoismytd.com/

Your local TD represents your constituency (electoral district). Your local TD acts on your behalf and can make representations for you in Dáil Eireann – the Irish lower house of Parliament. The main role of a TD is to enact legislation.

If there is an issue that you would like your local TD to raise in the Dáil (lower house of Parliament), you can contact your local TD by phone, by email/ in writing, or in person by visiting ‘local clinics’ in your area. Doras Luimní regularly contact local TDs in Limerick about migrant-related issues of concern and we can help you to ‘lobby’ TDs if you wish.


What are the main political parties in Ireland and what do they represent?

TDs (Members of the Dáil) can be independent or can represent a political party. At present, the TDs in Dáil Eireann represent 8 political parties as well as many TDs who act independently of a political party.

The current Irish Government is made up of Fine Gael and Independent representatives.

For more information on the main political parties in Ireland and their policies, click on the following links:

For a full list of political parties in Ireland, see here: List of Political Parties in Ireland.


How does the voting system work in Ireland?

The system of voting in all elections in Ireland is by proportional representation with a single transferable vote (PR-STV). Proportional representation means that you can indicate your first choice as well as subsequent choices for the candidates.

Sample Ballot PaperThe names of the candidates will appear in alphabetical order on the ballot paper. You indicate your first choice by writing 1 opposite your first choice and 2 opposite your second choice, 3 opposite your third choice and so on. You may stop marking your paper after 1 or 2 or you may continue until a preference has been given to all candidates ending with the candidate of your lowest choice.

When you vote like this, you are instructing the returning officer to transfer your vote to the second choice candidate if your first choice is either elected with a surplus of votes over the quota or is eliminated. If your second choice is elected or eliminated, your vote may be transferred to your third choice and so on.

For more information on how the Dáil is elected, see here: How the Dáil is elected


How does the political system work in Ireland?

Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. The National Parliament of Ireland (Oireachtas) consists of the President and two Houses: Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (the Senate).

The President (Uachtarán na hÉireann) exercises his/her powers on the advice of the Government. The President also has absolute discretion in certain matters. The President is elected directly by the people every 7 years. The current president is Michael D. Higgins. For more details about the presidency go to www.president.ie

The method of election to each House is different. The Seanad is largely an advisory body. It consists of sixty members: 11 nominated by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), six elected by 3 national universities and 43 elected from vocational panels. The Seanad has the power to delay legislative proposals and is allowed 90 days to consider and amend bills sent to it by the Dáil.

The Members of Dáil Éireann (TDs) are directly elected by the people at least once every five years. It currently has 166 members but in General Election 2016, 158 members will be elected. Dáil Éireann is only one of three components of the Oireachtas (as well as the President and the Seanad), but it is the most powerful branch and most proposals passed Dáil Éireann will become law.

The Constitution of Ireland lays out the functions and powers of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament = President; Dáil Eireann; Seanad).

For more information on how the Irish Parliament works, see here: How the Irish Parliament Works


Explanation of key terms in Irish Politics (Irish – English translation)

  • Oireachtas: The national parliament of Ireland which consists of the President, and two Houses of Parliament – Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann.
  • Dáil Éireann: Known as the Dáil for short. The Dáil is the House of Representatives, one of two Houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament).
  • Seanad Éireann: Known as the Seanad for short or the Senate.
  • TD: Member of Dáil Eireann – also known as Deputy, Teachta Dála, directly translates as messenger to the Dáil.
  • Senator: A Member of Seanad Éireann.
  • Taoiseach: The head of the Irish Government, Prime Minister of Ireland.
  • Tánaiste: Irish Deputy Prime Minister.
  • Ceann Comhairle: The Chairperson of Dáil Éireann who chairs the proceedings and makes sure that all TDs are treated fairly and that the rules of the house are followed.
  • Cathaoirleach: Chairperson of Seanad Éireann (Senate).
  • Bunreacht na hÉireann: The Irish Constitution.

Download: Explanation of Key Terms