The following is a brief guide for overseas media. For more detailed information please check the links at the end of this page and elsewhere on this website.
The Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary representative democracy.
Legislative power is vested in the Oireachtas, which consists of the President of Ireland and the two Houses of the Oireachtas: Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann.
Executive power is exercised by the Government, which is led by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), whose deputy is the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister).
The current Taoiseach is Enda Kenny, and the Tánaiste is Eamon Gilmore. The Cabinet is nominated by the Taoiseach and approved by the Dáil, then appointed by the President.
Dáil Éireann is the principal chamber of the Oireachtas and has 166 Members. A Member's official Irish title is "Teachta Dála" (commonly known as TD), which in English means "Deputy to the Dáil".
By law, a General Election to Dáil Éireann must be held at least once every five years.
The Chair of the Dáil is called the Ceann Comhairle. His deputy is the Leas-Cheann Comhairle
The Seanad is the upper house of the Oireachtas, and has 60 Senators. The Chair of the Seanad is called the Cathaoirleach. His deputy is the Leas-Chathaoirleach.
The President of Ireland is elected to a seven-year term of office and no person may serve more than two terms. The current President is Michael D. Higgins.
The President, who does not have an executive or policy role, exercises his formal powers and functions on the advice of the Government.
The President has the power to refer a Bill to the Supreme Court for a judgment on its constitutionality. He may seek advice from the Council of State and refer the Bill to the Irish Supreme Court for a ruling on whether it complies with the Constitution.
The official residence of the President is Áras an Uachtaráin, in the Phoenix Park in Dublin.
Oireachtas Committees play an increasingly important role in parliamentary business. They can receive submissions and hear evidence from interested parties or groups, discuss and draft proposals for legislative change, print and publish minutes of evidence and related documents, and require attendance of Ministers to discuss current policies and proposals for legislation.
There are four types of Committees:
There are 43 constituencies at present.
Voting at Presidential, Dáil and European elections is by secret ballot on the principle of proportional representation (PR) in multi-seat constituencies (Ireland is a single constituency in a Presidential election), each voter having a single transferable vote (STV).
Voting in Seanad elections is also by PR and STV. The Taoiseach nominates 11 Senators while a further six are elected by certain national universities.
The remaining 43 Senators are elected from vocational panels of candidates, the electorate for which consists of members of the outgoing Senate, the TDs of the recently elected Dáil and the elected members of the County/County Borough Councils throughout the State.