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Voting & Political Systems Ireland

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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 Paper

Sample Ballot Paper

The 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

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


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