Presidential Commission (Ireland)


Three members serve on the Presidential Commission.

Office Description Incumbent
Chief Justice President of the Supreme Court Frank Clarke
Ceann Comhairle Chairman of Dáil Éireann Seán Ó Fearghaíl
Cathaoirleach Chairman of Seanad Éireann Denis O Donovan

The President of the High Court acts as a member in place of the Chief Justice if that office is vacant. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle acts as a member in place of the Ceann Comhairle if that office is vacant. The Leas-Chathaoirleach acts as a member in place of the Cathaoirleach if that office is vacant.[1] The Commission may act with at least two members.[2]

A proposal to abolish the Seanad, which was rejected at referendum in 2013, would have seen the Leas-Cheann Comhairle take the place of the Cathaoirleach on the Commission.[3][4]


The Presidential Commission fulfills all functions and duties of the office of President of Ireland when the office of President is vacant, or when the President is unavailable.

Vacancy may occur:

  • on the death of the incumbent, as in 1974;
  • on the resignation of the incumbent, as in 1976 and 1997;
  • by impeachment of the incumbent, which has never happened.
  • in the short interval between the conclusion of one president's term of office and the inauguration of a successor the next day — although the Presidential Commission has never been required to act in this time;

The Presidential Commission has often acted when the President is abroad, typically while making a state visit.[5] When the government of the 26th Dáil collapsed in November 1992, president Mary Robinson was abroad. The resignation of the Progressive Democrats ministers, the appointment by Taoiseach Albert Reynolds of caretaker Fianna Fáil replacement ministers, and Reynolds' request for a dissolution of the Dáil, were all effected by the Presidential Commission.[6][7] Temporary illness may also indispose the President. No President has ever refused to fulfil any of the duties of office.

Bills have occasionally been signed in to law while the President is out of the country, including the Marriage Act 2015 legalising same-sex marriage due to Michael D. Higgins being in the United States.[8]


The Presidential Commission was created in the 1937 Constitution of Ireland. It was first used between December 1937, when the Constitution came into force, and June 1938, when the first President was inaugurated. Initially, as the Irish senate had not been constituted and elected, the seat on the Presidential Commission intended for the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann was filled by the President of the High Court under the Transitory Provisions of the Constitution.

Members of the Presidential Commission as acting President of Ireland


From the adoption of the Constitution of Ireland to the inauguration of Douglas Hyde.

Name Office Period
Timothy Sullivan Chief Justice 29 December 1937 25 June 1938
Frank Fahy Ceann Comhairle
Conor Maguire President of the High Court


From the death of Erskine H. Childers to the inauguration of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh.

Name Office Period
Tom O'Higgins Chief Justice 17 November 1974 19 December 1974
Seán Treacy Ceann Comhairle
James Dooge Cathaoirleach


From the resignation of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh to the inauguration of Patrick Hillery.

Name Office Period
Tom O'Higgins Chief Justice 22 October 1976 3 December 1976
Seán Treacy Ceann Comhairle
James Dooge Cathaoirleach


From the resignation of Mary Robinson to the inauguration of Mary McAleese.

Name Office Period
Liam Hamilton Chief Justice 12 September 1997 11 November 1997
Séamus Pattison Ceann Comhairle
Liam T. Cosgrave Cathaoirleach 17 September 1997
Brian Mullooly 17 September 1997 11 November 1997

See also


  1. Constitution of Ireland, Articles 14.2.2, 14.2.3, 14.2.4.
  2. Constitution of Ireland, Article 14.3.
  3. "Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill 2013 As passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas" (PDF). Bills 1997-2013. Oireachtas. 17 July 2013. p. 36 Schedule 3, Part 2, No.9. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  4. "Seanad Results". The Irish Times. 5 October 2013.
  5. "Presidential Commission". Citizens Information. Dublin: Citizens Information Board. 1 May 2008. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  6. Private Business. - Ministerial Changes: Statement Dáil debates, 5 November 1992
  7. Clarity, James F. (6 November 1992). "Leader Defeated, Irish Government Collapses". New York Times. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
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