How Powerful Is The Taoiseach Within The Irish Political System?
The Taoiseach is potentially very powerful indeed. The constitution of Ireland gives the Taoiseach extensive powers. He* also has extensive powers within the administration of the government and powers within his political party. The constitution gives the Taoiseach the power to nominate all the Government ministers, eleven members of the Seanad and the attorney general (he also has the power to fire any of the ministers whenever he wants). The constitution also gives him the power to call an election whenever he wants. In practice he sets the agenda of cabinet meetings and the order of government business within the Dail each day. Along with these extensive powers he also has the back up of the department of the Taoiseach, which contains approx. three hundred people, whose role is the co-ordination of government policy. The department also contains the chief whip, the government secretary and the government information service. (Elgie, 1999:240) Within his party the Taoiseach has control over candidate selection. All these powers seem to suggest that the office of Taoiseach is a very powerful position indeed but as we examine each power we shall see that there are constraints to these powers. Since 1989 Ireland has had a coalition governments and we shall see that this is one of the main checks on his power. Independent T.D.s are also a check on the Taoiseach in a non-majority government.
The Taoiseach’s power to nominate cabinet ministers is not as straightforward as it seems. Even in a majority government his choices are restricted somewhat by party politics. He has to be seen to reward party loyalty to keep everyone within the party satisfied. All his TD’s may not be available for ministerial office and he still has to find ministers with talent for their given portfolio. He may also want to consider dissidents within his party for ministerial position, so as to keep the party together...
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