An Mailleach’s guide to what comes after the deadlock of #GE16…?

When the new Dáil meets on March 10th its first job is to elect a Ceann Comhairle. Up to now this has been pre-ordained by the Executive and so took a little time. But now there will be an election by secret ballot. It hasn’t been done before, so this could take some time.

Each candidate must have seven other nominators, so there won’t be too many candidates. But it will likely take four or five hours before a new Ceann Comhairle takes the chair.

The next business of the new Dáil is to elect a Taoiseach. This is conducted by convention, even though the Standing Orders of the Dáil are silent on how this happens.

We assume the election will produce a clear result but if, as seems likely, no potential Taoiseach can marshal a majority in the Dáil, the Dáil may be adjourned for a number of days to allow negotiations between the parties continue.

The outgoing Taoiseach retains his power to influence the Order of Business, and so could call for the adjournment. The Taoiseach is expected to have the confidence of the Dáil. Article 28.10 states:

“The Taoiseach shall resign from office upon his ceasing to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann unless…”

If there is a vote on the nomination of a Taoiseach and Enda Kenny were to lose such a vote he would have to tender his resignation to the president. This happened in 1989, when although Charles J. Haughey initially resisted, he eventually resigned.

During this time the country is not without a government. Article 28.11.2˚ of the Constitution states:

“The members of the Government in office at the date of a dissolution of Dáil Éireann shall continue to hold office until their successors shall have been appointed.”

This is how Brian Cowen remained Taoiseach until the 31st Dáil met to elect Enda Kenny, even though he no longer held a seat in the Dáil.

So those ministers who lost their seats continue to serve as ministers, and in the event of a protracted delay in the formation of a new government there is nothing to stop them having to answer questions in the Dáil or even introduce Bills.

This is possible because according to Article 28.8:

“Every member of the Government shall have the right to attend and be heard in each House of the Oireachtas.”

This won’t happen.

Instead, there will be an effort to elect a Taoiseach. In other countries, there is often a formateur appointed, often by the Head of State, as the person designated to lead a government.

The formateur will try to secure support for a majority government. There are also informateurs who are ‘honest brokers’ who are asked to help the parties put a deal together.

The Irish Constitution and Irish law is silent on this process. There are no time limits set out as to how long it should be before we give up and go to the polls again.

There would be an understandable reluctance on the part of the president to be drawn into the process though the current incumbent has been known to involve himself in political debate, so who knows?

This is uncharted territory – with no legal guide – so, politics trumps everything.

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  • Ernekid

    There’s only one way to settle this.


  • MalikHills

    How much power does the president have in this situation?

    Can he refuse to call a second election and insist that as the voters have clearly spoken and elected two parties with more than enough seats to form a perfectly functional government, as the two parties have little or no ideological, political, economic or other division that would prevent them working together, the people’s voice must be respected and those two parties must simply form a government and get on with it?

  • mickfealty

    Constitutionally, none. But Michael D has been adventurous in the past the past in pushing the boundaries of the Presidency. It might give him pause for thought though if he considers just how completely finished his old party is.

  • Discuscutter

    The pressure on FF to do a deal with FG will be massive. I think it will be a standstill and there will be another election in a few months and then they will do a deal.

    Given the timidity of FG in campaigning and going after FF then it is possible that they will be replaced by FF.

    If they had wanted to they could have buried the FF hoods.

  • Gingray

    Old party – did he resign when running for President? Never realised

  • Brendan Heading

    Adventurous or not, the President has no power to do anything here as far as I can tell. Enda Kenny’s government is in power until a new Taoiseach is nominated by the Dáil.

  • Brendan Heading

    The Dáil cannot be dissolved before its term expires unless the Taoiseach advises the President to dissolve it. Enda Kenny is still the Taoiseach, and even if he is forced to resign having lost the confidence of the Dáil, he and all of his ministers continue in office until a successor is appointed by the Dáil.

    We could, theoretically, end up in a state of permanent deadlock if the Dáil never appoints another Taoiseach, and the Taoiseach never requests a dissolution. In practice this would be clearly destabilising behaviour, so the more likely outcome is that the Taoiseach would call another election if progress fails to be made after a short period.

    On the part about the “people’s voice being respected” it’s not clear what the people actually want. While it is theoretically possible, on present numbers, to assemble a government consisting of FG, Labour, Greens and some independents, the existing government clearly does not have a mandate and Kenny would be resuming government as a Taoiseach who lost an election. That issue could, of course, be mitigated by the government being led by another FG TD.

  • Greenflag 2

    Ireland is not NI well not since the Irish Civil War of 1922.:) Instead they’ll negotiate/haggle /spin us to death over the next few weeks .

  • Greenflag 2

    ???? Buried the FF hoods ? Who could have ? About 25% of the voters opted for FF – Thats a lot of burials .

  • Greenflag 2

    Well he was only going to be a one termer unlike Mary Robinson or Mary McAleese . But it appears he enjoys the foreign travel and perks and getting to force others to listen to his god awful squeaky voice . But he’s overall a dacent man even if he has no party to return to .

  • Greenflag 2

    FF and FG will move mountains rather than having the President ‘involved ‘ other than the constitutional minimum i.e the Queenie routine formality etc .

  • dodrade99

    If the Ceann Comhairle has to be elected first why is the outgoing one returned to the Dail automatically?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh its nice to have a real poet as president, although I’d have preferred someone with the undoubted creative skills of his long dead namesake:

  • John Collins

    Yes He is. Seamus Kirk was returned the last time. A new CC will be elected, this time by vote of the deputies at the return of the Dail and he or she will be automatically returned to the next Dail.

  • Greenflag 2

    OK as President but not as Taoiseach . Thanks for the link . I guess both poetry and politics are words fixated endeavours so I guess they have that in common . Patrick Pearse too was a poet and Douglas Hyde was a linguist and scholar . Ireland has come a long way since Pearse and Hyde’s time and we should all be mindful of that fact as we approach the Easter Commemorations .

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hyde was also a poet, and his “Love Songs of Connaught” brought Irish language syntax into English language poetry to create a freshness in a language growing tired during the late Victorean period. He even influenced the modern movement via Ezra Pound (through Pound’s friendship with Belfast poet Joseph Campbell “Seosamh MacCathmhaoil”) and accordingly Elliot’s poetic diction.

    It was an extraordinary generation, the generation of 1916, Greenflag! You could hardly move in the Post Office or in the internment camps of both the war of independance or the civil war without bumping into a poet or playright, quite a few even from the north (like Campbell). Nowadays, I wonder who would hold the imagination of Ireland to a similar degree…….our bankers?

  • Gingray

    Different time – you look back at the characters involved and not involved, and they are names to remember, many of them dedicated to a cause.

    Look at the current generation, and navel gazing is the primary focus, both within the arts community and with our political elite.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Could not agree more………