President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State
The President of the Executive Council (Irish: Uachtaráin na hArd-Chomhairle) was the title of the prime minister in the Executive Council of the Irish Free State from 1922-37.
Under the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922 executive authority was vested in the King and exercised by the Governor-General, who was provided with an Executive Council to 'aid and advise' him. The head of the Executive Council was to be known as the President of the Executive Council.
In reality, the Irish Governor-General as with other Commonwealth governors-general did not have a central role in government, with the dominant figure being the President of the Executive Council. Reflecting the pre-1918 form of the Westminster Model1 the Irish Prime Minister in practice had limited powers and functions.
Key facts about the Office
- The President was nominated by the Dáil and appointed by the Governor-General of the Irish Free State (a difference from standard Commonwealth practice, where the Governor-General or monarch commissioned someone to form a government rather than a vote taking place in parliament).
- Although he had the power to nominate the vice-president, all other members of the Executive Council had to have the Dáil's formal collective nomination, before being appointed by the Governor-General.
- Unlike most contemporary prime ministers, and reflecting pre-1918 constitutional theory, the President of the Executive Council could not dismiss a member of the Executive Council, but had in effect to disband it and reform it to drop a minister.
- Unlike most contemporary prime ministers, and reflecting pre-1918 constitutional theory, the President could not request a Dáil dissolution. Only the Executive Council collectively could do that. But if the President lost his majority in the Dáil the Executive Council had to resign. (This produced a theoretical constitutional absurdity in that, if the Executive Council resigned after being defeated, and the Dáil could not agree on a new Council, an absolute stalemate would occur. A government could not be formed by the Dáil. But a new Dáil capable of agreeing on the selection of a new government could not be elected as there would be no government capable of having it dissolved, as an Executive Council defeated by the Dáil was constitutionally debarred from seeing a parliamentary dissolution.
Under Professor Brian Farrell's analysis of Irish prime ministers, published under the title Chairman or Chief?, the President of the Executive Council had little option but to be a chairman, with the principal power possessed by the Executive Council collectively. However a strong leader could exercise authority beyond the limits laid down in the 1922 Constitution.
Presidents of the Executive Council
| 1. ||W.T. Cosgrave ||June 6, 1880|| August, 1917 || Cumann na nGaedhael|| Carlow - Kilkenny||December 6, 1922||March 9, 1932||February 4, 1948||November 16, 1965
| 2. ||Eamon de Valera || October 22, 1882|| December 14, 1918 ||Fianna Fáil|| Clare|| March 9, 1932||December 29, 1937||June 23, 1959||August 29, 1975
The Office of President of the Executive Council was replaced by that of Taoiseach under Ireland's 1937 Constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann
1 Up to 1918 the British Prime Minister's powers within the Westminster Model of government were theoretically quite limited. Under David Lloyd George, however from 1918 the Prime Minister's role within the Westminster Model increased, as Lloyd George unilaterally claimed additional powers for himself that had previously belonged to the cabinet, most dramatically, the power to seek a dissolution. The Free State constitution reflected pre-Lloyd George constitutional theory on the powers of a prime minister. In contrast the later Irish constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, reflected post Lloyd George concepts of prime ministerial power.
2Arthur Griffith (Jan-Aug 1922) opted not to call himself President of the Republic but President of Dáil Éireann
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