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Be prepared for the Presidential election!

The people of Ireland will be taking to the polling booths on Friday 26 October 2018 to vote for the next President of Ireland. Vera O’Riordan, an IGG Leader from Cork, has written the following article to help us prepare to vote and to give younger members an insight into the voting process:

You may have heard in the past few weeks that the political parties in Ireland are putting forward candidates for the Presidential Election. The current President of Ireland is Michael D. Higgins and he is a member of the Labour Party – the fourth largest party in Ireland out of between 10-12 political parties active in Ireland with local, national and international representation.

There are four major political parties in Ireland. Fine Gael has the largest representation in the Dáil (the Irish Parliament – where they propose new ‘bills’ or laws), followed by Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party. There are many other parties too. However, only these four parties have been involved in putting forward a Presidential candidate in recent years.

It is important to note that presidential candidates can also enter a campaign without the backing of a political party. These candidates would be referred to as ‘Independents’.  A President who is completing one term also has the authority to nominate themselves.

The presidential office is described as a ceremonial office. This means that the President does not have the power to vote on new laws or influence the Government in the decisions they make. The President of Ireland acts as a head of state and represents Ireland internationally. Michael D Higgins is currently responsible for:

  • Formally appointing the Taoiseach (the Irish head of government – this role is currently held by Leo Varadkar)
  • Appointing the judges of Ireland on advice from the Government
  • Signing new bills into law to form part of the Constitution of Ireland (you may sometimes hear the Constitution being referred to as Bunracht na hÉireann, the Irish name)
  • Representing the state in foreign affairs on advice of the Government
  • Acting as Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces, this is described as a nominal role. This means it exists in name only and the decision-making within the Defence Forces of what is done is actually made by the Government in the Ministry of Defence.
  • Giving pardon
  • Acting as patron for many charities in Ireland and acting as patron for the Gaisce Award, which many of our Girl Guides and Senior Branchers have gone on to achieve!

The President’s term lasts seven years and four Presidents in the past have served two terms – a total of 14 years in office.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party are backing the current President, Michael D Higgins. Sinn Féin are putting forward a new candidate, who has yet to be named. There are many independent candidates who are currently seeking support from councillors (elected local representatives) around the country to support them. Independent candidates require the support of at least four town councils in order to be considered a presidential candidate.

A maximum of seven presidential hopefuls will go forward and will go through debates in the run up to the election.  The debates will be aired on television and there will be coverage in the media also. Presidential hopefuls will be placed under scrutiny by the public in order to get a sense of the personalities and qualities each candidate has. Every Irish citizen over the age of 18 will have the right to vote for the next President on the Friday 26 October.

Tip for over 18s: Check if you are on the Register of Electors at checktheregister.ie! If you are not, head into your local Garda station/post office to get sorted! It takes 14 business days to process, so you would need to do so early in October in order to be able to vote in the upcoming presidential election!

Tip for Leaders and girls: Check out the Voting Badge! There are Voting Badges for Ladybirds, Brownies and Guides. Hold a mock election for your Unit and discuss the upcoming election. Now is the perfect time!