Department of State (Ireland)

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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 detailed in the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924 and amendments. The Constitution of Ireland also has significant legal effect on functions and structures.


There are sixteen 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 simply known as Minister for... and is a member of the Cabinet, a cabinet-level minister without a department is called a minister without portfolio but currently there is none of such standing. A Minister of the Government is generally supported by a team of junior ministers, officially called Ministers of State, 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 there is no restriction on individual Ministers being responsible for more than one department (this is the case at present where Simon Coveney is responsible for both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Defence; and where in the final days of the Government of the 30th Dáil some Ministers were responsible for as many as three departments).

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 his or her 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.

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.

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 Enda Kenny
Finance 1919 Michael Noonan
Foreign Affairs and Trade 1919 Charles Flanagan
Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation 1919 Mary Mitchell O'Connor
Justice and Equality 1919 Frances Fitzgerald
Education and Skills 1921 Richard Bruton
Taoiseach 1937 Enda Kenny
Health 1947 Simon Harris
Social Protection 1947 Leo Varadkar
Children and Youth Affairs 1956 Katherine Zappone
Transport, Tourism and Sport 1959 Shane Ross
Public Expenditure and Reform 2011 Paschal Donohoe
Communications, Climate Action and Environment 2016 Denis Naughten
Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government 2016 Simon Coveney
Arts, Heritage, Regional Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs 2016 Heather Humphreys

Past Departments of state, listed under their final title.

Department of state Operation Subsumed by
Department of Posts and Telegraphs 1922–84 Department of Communications
Department of the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures 1939–45 Department of Defence
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 Tourism and Transport
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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