Taoiseach: Wikis


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Taoiseach of Ireland
Coat of arms of Ireland.svg
Coat of arms of Ireland
Brian Cowen

since 7 May 2008
Residence Steward's Lodge, Farmleigh[1]
Appointer Mary McAleese as President
Term length General elections are held every five years at a maximum, but may be held sooner. No term limits are imposed on the office.
Inaugural holder Éamon de Valera[2]
Formation 29 December 1937[2]
Deputy Tánaiste
Salary €228,466
Website www.taoiseach.gov.ie
Republic of Ireland
Coat of arms of Ireland

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The Taoiseach (pronounced /ˈtiːʃəx/[3]; Irish pronunciation: [t̪ˠiːʃəx]), plural Taoisigh ([t̪ˠiːʃiː] or [t̪ˠiːʃəɟ]), also referred to as An Taoiseach ([ən t̪ˠiːʃəx]),[4] is the head of government of Ireland.

The Taoiseach is appointed by the President upon the nomination of Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Oireachtas), and must, while he remains in office, retain the support of a majority in the Dáil. The role of Taoiseach is that of a prime minister.[5]

The current Taoiseach is Brian Cowen, TD, leader of the Fianna Fáil party.



Under the Constitution of Ireland the Taoiseach must be appointed from among the members of Dáil Éireann. In the event that the Taoiseach loses the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann, he is not automatically removed from office but, rather, is compelled either to resign or to persuade the President to dissolve the Dáil. The President may refuse to grant a dissolution, and, in effect, force the Taoiseach to resign, but, to date, no president has exercised this prerogative (though the option arose in 1944, twice in 1982 and would have arisen in 1994 had Albert Reynolds chosen, following his Dáil defeat, to seek a dissolution rather than resign[citation needed]). The Taoiseach may lose the support of Dáil Éireann by the passage of a vote of no confidence, the failure of a vote of confidence or, alternatively, the Dáil may refuse supply.[6] In the event of the Taoiseach's resignation, he continues to exercise the duties and functions of his office until the appointment of a successor.

The Taoiseach nominates the remaining members of the Government, who are then, with the consent of the Dáil, appointed by the President. The Taoiseach also has authority to have fellow members of the cabinet dismissed from office. He or she is further responsible for appointing eleven members of the Senate.


The Taoiseach's salary has been somewhat higher than for leaders in many other countries: €228,466 annually following a recent reduction of 20% on the previous €285,582,[7][8] compared to £187,000 (about €202,000) for the British Prime Minister and €231,000 for the President of France. In October 2007, the Taoiseach was the highest-paid head of government in the OECD countries.[9] However, the remuneration structures for Government of Ireland employees apparently mean that comparison with other countries are not useful and are discouraged by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector.[10] A proposed increase of €38,000 in 2007, was deferred when Brian Cowen became Taoiseach[11] and in October 2008, the government announced a 10% salary cut for all ministers, including the Taoiseach.[12] However this was a voluntary cut and the salaries remained nominally the same with ministers and Taoiseach essentially refusing 10% of their salary. This courted controversy in December 2009 when a salary cut of 20% was based on the higher figure before the refused amount was deducted.[13] The Taoiseach is also allowed an additional €118,981 in annual expenses.


In 2008 it was reported that the former Steward's Lodge at Farmleigh adjoining the Phoenix Park would become the official residence of the Taoiseach.[14] The house, which forms part of the Farmleigh estate acquired by the State in 1999 for €29.2m, was renovated at a cost of nearly €600,000 in 2005 by the Office of Public Works. Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern did not use it as a residence, however the current Taoiseach Brian Cowen, uses it "from time to time".[15]


Origins and etymology

The words Taoiseach and Tánaiste (the title of the deputy prime minister) are both from the Irish language and of ancient origin. Though the Taoiseach is described in the Constitution of Ireland as "the head of the Government or Prime Minister",[5] its literal translation is "Chieftain" or "Leader".[16] Some historians suggest that in ancient Ireland (where these terms originate), a taoiseach was a minor king, while a tánaiste was a governor placed in a kingdom whose king had been deposed or, more usually, his heir-apparent. In Scottish Gaelic, tòiseach translates as clan chief and both words originally had similar meaning in the Gaelic languages of Scotland and Ireland. The related Welsh language word tywysog (current meaning "prince" – from tywys, "to lead") appears to have had a similar meaning.

Modern office

The modern position of Taoiseach was established by the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, to replace the position of President of the Executive Council of the 1922–1937 Irish Free State. The positions of Taoiseach and President of the Executive Council differed in certain fundamental respects. Under the Constitution of the Irish Free State the latter was vested with considerably less power and was largely just the cabinet's presiding officer. For example, the President of the Executive Council could not dismiss a fellow minister. The Free State's cabinet, the Executive Council, had to be disbanded and reformed entirely, in order to remove one of its number. The President of the Executive Council could also not personally seek a dissolution of Dáil Éireann from the head of state, that power belonging collectively to the Executive Council. In contrast, the Taoiseach created in 1937 possesses a much more powerful role. He can both instruct the President to dismiss ministers, and request a parliamentary dissolution on his own initiative.[17]

Historically, where there have been multi-party or coalition governments, the Taoiseach has come from the leader of the largest party in the coalition. One exception to this was John A. Costello, who was not leader of his party, but an agreed choice to head the government, because the other parties refused to accept then Fine Gael leader Richard Mulcahy as Taoiseach.

List of office holders

Department of the Taoiseach at Government Buildings, Merrion Square, Dublin

Main articles: Irish heads of government since 1919, Records of Irish heads of government since 1922

Before the enactment of the 1937 Constitution, the head of government was referred to as the President of the Executive Council. This office was first held by W. T. Cosgrave of Cumann na nGaedhael from 1922–32, and then by Éamon de Valera from 1932–37. By convention Taoisigh are numbered to include Cosgrave,[18][19][20][21] for example Brian Cowen is considered the 12th Taoiseach not the 11th.

President of the Executive Council

No. Name Picture Entered Office Left Office Elected Party
1. W. T. Cosgrave William Thomas Cosgrave.jpg 6 December 1922 9 March 1932 5 terms Cumann na nGaedhael
2. Éamon de Valera Eamon de Valera c 1922-30.jpg 9 March 1932 29 December 1937 3 terms Fianna Fáil


No. Name Picture Entered Office Left Office Elected Period Party
2. Éamon de Valera Eamon de Valera c 1922-30.jpg 29 December 1937 18 February 1948 3 terms 1st time Fianna Fáil
3. John A. Costello Costelloja.jpg 18 February 1948 13 June 1951 1 term 1st time Fine Gael
Éamon de Valera Eamon de Valera c 1922-30.jpg 13 June 1951 2 June 1954 1 term 2nd time Fianna Fáil
John A. Costello Costelloja.jpg 2 June 1954 20 March 1957 1 term 2nd time Fine Gael
Éamon de Valera Eamon de Valera c 1922-30.jpg 20 March 1957 23 June 1959 1 term 3rd time Fianna Fáil
4. Seán Lemass Lemass.jpg 23 June 1959 10 November 1966 3 terms Fianna Fáil
5. Jack Lynch JackLynch.jpg 10 November 1966 14 March 1973 2 terms 1st time Fianna Fáil
6. Liam Cosgrave Cosgrave2.jpg 14 March 1973 5 July 1977 1 term Fine Gael
Jack Lynch JackLynch.jpg 5 July 1977 11 December 1979 1 term 2nd time Fianna Fáil
7. Charles Haughey Charles J. Haughey.jpg 11 December 1979 30 June 1981 1 term 1st time Fianna Fáil
8. Garret FitzGerald Garretfitzgerald.jpg 30 June 1981 9 March 1982 1 term 1st time Fine Gael
Charles Haughey Charles J. Haughey.jpg 9 March 1982 14 December 1982 1 term 2nd time Fianna Fáil
Garret FitzGerald Garretfitzgerald.jpg 14 December 1982 10 March 1987 1 term 2nd time Fine Gael
Charles Haughey Charles J. Haughey.jpg 10 March 1987 11 February 1992 2 terms 3rd time Fianna Fáil
9. Albert Reynolds Albert-reynolds-1.jpg 11 February 1992 15 December 1994 1 term Fianna Fáil
10. John Bruton BrutonJohn.png 15 December 1994 26 June 1997 1 term Fine Gael
11. Bertie Ahern BertieAhernBerlin2007.jpg 26 June 1997 6 May 2008 3 terms Fianna Fáil
12. Brian Cowen Brian Cowennoflag.jpg 7 May 2008 Incumbent 1 term Fianna Fáil

Living former Taoisigh

See also

References and notes

  1. ^ It is not used on a full time basis.
  2. ^ a b Before the enactment of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, the head of government was referred to as the President of the Executive Council. This office was first held by W. T. Cosgrave from 1922–32, and then by Éamon de Valera from 1932–37.
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  4. ^ Retaining the Irish definite article an /ən/ instead of English the.
  5. ^ a b Article 13.1.1° and Article 28.5.1° of the Constitution of Ireland. The latter provision reads: "The head of the Government, or Prime Minister, shall be called, and is in this Constitution referred to as, the Taoiseach." [1]
  6. ^ One example of the Dáil refusing supply occurred in January 1982 when the then Fine GaelLabour Party coalition government of Garret FitzGerald lost a vote on the budget. [2]
  7. ^ "Taoiseach to take €28,500 pay cut". Irish Times. 29 December 2009. http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/politics/taoiseach-to-take-euro28500-pay-cut-107545.html. Retrieved 10 December 2009. 
  8. ^ "Cabinet protects pensions but workers will pay price". Irish Independent. 16 January 2009. http://www.independent.ie/national-news/cabinet-protects-pensions-but-workers-will-pay-price-1603935.html. Retrieved 29 January 2009. 
  9. ^ "Have you ever wondered why Bertie Ahern always looks so cheerful?". The Sunday Times. 29 October 2007. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article2759740.ece. 
  10. ^ "Report No. 42". Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. 14 September 2007. http://www.reviewbody.gov.ie/publications/highrem42.pdf. Retrieved 10 May 2008. 
  11. ^ "Taoiseach to receive €38k pay rise". RTÉ News. 25 October 2007. http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/1025/politics.html. 
  12. ^ "Sharp exchanges in Dáil over Budget". RTÉ News. 15 October 2008. http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/1015/budget.html. Retrieved 29 January 2009. 
  13. ^ "Opposition says Lenihan's salary cuts do not add up". Irish Independent. 10 December 2009. http://www.independent.ie/national-news/budget/comment-reaction/opposition-says-lenihans-salary-cuts-do-not-add-up-1969628.html. Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  14. ^ "Opulent Phoenix Park lodge is set to become 'Fortress Cowen'". Irish Independent. 18 May 2008. http://www.independent.ie/national-news/opulent-phoenix-park-lodge-is--set-to-become-fortress-cowen-1378987.html. Retrieved 18 May 2008. 
  15. ^ "Cowen questioned on use of Farmleigh". The Irish Times. 29 January 2009. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/0129/1232923372778.html. Retrieved 29 January 2009. 
  16. ^ "Youth Zone (FAQ)". Department of the Taoiseach. http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/index.asp?locID=195&docID=-1. 
  17. ^ Among the most famous ministerial dismissals have been those of Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney during the Arms Crisis in 1970, Brian Lenihan in 1990 and Albert Reynolds, Pádraig Flynn and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn in 1991.
  18. ^ "Coughlan new Tánaiste in Cowen Cabinet". The Irish Times. 17 May 2008. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2008/0507/breaking7.htm. Retrieved 17 May 2008. 
  19. ^ "Taoiseach reveals new front bench". RTÉ News. 7 May 2008. http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/0507/fiannafail.html. Retrieved 17 May 2008. 
  20. ^ "Cowen confirmed as Taoiseach". BreakingNews.ie. 7 May 2008. http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/mhgbausnidau/. Retrieved 17 May 2008. 
  21. ^ "Former Taoisigh". Department of the Taoiseach. http://www.taoiseach.ie/index.asp?locID=349&docID=-1. Retrieved 17 May 2008. 

Further reading

The book Chairman or Chief: The Role of the Taoiseach in Irish Government (1971) by Brian Farrell provides a good overview of the conflicting roles for the Taoiseach. Though long out of print, it may still be available in libraries or from AbeBooks. Biographies are also available of de Valera, Lemass, Lynch, Cosgrave, FitzGerald, Haughey, Reynolds and Ahern. FitzGerald wrote an autobiography, while an authorised biography was produced of de Valera.

Some biographies of former Taoisigh and Presidents of the Executive Council

  • Tim Pat Coogan, Éamon de Valera
  • John Horgan, Seán Lemass
  • Brian Farrell, Seán Lemass
  • T.P. O'Mahony, Jack Lynch: A Biography
  • T. Ryle Dwyer, Nice Fellow: A Biography of Jack Lynch
  • Stephen Collins, The Cosgrave legacy
  • Garret FitzGerald, All in a Life
  • Raymond Smith, Garret: The Enigma
  • T.Ryle Dwyer, Short Fellow: A Biography of Charles Haughey
  • Martin Mansergh, Spirit of the Nation: The Collected Speeches of Haughey
  • Joe Joyce & Peter Murtagh The Boss: Charles Haughey in Government
  • Tim Ryan, Albert Reynolds: The Longford Leader

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also taoiseach




  • (Irish) IPA: [ˈt̪ˠiːɕəx]
  • (UK) IPA: /ˈtiː.ʃɒk/, SAMPA: /"ti:.SQk/

Proper noun




  1. Head of the Irish government, comparable to a UK or Australian Prime Minister.
  2. Title of the person holding that office.

Usage notes

  • As a title the word should always be capitalised.
  • When describing the political position, the word is sometimes capitalised but lower case is typically used.

See also



From Old Irish toísech (leader) (cf. Ogham tovisaci) < Proto-Celtic *towissāko- (leader) (cf. Welsh tywysog (prince)) < either Proto-Indo-European *wedh- (lead) or weid- (“know, see”).


  • IPA: [ˈt̪ˠiːɕəx]
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Proper noun

Taoiseach m.

  1. Head of the Irish government, comparable to a UK or Australian Prime Minister.
  2. Title of the person holding that office.


First declension

Bare forms:

Case Singular Plural
Nominative Taoiseach Taoisigh
Vocative a Thaoisigh a Thaoiseacha
Genitive Taoisigh Taoiseach
Dative Taoiseach Taoisigh

Forms with the definite article:

Case Singular Plural
Nominative an Taoiseach na Taoisigh
Genitive an Taoisigh na dTaoiseach
Dative leis an Taoiseach

don Taoiseach

leis na Taoisigh


Irish mutation
Radical Lenition Eclipsis
Taoiseach Thaoiseach dTaoiseach
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.

Simple English

The Taoiseach (pronounced /ˈtiːʃəx/ in English[1]; IPA: [t̪ˠiːʃʲəx] (plural Taoisigh ([t̪ˠiːʃʲɪj] or [t̪ˠiːʃʲɪɟ]) in Irish), also referred to as An Taoiseach ([ən t̪ˠiːʃʲəx]),[2] is the head of the government in Ireland. The term prime minister is not used by the Irish media.[3].


When a new Dáil Éireann meets after an election it nominates one of its members to be Taoiseach. He then visits the President, and is appointed. He then presents a list of ministers to the Dáil and when this is approved they are also appointed by the.

If the Taoiseach resigns all members of the government are said to have resigned as well. If a minister does not resign when asked by the Taoiseach, the Taoiseach can ask the President to sack the minister. The President cannot refuse to do this [4]

Department of the Taoiseach

The Department of the Taoiseach helps the Taoiseach to do his job. The main duty of the Taoiseach is to start policy and coordinate policy of the rest of government. Especially policies on Economic and Social Development, Northern Ireland, the European Union and Public Sector Change and Oireachtas Reform.

The Government Chief Whip, who has to make sure the government's policies and ideas are turned into law, is a part of the Taoiseach's department.

The current Taoiseach is Brian Cowen.


  1. Oxford English Dictionary
  2. Keeping the Irish definite article an /ən/ instead of English the.
  3. "BUNREACHT NA hÉIREANN". http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/upload/static/256.htm. "Article 29.5.1 The head of the Government, or Prime Minister, shall be called, and is in this Constitution referred to as, the Taoiseach." 
  4. Irish Constitution, article 29.9

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