Welcome to part 2 of my mapping the state blog. This is part of a series analysing the Irish State. Part 1 of the series focused on the formal framework of the government to read more click here!
Part one of this post will focus on the judicial system of Ireland.
The Judiciary is made up of the courts, laws, judges. Made up of the District, Circuit, High, Supreme and European Courts. The District Courts are at the bottom, they deal with misdemeanour’s. If someone is unhappy with their ruling in the District Court they can appeal to the Circuit Courts. The Circuit Court is composed of eight circuits, each of which cover a region of state. The Circuit Court hears criminal matters but certain serious crimes are tried in The Central Criminal Court and The Special Criminal Court. The Central Criminal Court is usually known as the High Court except when dealing with criminal cases.It holds exclusive jurisdiction for a number of criminal offences including:
- Anti-competitive behaviour
All cases are heard in front of a 12 person jury. The Special Criminal Court is a juryless criminal court which tries for treason and organised crime cases. Verdicts may be appealed to The Court of Appeal. Known as The Court of Criminal Appeal up until 2014, it can hear appeals for all types of cases. The Court of Criminal Appeal heard appeals for indictable offences tried in The Circuit Court, The Central Criminal Court, and The Special Criminal Court. The court may hear appeals about conviction, sentence or both. Further appeal to The Supreme Court may only occur when the court itself certify a point of law of public importance needs resolving.
The Supreme Court of Ireland is the highest judicial authority in Ireland. It is a court of final appeal and exercises, in conjunction with with The High Court and Court of Appeal, review over Acts of the Oireachtas. It sits in The Four Courts in Dublin.
I will now focus on the Oireachtas.
The Oireachtas consists of the President and two Houses: Dail Eireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Eireann (the Senate) whose functions and powers derive from the Constitution of Ireland enacted by the People on 1st July, 1937.
Dail Eireann consists of 166 seats mainly distributed between Finna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Fein and the Independent party. These five parties taking up 154 of the 166 seats, with Fine Gael taking up 68 seats.
Dail Eireann is the government lower house, and principal chamber, of the Oireachtas. It is directly elected at least once every five years by means of the single transferable vote. It is by far the dominant branch of the Oireachtas. Subject to constitutional limits, it has the power to pass any law it wishes, and to nominate and remove the Taoiseach. Since 1922, it has met in Leinster House in Dublin.
Seanad Eireann consists of 61 members, seats are mainly distributed between Finna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour & the Independent party. These four taking up 55 seats, Fine Gael once again have the most seats with 18.
Seanad Eireann is the government upper house of the Oireachtas. It is commonly called Seanad or Senate and its members senators. Unlike Dail Eireann, it is not directly elected but consists of a mixture of members chosen by different methods. It’s powers are much weaker than that of Dail Eireann, it can only delay laws it disagrees with, it can’t veto them outright. Since it’s establishment it has been located in Leinster House.
The President of Ireland
The President is the head of the Irish State and the Supreme Commander of the Irish Defence Forces. The President holds office for seven years, and can be elected for a maximum of two terms. Unless a candidate runs unopposed, the President is directly elected by the people.The presidency is largely a ceremonial office, but the President does exercise certain limited powers with absolute discretion. The President acts as a representative of the Irish state.
The Presidents official residence is in Aras an Uachtarain, in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. The office was established in 1937, and became internationally recognised as head of state in 1949 following the Republic of Ireland Act.