Department of State (Ireland)

A Department of State (Irish: Roinn Stáit) of Ireland is a department or ministry of the Government of Ireland. The head of such a department is called a Minister of the Government; prior to 1977 such ministers were called Ministers of State, a term now used for junior (non-cabinet) ministers.[1] Most members of the government are Ministers of the Government, though there may occasionally be a minister without portfolio. The law regarding the departments of state and ministers of the government is based in the Constitution of Ireland, primarily in Article 28, with legislative detail in the Ministers and Secretaries Acts 1924 to 2017.

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There are seventeen individual departments of state in the Irish Government. Each department is led by a Minister of the Government, who is appointed by the President on the nomination of the Taoiseach and approval of Dáil Éireann, and cover matters that require direct political oversight. For all departments, the Minister in question is known as Minister for … and is a member of the Cabinet; a cabinet-level minister without a department is called a minister without portfolio though the only permanent appointment on this basis was during The Emergency, between 1939 and 1945. A Minister of the Government is usually supported by a one or more Ministers of State, also known as junior ministers, and may delegate powers to such officials in accordance with law.

Under the terms of the Constitution, there may be no fewer than seven, and no more than fifteen members of the cabinet, though ministers are permitted by law to be responsible for more than one department. At present, Paschal Donohoe is Minister for Finance and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, while Leo Varadkar is Taoiseach and Minister for Defence.

The Minister of the Government has the power to suggest and propose new or amended legislation to the Government relating to matters that arise in their own department. Ministers are also entitled to make statutory instruments, also known as delegated or secondary legislation. Statutory instruments allow the minister to give effect to or implement legislation without the need to have every detail passed by the Oireachtas. Statutory instruments do not have to be approved by the Oireachtas, although they may be cancelled by either the Dáil or the Seanad and may not supplant the role of primary legislation.

Each department of state has a permanent staff that remains in office regardless of changes in government or the Oireachtas. The departments' staff are described as the civil service. The administrative management of the department is led by a senior civil servant known as a secretary-general. These officials advise and assist the minister in the running of the department.

The names and functions of the separate departments of states have in some cases changed significantly from their creation. The transfer of functions between departments usually occurs after a general election, but may also be instigated by a new Taoiseach or at any stage of a cabinet reshuffle. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has created guidelines of best practice for the management of these transfers.[2]

List of departments of state

Current departments of state, listed under their present title.

Department of State Creation Current Minister Website
Agriculture, Food and the Marine 1919 Michael Creed
Defence 1919 Leo Varadkar
Finance 1919 Paschal Donohoe
Foreign Affairs and Trade 1919 Simon Coveney
Business, Enterprise and Innovation 1919 Heather Humphreys
Housing, Planning and Local Government 1919 Eoghan Murphy
Justice and Equality 1919 Charles Flanagan
Education and Skills 1921 Joe McHugh
Communications, Climate Action and Environment 1921 Richard Bruton
Taoiseach 1937 Leo Varadkar
Health 1947 Simon Harris
Employment Affairs and Social Protection 1947 Regina Doherty
Children and Youth Affairs 1956 Katherine Zappone
Transport, Tourism and Sport 1959 Shane Ross
Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht 1977 Josepha Madigan
Public Expenditure and Reform 2011 Paschal Donohoe
Rural and Community Development 2017 Michael Ring

Past Departments of state, listed under their final title

Department of state Operation Functions transferred to
Department of Posts and Telegraphs 1922–84 Department of Communications
Department of Supplies 1939–45 Department of Industry and Commerce
Department of Labour 1966–93 Department of Enterprise and Employment
Department of the Public Service 1973–87 Department of Finance
Department of Communications 1984–91 Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications
Department of Equality and Law Reform 1993–97 Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform


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