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The Government of Ireland

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Under the constitution of 1937, Ireland is a sovereign, independent, democratic state. It became a republic in 1949 when Commonwealth ties with Great Britain were severed.

Executive power under the Irish constitution is vested in a cabinet, which forms a government of some 15 Ministers. The Government is responsible to the lower house of the national legislature (The Dáil). The Taoiseach (prime minister) serves as head of government and is appointed by the President after nomination by the lower house. Members of the government head the administrative departments, or ministries. They are selected by the Taoiseach, approved by the Dáil, and appointed by the President. The President of Ireland is the head of state and is elected by direct popular vote for a 7-year term.

Ireland has a bicameral legislature known as the Oireachtas. The lower house, or Dáil Éireann, is directly elected by the public and now has 166 members. The upper house, or Seanad Éireann, has 60 members,11 appointed by the Taoiseach, 6 elected by the universities, and 43 chosen by an electoral college of some 900 representatives from local governments and the national legislature. The upper house is limited in authority, while the lower house has the power to support or bring down governments in the parliamentary tradition.

Judicial authority in Ireland is vested in a supreme court, a high court, a court of criminal appeal, a central criminal court, circuit courts, and district courts. The supreme court is the court of final appeal and plays a key role in constitutionality determinations. Judges are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the government.

Local Government is composed of county councils, county borough corporations, borough corporations, urban district councils, and town commissioners who administer local services, including health and sanitation, housing, water supply, and libraries. Local officials are popularly elected, usually for 5-year terms.

A system of proportional representation is used to elect the various members of political parties to the Dáil. Among the most powerful parties in recent years have been Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Progressive Democratic party, and Labour.

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