President of Dáil Éireann

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The President of Dáil Éireann was the leader of the revolutionary Irish Republic of 1919–1921. The office, also known as Príomh Aire (Irish pronunciation: [ˈpʲrʲiːv ˈarʲə]), was created in the Dáil Constitution adopted by Dáil Éireann, the parliament of the Republic, at its first meeting in January 1919. This provided that the President was elected by the Dáil as head of a cabinet called the 'Ministry'. During the period of the Republic there were two office-holders, Cathal Brugha (on a provisional basis) and Éamon de Valera. However these men did not have any official status in the eyes of the British government because, although the government eventually agreed to negotiate with the Republic, it never granted it formal recognition.

Contents

Title

The Irish text of the Dáil Constitution referred to the leader of the state as the Príomh Aire. In English this was translated as both Prime Minister and President of the Ministry. President of Dáil Éireann was also used, interchangeably with these terms, despite the fact that it did not appear in the constitution, and it was the title preferred by de Valera during his visit to the United States in 1920–1921. Contrary to what the title might suggest, the President of Dáil Éireann was not its chairman, this was the role of a separate official: the Ceann Comhairle. In some senses the office exercised a role that combined that of Prime Minister and Leader of the House.

As adopted, the Dáil Constitution deliberately did not provide for a head of state and the titles initially used all suggested an official who was merely the head of government.

In practice, de Valera, particularly when abroad, called himself "President de Valera", creating the impression that he was head of state. In August 1922 in the run-up to the negotiations that would produce the Anglo-Irish Treaty, de Valera asked the Dáil to amend the constitution to upgrade his official status to that of head of state, in part to give him equality with King George V of the United Kingdom in accrediting delegates to the negotiations. He also had the ministry restructured, with a number of offices downgraded from cabinet to sub-cabinet level.

He also maintained that, as the highest official in the Republic, the Príomh Aire was the de facto head of state and that an amendment would merely bring the language of the constitution into harmony with this reality. It was first suggested that the constitution be amended to explicitly use the term President of the Republic. However, because of opposition to this, a more ambiguously worded amendment was adopted referring to the office-holder as "the President who shall also be Prime Minister". After the adoption of this amendment de Valera was elected as "President of the Republic" and continued to use the title until he resigned in January 1922. However his two successors were both elected–and known–as "Presidents of Dáil Éireann", although no further amendment had been made to the constitution.

Functions

The President of Dáil Éireann had authority to appoint the remaining members of the Ministry, subject to ratification by the Dáil, and ministers could be dismissed by the President at any time. The resignation of the President also resulted in the automatic dissolution of the whole Ministry. The President, and all other members of the cabinet, had to be members of the Dáil and could theoretically be removed from office, either collectively or individually, by a vote of the house.

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