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Semi-Presidentialism in Europe$
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Robert Elgie

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198293866

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198293860.001.0001

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Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland

(p.104) 6 Republic of Ireland
Semi-Presidentialism in Europe

Michael Gallagher (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The Irish presidency is usually seen as one of the weakest in any liberal democracy, certainly as the weakest presidency to be filled by direct election. This chapter does not argue that this characterization is necessarily wrong, but it does raise questions about the nature of the presidency: is it really as weak as it seems, and, if so, is this because of written or unwritten constraints; is the presidency weak at all times, or has it been in the past—or could it be in the future—more significant under some circumstances than others? The Irish political system is based very much on the Westminster model, and although it deviates from it in some important respects (e.g. it has a proportional representation electoral system, a written constitution, judicial review, and much experience of coalition government), the central role of the government in the political process is unquestionable and largely unquestioned. Within this overall framework of executive dominance, however, there is scope for some variation according to circumstances: parliament might be a little more effective vis‐à‐vis government during periods of minority government, or at times when the ever‐changing committee system is in one of its more productive modes; within the government, the Taoiseach (prime minister) is more likely to be dominant during periods of single‐party government than in coalitions; it is fair to say, though, that no one looks to the president for political leadership. The first section of the chapter considers two factors that have a strong influence upon the role of the president—the formation of the regime, and the provisions of the constitution; the next section examines relations between the president and other political actors; and the final one draws conclusions.

Keywords:   coalition government, constitution, Ireland, judicial review, liberal democracy, parliament, political systems, president, prime minister, proportional representation, semi‐presidentialism, Taoiseach

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