The President is the Head of state, and is elected
by direct vote. President Mary McAleese was elected in november
1997 and began her second seven-year term in November 2004.
There are fifteen Government Departments, each headed by a
Minister. The titles and functions of some Government Departments
are expected to change over the course of 2011. 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.
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