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Dáil Éireann

Dáil Éireann (pronounced "doyl eh-rinn") is the lower house of the parliament (Oireachtas) of the Republic of Ireland. Its powers are similar to those of the House of Commons.

Table of contents
1 The First Dáil Éireann (Assembly of Ireland)
2 The Irish Free State Dáil Éireann (Chamber of Deputies)
3 Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) since 1937
4 Irish Governments since 1969
5 Different Meanings for Dáil Éireann
6 See Also

The First Dáil Éireann (Assembly of Ireland)

First Dáil
Michael Collins (second from left, front row),
Eamon de Valera (centre, front row),
W.T. Cosgrave (second from right, front row)
The first Dáil was constituted in Dublin on January 21, 1919, after the republican Sinn Féin movement had won 73 of Ireland's 105 seats in the British House of Commons in the previous month's general election. (Many of the seats were uncontested.)

Only 27 members were present at the Dáil's first session to adopt the Declaration of Independence of the Irish Republic: many of the other Sinn Féiners were in prison. The Dáil was itself to be declared an illegal body eight months later.

The Irish Free State Dáil Éireann (Chamber of Deputies)

Three years of mounting armed conflict ended with the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by representatives of the British Government and plenipotentiaries appointed by the President of the Republic, Eamon de Valera. The new state which emerged from the Treaty had a three tier, two chamber parliament, the Oireachtas, consisting of the King, a lower house called Dáil Éireann and an upper house called Seanad Éireann. Though technically a different assembly from the earlier Dála (plural in Gaelic for Dáils), it retained the name and was treated as a linear successor, as indeed is the current Dáil, created in the 1937 constitution, even though all three operated under different constitutional structures and rules from each other. So the Dáil elected in May 2002 is described as the 'Twenty-Ninth Dáil', with the 'First Dáil' being regarded as the assembly held in January 1919.

The 1922 election to the Third Dáil saw Sinn Féin divided into "pro-Treaty" and "anti-Treaty" factions, the precursors of the two parties (Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil) which have dominated parliament to this day (though in fact, the divergent and different analyses they hold on questions to do with Anglo-Irish relations and Irish identity in fact pre-date the civil war, having been traced by political scientists back as early as the 1790s).

Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) since 1937

The Dáil's membership was reduced in 1937 from 153 to 138, but in the 1960s Sean Lemass as taoiseach found it difficult to get enough suitably qualified people for ministerial rank, from what was by international standards quite a small parliament. The number was increased, only to be increased more substantially in 1981 to 166. As a result, Ireland has one of the lowest politician to voter ratios; approximately one TD to every 21,000 voters. The Irish constitution provides that there must cannot be more than one TD for every 20,000 people, or less than one for every 30,000. But parliamentary size is not only related to such a ratio, but also to the need to provide enough people of sufficient skills, experience and talent to fill cabinet and junior ministerial rank. Ireland has one of the smallest cabinets and parliaments in parliamentary democracies. Furthermore its electoral system, using multi-member constituencies (with three, four or five members of the Dáil from each constituency) forces politicians to devote too much time to local constituency politics at the cost of national policy making, in a mad scramble to keep their seats, so limiting the calibre of people available for ministerial promotion. A proposal to switch to more politician-friendly but less accurate British-style "first past the post" electoral system of single-member constituencies was defeated in 1959 and again in 1968.

Anyone who is a citizen of Ireland and over 21 years of age is eligible to run for election as a TD but, as with most democracies, Irish elections tend to have many candidates running for the limited number of seats. Like all elections in Ireland, Dáil elections are by a system of proportional representation with single transferable vote [1].

Irish Governments since 1969

The Dáil currently has 166 members. The 29th Dáil's five-year term ends in the summer of 2007. Though the Dáil's term is five years, it can be extended by statute law, or dissolved earlier. The maximum term under the Irish constitution is seven years. No single party has won an overall majority since the election of the 21st Dáil in 1977. Between 1969 and 2002 no Irish government won re-election. The Governments were:

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Different Meanings for Dáil Éireann

1919-21 translated as single chamber Assembly of Ireland (under Irish Republic)

1922-37 translated as Chamber of Deputies (under Irish Free State/Saorstát Éireann) parliament (Oireachtas) was originally bicameral, with an upper house, Seanad Éireann (Senate) abolished in 1936. Technically Oireachtas consisted of the King, Dáil and Seanad under 1922 constitution.

1937 - translated as House of Representatives (under Éire/Republic of Ireland) parliament (Oireachtas) bicameral. 166 Dáil. 60 Seanad & President under Bunreacht na hÉireann (Irish constitution)

See Also

Defunct Parties