The Taoiseach (pronEng|ˈtiːʃəx in English [
OED] ; IPA2|t̪ˠiːʃʲəx (plural "Taoisigh" (IPA| [t̪ˠiːʃʲɪj] or IPA| [t̪ˠiːʃʲɪɟ] ) in Irish), also referred to as An Taoiseach (IPA| [ən t̪ˠiːʃʲəx] ), [Retaining the Irish definite article"an" IPA|/ən/ instead of English "the".] is the the head of governmentor prime ministerof Ireland.
The Taoiseach is appointed by the President upon the nomination of
Dáil Éireann(the lower house of the Oireachtas), and must, while he remains in office, retain the support of a majority in the Dáil. The current Taoiseach is Brian Cowen, TD, leader of the Fianna Fáilparty.
Constitution of Irelandthe Taoiseach must be appointed from among the members of Dáil Éireann. In the event that the Taoiseach loses the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann, he is not automatically removed from office but, rather, is compelled "either" to resign "or" to persuade the President to dissolve the Dáil. The President may refuse to grant a dissolution, and, in effect, force the Taoiseach to resign, but, to date, no president has exercised this prerogative (though the option arose in 1944, twice in 1982 and would have arisen in 1994 had Albert Reynolds chosen, following his Dáil defeat, to seek a dissolution rather than resignFact|date=April 2008). The Taoiseach may lose the support of Dáil Éireann by the passage of a vote of no confidence, the failure of a vote of confidence or, alternatively, the Dáil may refuse "supply". [One example of the Dáil refusing supply occurred in January 1982 when the then Fine Gael–Labour Party coalition government of Garret FitzGeraldlost a vote on the budget. [http://www.rte.ie/news/elections2007/history80s.html] ] In the event of the Taoiseach's resignation, he continues to exercise the duties and functions of his office until the appointment of a successor.
The Taoiseach nominates the remaining members of the Government, who are then, with the consent of the Dáil, appointed by the President. The Taoiseach also has authority to have fellow members of the cabinet dismissed from office. He or she is further responsible for appointing eleven members of the Senate.
The Taoiseach's salary [cite news
title=Taoiseach to receive €38k pay rise
date=25 October 2007] is considerably higher than for leaders in many other countries: €310,000 annually, compared to £127,000 (about €160,000) for the British Prime Minister, $400,000 ( about €260,000) for the
President of the United States, and €228,000 for the President of France, for example. In October 2007, the Taoiseach was the highest-paid head of government in the OECDcountries. [cite news
title=Have you ever wondered why Bertie Ahern always looks so cheerful?
The Sunday Times
date=29 October 2007] However, the remuneration structures for
Irish governmentemployees mean that comparison with other countries are not useful and are discouraged by the "Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector". [cite web
title=Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector
format=PDF] For example, the President of the United States and the British Prime Minister are supplied with residences. However, it has been reported that former Steward's Lodge at
Farmleighin the Phoenix Parkwill shortly be made into the official residence of the Taoiseach. [cite web
title=Opulent Phoenix Park lodge is set to become 'Fortress Cowen'
Origins and etymology
The words "Taoiseach" and "
Tánaiste" (the title of the deputy prime minister) are both from the Irish languageand of ancient origin. Though the Taoiseach is described in the Constitution of Ireland as "the head of the Government or Prime Minister", [Article 13.1.1° and Article 28.5.1°. The latter provision reads: "The head of the Government, or Prime Minister, shall be called, and is in this Constitution referred to as, the Taoiseach."] its literal translation is "Chieftain" or "Leader" [ [http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/index.asp?locID=195&docID=-1 Department of the Taoiseach: Youth Zone web page (FAQ)] ] . Some historians suggest that in ancient Ireland (where these terms originate), a "taoiseach" was a minor king, while a "tánaiste" was a governor placed in a kingdom whose king had been deposed or, more usually, his heir-apparent. In Scottish Gaelic, "tòiseach" translates as clan chief and both words originally had similar meaning in the Gaelic languages of Scotland and Ireland. The related Welsh languageword " tywysog" (current meaning "prince" — from "tywys", "to lead") appears to have had a similar meaning.
The modern position of Taoiseach was established by the 1937
Constitution of Ireland, to replace the position of President of the Executive Council of the 1922–1937 Irish Free State. The positions of Taoiseach and President of the Executive Council differed in certain fundamental respects. Under the Constitution of the Irish Free Statethe latter was vested with considerably less power and was largely just the cabinet's presiding officer. For example, the President of the Executive Council could not dismiss a fellow minister. The Free State's cabinet, the Executive Council, had to be disbanded and reformed entirely, in order to remove one of its number. The President of the Executive Council could also not personally seek a dissolution of Dáil Éireann from the head of state, that power belonging collectively to the Executive Council. In contrast, the Taoiseach created in 1937 possesses a much more powerful role. He can both instruct the President to dismiss ministers, and request a parliamentary dissolution on his own initiative. [Among the most famous ministerial dismissals have been those of Charles Haugheyand Neil Blaneyduring the Arms Crisisin 1970, Brian Lenihan in 1990 and Albert Reynolds, Pádraig Flynnand Máire Geoghegan-Quinnin 1991.]
Historically, where there have been multi-party or coalition governments, the Taoiseach has come from the leader of the largest party in the coalition. One exception to this was
John A. Costello, who was not leader of his party, but an agreed choice to head the government, because the other parties refused to accept then Fine Gaelleader Richard Mulcahyas Taoiseach.
List of office holders
"Main articles: List of Irish heads of government since 1919,
List of Taoisigh by important facts"
Prior to the enactment of the 1937 Constitution, the head of government was referred to as the President of the Executive Council. This office was first held by
W. T. Cosgraveof Cumann na nGaedhaelfrom 1922–32, and then by Éamon de Valerafrom 1932–37. By convention Taoisigh are numbered to include Cosgrave, [cite news
title=Coughlan new Tánaiste in Cowen Cabinet
The Irish Times
accessdate=2008-05-17] [cite news
title=Taoiseach reveals new front bench
accessdate=2008-05-17] [cite news
title=Cowen confirmed as Taoiseach
accessdate=2008-05-17] [cite news
publisher=Department of the Taoiseach
accessdate=2008-05-17] for example Brian Cowen is considered the 12th Taoiseach not the 11th.
President of the Executive Council
Living former Taoisigh
There have never been more than six former Taoisigh alive at any one time. [From 26 June 1997 to 20 October 1999,
Jack Lynch, Liam Cosgrave, Charles Haughey, Garret FitzGerald, Albert Reynoldsand John Brutonwere living, from the time Bruton left office until the death of Lynch.]
References and notes
Department of the Taoiseach
Politics of the Republic of Ireland
The book "Chairman or Chief: The Role of the Taoiseach in Irish Government (1971)" by
Brian Farrellprovides a good overview of the conflicting roles for the Taoiseach. Though long out of print, it may still be available in libraries or from AbeBooks. Biographies are also available of de Valera, Lemass, Lynch, Cosgrave, FitzGerald, Haughey, Reynolds and Ahern. FitzGerald wrote an autobiography, while an authorised biography was produced of de Valera.
Some Biographies of former Taoisigh & Presidents of the Executive Council:
*Tim Pat Coogan, "Éamon de Valera"
*John Horgan, "Seán Lemass"
*Brian Farrell, "Seán Lemass"
*T.P. O'Mahony, "Jack Lynch: A Biography"
*T. Ryle Dwyer, "Nice Fellow: A Biography of Jack Lynch"
*Stephen Collins, "The Cosgrave legacy"
*Garret FitzGerald, "All in a Life"
*Raymond Smith, "Garret: The Enigma"
*T.Ryle Dwyer, "Short Fellow: A Biography of Charles Haughey"
*Martin Mansergh, "Spirit of the Nation: The Collected Speeches of Haughey"
*Joe Joyce & Peter Murtagh "The Boss: Charles Haughey in Government"
*Tim Ryan, "Albert Reynolds: The Longford Leader"
* [http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie Official site]
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