Irish presidential election

The Irish presidential election determines who serves as the President of Ireland, the head of state of Ireland. The last election took place on 27 October 2018. Where only one candidate is nominated, that candidate is declared elected without a ballot; this has occurred on six occasions.


Presidential elections are conducted in line with Article 12 of the Constitution[1] and under the Presidential Elections Act 1993, as amended.[2] An election is ordinarily held not more than 60 days before the scheduled ending of the incumbent's seven-year term of office. In case of a casual vacancy (by death, resignation or impeachment) an election is held within 60 days. The dates during which candidates may be nominated and the date of the election are fixed by an order made by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

All Irish citizens may vote in presidential elections if they have the right to vote in elections to Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Oireachtas or parliament).[1][3] The voting age is eighteen. The Dáil electoral register is based on residency within a geographical Dáil constituency, so that those living abroad may not vote, except diplomats and military posted overseas. Resident UK citizens may vote in Dáil elections but not presidential elections. A proposed constititional amendment giving nonresident citizens a vote in presidential elections is planned to be put to referendum in October 2019.[4]

Elections are conducted by means of the instant-runoff voting, which is the single-winner analogue of the single transferable vote used in other Irish elections. The constitution calls the system "proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote", although a single-seat election cannot be proportional.[5]

To qualify, candidates must:[1]

  • be a citizen of Ireland,
  • be at least 35 years of age, and[6]
  • be nominated by:
    • at least twenty of the 218 serving members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, or
    • at least four of the 31 county or city Councils, or
    • him- or herself, in the case of an incumbent or former president who has served one term.

The election order will declare the last day on which nominations may be received. If a member of the Oireachtas or a County or City council nominate more than one candidate, only the first nomination paper received from them will be deemed valid.[2]

If there is only a single candidate they will be deemed elected without a poll.[1] No one may serve as President for more than two terms.[1]

Spending limits and donations

The spending limits in a Presidential election were reduced in 2011. The limit is €750,000 (was €1.3 million) and the amount a candidate can be reimbursed from the State is €200,000 (was €260,000).[7] A candidate who is elected or who receives in excess of one quarter of the quota can seek reimbursement of their expenses.

The value of donations that may be accepted by candidates, their election agents and third parties at a presidential election is governed by law. In the case of candidates and presidential election agents, the maximum donation that may be accepted from a person (or a body) in a particular year cannot exceed €2,539. In the case of a third party, the maximum donation that may be accepted cannot exceed €6,348. The acceptance of donations from non-Irish citizens residing abroad is prohibited.[8]


Election Candidate Age Nominated by 1st Pref. Winner
Votes %
1938 Douglas Hyde 78 Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael n/a n/a Douglas Hyde
1945 Patrick McCartan 67 Oireachtas: Labour Party and Clann na Talmhan 212,834 19.6% Seán T. O'Kelly
Seán Mac Eoin 51 Oireachtas: Fine Gael and Independent TDs 335,539 30.9%
Seán T. O'Kelly 62 Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil 537,965 49.5%
1952 Seán T. O'Kelly 69 Self-nomination n/a n/a Seán T. O'Kelly
1959 Éamon de Valera 76 Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil 538,003 56.3% Éamon de Valera
Seán Mac Eoin 65 Oireachtas: Fine Gael 417,536 43.7%
1966 Éamon de Valera 83 Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil 558,861 50.5% Éamon de Valera
Tom O'Higgins 49 Oireachtas: Fine Gael 548,144 49.5%
1973 Erskine H. Childers 60 Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil 635,867 51.9% Erskine H. Childers
Tom O'Higgins 56 Oireachtas: Fine Gael 587,771 48.0%
1974 Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh 63 Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour Party n/a n/a Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh
1976 Patrick Hillery 53 Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil n/a n/a Patrick Hillery
1983 Patrick Hillery 60 Self-nomination n/a n/a Patrick Hillery
1990 Austin Currie 51 Oireachtas: Fine Gael 267,902 17.0% Mary Robinson
Brian Lenihan 59 Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil 694,484 44.1%
Mary Robinson 46 Oireachtas: Labour Party and Workers' Party 612,265 38.9%
1997 Mary Banotti 58 Oireachtas: Fine Gael 372,002 29.3% Mary McAleese
Mary McAleese 46 Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats 574,424 45.2%
Derek Nally 60 County and City Councils 59,529 4.7%
Adi Roche 42 Oireachtas: Labour Party, Democratic Left and Green Party 88,423 6.9%
Dana Rosemary Scallon 46 County and City Councils 175,458 13.8%
2004 Mary McAleese 53 Self-nomination n/a n/a Mary McAleese
2011 Mary Davis 57 County and City Councils 48,657 2.7% Michael D. Higgins
Seán Gallagher 49 County and City Councils 504,964 28.5%
Michael D. Higgins 70 Oireachtas: Labour Party 701,101 39.6%
Martin McGuinness 61 Oireachtas: Sinn Féin and Independent TDs 243,030 13.7%
Gay Mitchell 59 Oireachtas: Fine Gael 113,321 6.4%
David Norris 67 County and City Councils 109,469 6.2%
Dana Rosemary Scallon 60 County and City Councils 51,220 2.9%
2018 Peter Casey 60 County and City Councils 342,727 23.3% Michael D. Higgins
Seán Gallagher 56 County and City Councils 94,514 6.4%
Gavin Duffy 58 County and City Councils 32,198 2.2%
Joan Freeman 60 County and City Councils 87,908 6.0%
Michael D. Higgins 77 Self-nomination 822,566 55.8%
Liadh Ní Riada 51 Oireachtas: Sinn Féin 93,987 6.4%

Election dates and forms of nomination

Year Ministerial Order Close of Nominations Nominations Election date Inauguration
Oir. CC Self
1938 14 April 4 May 1 0 0 31 May 25 June
1945 16 May 3 0 0 14 June 25 June
1952 25 April 16 May 0 0 1 10 June 25 June
1959 27 April 19 May 2 0 0 17 June 25 June
1966 27 April 10 May 2 0 0 1 June 25 June
1973 25 April 8 May 2 0 0 30 May 25 June
1974 1 0 0 17 November 19 December
1976 1 0 0 2 October 3 December
1983 7 November 21 October 0 0 1 23 November 3 December
1990 3 0 0 7 November 3 December
1997 15 September 30 September 3 2 0 30 October 11 November
2004 13 September 1 October 0 0 1 22 October 11 November
2011 30 August 28 September 3 4 0 27 October 11 November
2018 28 August 26 September 1 4 1 26 October 11 November

Election dates in italics indicate dates which were set in the ministerial order, but where no election was held as only one candidate had been nominated.

See also


  1. Article 12 of the Constitution of Ireland. "Constitution of Ireland". Department of the Taoiseach. June 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  2. "Presidential Elections Act 1993" (PDF). Irish Presidential Election. Presidential Returning Officer. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  3. "Electing a President – Preferential Voting". ACE: The Electoral Knowledge Network. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  4. Phelan, John Paul (20 February 2019). "Referendum Campaigns:". Written answers. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  5. Constitution Review Group (1996). "Article XII – XIV The President". Report (PDF). Government of Ireland. p. 22. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  6. The 1995 report of the Constitution Review Group notes "There is an apparent discrepancy between the English and Irish versions. The Irish version has ‘ag a bhfuil cúig bliana tríochad slán’ (that is, has completed thirty-five years), whereas the English version is ‘who has reached his thirty-fifth year of age’, which could mean has entered rather than completed that year." As the Irish language text prevails, this means a candidate must be at least 35 years old
  7. "Presidential Election in Ireland". Citizens Information Board Ireland. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  8. "How the President is elected" (PDF). Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. August 2011.
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