Under the Constitution the executive power of the State is exercised by, or on the authority of, the Government.
The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and other members of the Government are appointed by the President, with the approval of or on the nomination of Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives in Parliament).
The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and the Minister for Finance must be members of Dáil Éireann. The other members of the Government must be members of either Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann (Senate) but no more than two may be members of Seanad Éireann.
A Taoiseach must resign from office if s/he loses the support of a majority of the Dáil unless s/he secures a majority in a general election following a dissolution of the Dáil.
If the Taoiseach resigns, all other Ministers are deemed to have resigned. They and the Taoiseach continue to carry on their duties until their successors are appointed. Similar arrangements apply whenever the Dáil is dissolved.
Membership of the Government
The Government consists of the Taoiseach and at least six, and not more than 14 Ministers who meet and act as a collective authority. Individual members of the Government are designated as the Ministers with sole responsibility for the administration of the various Departments of State.
Role and Responsibilities of Government
In addition to its specific constitutional and legal functions, the Government is generally responsible for seeing that law and order are maintained; that the needs of the public are addressed as far as is practicable; and that any dangers threatening the interests of the public are averted. The Government, therefore, takes measures recommended by Ministers which it considers necessary for the public interest.
The Government is responsible only to the Dáil, although members of the Government have a right to be heard in both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Government is responsible for managing the public finances, for example it prepares the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure each year for approval by the Dáil. Only the Government may introduce Money Bills into the Dáil.
Ministers of State are not members of the Government.
Meetings of the Government (Cabinet)
The Government (Cabinet) usually meets once a week and its proceedings are confidential.
Although the term Cabinet has no formal basis in the Constitution, it is frequently used to describe formal meetings of the Government, to distinguish them from more general activities of government.
The business conducted at Government (Cabinet) meetings include the exercise of formal powers, for example advising the President to exercise specific powers and making Orders to give effect to statutory provisions.
Major policy issues are considered and approved by Government on the proposal of individual Ministers. Most of the time at Government (Cabinet) meetings is devoted to such matters.
Over time, detailed guidelines have been developed to assist Ministers in bringing issues to Cabinet for consideration and to ensure that Cabinet business is dispatched efficiently and effectively. Those guidelines, which relate to the internal functioning of Government (Cabinet), are contained in the Cabinet Handbook.