Under Irish law, the Dáil may not continue for longer than five years. This means at least every five years, the Dáil must be dissolved and a general election held within 30 days. A Seanad election takes place up to 90 days after Dáil Éireann has dissolved. The maximum term of office of the President is seven years.
The Members of Dáil Éireann are elected by the people of Ireland in a general election. A general election must be held at least every five years, and all Irish and British citizens who live in Ireland and are aged 18 years or over are entitled to vote.
For the purpose of general elections the country is divided into 39 areas known as constituencies. The size of these constituencies varies and they may elect three, four or five TDs. Constituency boundaries can be revised based on changing census results.
Ireland uses a system of proportional representation and each voter has a single transferrable vote. On polling day, voters are given a ballot paper with the names of all the candidates in their constituency. Voters do not select just one candidate, but can vote for several candidates in order of preference, giving number one to their favourite, two to their next choice and so on. If a voter’s number one candidate receives more number one votes than they need to be elected, their surplus is redistributed. This means the number two preferences on the surplus ballot papers are transferred to the other candidates.
There are 60 seats in the Seanad, and 43 Members are elected from five vocational panels representing culture and education, agriculture, labour, industry and commerce, and public administration. Members of the current Dáil, the outgoing Seanad and the county councils are entitled to vote in Seanad panel elections. Again, the system used is proportional representation with a single transferrable vote.
The new Taoiseach nominates a further 11 Members to the Seanad. The final six Senators are elected by the graduates of certain universities, three by the National University of Ireland and three by the University of Dublin, Trinity College.
The President is elected every seven years. A President may not serve for more than two terms, a maximum of 14 years. Candidates for election as President must be Irish citizens and over 35 years old. They must be nominated for the election by at least 20 Members of the Oireachtas or four local authorities.
Irish citizens aged 18 years or more are entitled to vote. Like the general election, the Presidential election uses the system of proportional representation by the single transferable vote. If there is only one candidate, no ballot takes place.
The European Parliament
Elections to the European Parliament are held across Europe every five years. The citizens of each member state elect a certain number of Members of the European Parliament, MEPs, to represent their interests. Irish citizens elect 13 MEPs.
For the purposes of European Parliament elections, Ireland has three constituencies, namely, Dublin, South and Midlands-North-West. Four MEPs are elected in Dublin, five to represent South and four in Midlands-North-West.
Find out more
For more information about elections, see the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage website.
Last updated: 8 January 2021