Name of State
The Irish Constitution provides that the name of the State is
Éire or in the English language, Ireland.
Island of Ireland
The geographical island of Ireland consists of the sovereign
independent state of Ireland comprising 26 counties, and the six
counties of Northern Ireland to the north-east of the island, which
are governed by a power-sharing Executive and Assembly as
established under the Good Friday Agreement.
Article 8 of the Irish Constitution makes the following
The Irish language, as the national language, is the first official
The English language is recognised as a second official language.
The national flag is a tricolour of
green, white and orange.
The harp has been regarded as the official symbol or coat of arms
of Ireland since medieval times. The heraldic harp is used by the
Government, its agencies and its representatives at home and
abroad. It is engraved on the seal matrix of the Office of the
President as well as on the Irish euro coins.
Amhrán na bhFiann (Soldier’s Song) is the Irish National
The National Day
Saint Patrick’s Day, 17 March, is the National Day. Tradition holds
that the use of the shamrock by Saint Patrick when preaching in
Ireland led to its adoption as an Irish symbol.
St Patrick’s Day Festival: www.stpatricksday.ie
Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. Its law is based on Common
Law and legislation enacted by the Oireachtas (Irish
Parliament) under the Constitution. In addition, regulations and
directives enacted by the European Union have the force of law in
The Constitution of Ireland sets out the form of government and
defines the powers and functions of the President, both Houses of
the Oireachtas and the Government. It also defines the
structures and the powers of the Courts and outlines the
fundamental rights of citizens. The definition of rights covers
five broad headings: Personal Rights, The Family, Education,
Private Property and Religion.
The President is the Head of State, and is elected by direct vote.
There are fifteen Government Departments, each headed by a
Minister. The Ministers collectively form the Government. Executive
power is exercised by or on the authority of the Government, which
is responsible to the Dáil (House of Representatives). The
Head of the Government is the Taoiseach (Prime Minister)
while the Tánaiste is the Deputy Prime Minister.
There are two Houses of Parliament, known as Dáil Éireann
(House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (Senate). The
Dáil has 166 members known as Teachtaí Dála (TD). They are
elected on a system of proportional representation by universal
suffrage. Elections take place at least once every five years.
After the 2011 general election the main political parties
represented in the Dáil were Fine Gael, the Labour Party,
Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.
The Seanad has 60 members, eleven of whom are nominated by
the Taoiseach while the rest are elected from a number of
vocational panels and by graduates of universities. The
Seanad may initiate or revise legislation (except Finance
Bills), but the Dáil has the power to reject any such
amendments or proposed legislation.
Government of Ireland: www.irlgov.ie
President of Ireland: www.president.ie
Fine Gael: www.finegael.ie
Fianna Fáil: www.fiannafail.ie
Sinn Féin: www.sinnfein.ie
Irish Government News Service: www.merrionstreet.ie
The local government system is administered by 114 local
authorities and is undergoing a process of renewal and reform, with
a view to significantly reducing the number of local authorities.
The services provided by the local authorities include: housing and
building, road transport and safety, water supply and sewerage,
development incentives and controls, environmental protection and
waste management, recreation and amenity, education, health,
welfare and miscellaneous services. Local government is funded
partly by central government and partly by local sources of
Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government:
Irish law is based on Common Law as modified by subsequent
legislation and by the Constitution of 1937. In accordance with the
Constitution, justice is administered in public by courts
established by law. The President appoints judges on the advice of
Department of Justice and Equality: www.justice.ie
The Courts Service of Ireland: www.courts.ie
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions: www.dppireland.ie
Office of the Attorney General: www.attorneygeneral.ie
Police and Defence Forces
The national police force, An Garda Síochána, was
established in 1922.
The general direction, management and control of the service is,
subject to regulations made by the Minister for Justice and
Equality, vested in a Commissioner appointed by the Government.
An Garda Síochána is unarmed with the exception of some
specialized units. Since 1989, An Garda Síochána has served
in numerous United Nations (UN) missions around the world. They
have also served under the EU flag, most recently in Kosovo and
Afghanistan,and have provided monitors for the South African and
The Permanent Defence Forces, which include the regular Army, Naval
Service and Air Corps, operate under the auspices of the Department
of Defence. The Department is also responsible for the general
planning, organisation and coordination of civil defence measures.
Recruitment is voluntary. The Defence Forces have extensive
peacekeeping experience and have served under UN mandate in UN, EU
and NATO led peace support operations all over the world since
1958. Most recently, the Defence Forces have served with
distinction in Liberia (where they took on the task of providing
the Quick Reaction Force for UNMIL), Chad (where the overall
command of the Mission rested with the Irish Lieutenant General Pat
Nash) and Lebanon (where over 350 Irish men and women are currently
serving with UNIFIL).
Department of Justice and Equality: www.justice.ie
Garda Síochána (Irish Police): www.garda.ie
Garda Ombudsman: www.gardaombudsman.ie
Department of Defence: www.defence.ie
Irish Defence Forces: www.military.ie