Seal of the President of Ireland

The presidential seal (Irish: séala an uachtaráin[1]) is a seal used by the President of Ireland to authenticate his signature on official documents. The Constitution of Ireland requires certain documents to be issued under the president's "hand and seal", and in other cases the seal is mandated by act of the Oireachtas.[2] It is a single-sided "dry seal" impressed directly onto the fabric of the document, leaving a relief of its design without sealing wax or ink.[3]

Seal of the President


The physical seal is a metal disc about 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. The image is an Irish harp, with 15 strings, surrounded by a ring of Celtic ornamentation based on that on the base of the Ardagh Chalice.[4] Within the ring is the word ÉIRE ("Ireland", the name of the state in Irish) in Gaelic type. The design was approved by the Executive Council of the Irish Free State on 15 September 1937,[5] in preparation for the adoption of the current constitution on 29 December 1937. The harp is modelled on the 1928 design by Percy Metcalfe for the obverse of the Free State coinage, itself based on the "Brian Ború harp", also used on the 1945 coat of arms of Ireland.[6] The design is similar to that of the seal which it replaced, the Internal Great Seal of the Irish Free State; the most obvious difference being in the name of the state (previously Saorstát Éireann).[7] However, the Free State seal was used with sealing wax.[8] In 1949 John Aloysius Belton of the Department of External Affairs suggested changes to the seal's design to reflect its new diplomatic uses under the Republic of Ireland Act,[9] but no change was made.


External images
Document stamped with the Seal of the President giving notice of his 2020 government appointments on the advice of the Taoiseach.[10]
Presentation of the Seal by Chief Justice Frank Clarke to President Michael D. Higgins at his 2018 inauguration.[11]

The seal remains in the custody of the current President or, in his absence, the Presidential Commission.[12] In the latter case, sealed documents must be signed by at least two members of the commission and the Secretary-General to the President.[3] At the inauguration of a new president, the Chief Justice presents the seal to him.[11]

The 1937 Constitution of Ireland created the office of President of Ireland and defines most of the his powers. It specifies several situations in which the President must send a message "under his hand and seal":[2]

It specifies other cases where his signature is required:

While not always expliclity required by the Constitution, in practice each exercise of his official functions is accompanied by a signed and sealed document.[19] For example, while Article 13.1.1° does not specify the manner in which the President appoints a nominated Taoiseach, the practice includes signing and sealing a warrant.[20] The Presidential Seal Act 1937 states that the presence of the seal authenticates the president's signature on any "order, commission, warrant, or other instrument".[21] It also states that "the presidential seal shall be affixed to instruments made by the President, and to no other instruments, and shall be so affixed by direction of the President and not otherwise".[22] The Defence Act 1954 specifies that officers' commissions into the Defence Forces must carry the seal.[23] The office of the president maintains registers of bills, diplomatic documents, and other "Executed Documents" to which the seal has been applied, older volumes of which are in file PRES 3 of the National Archives of Ireland.[24]

Since the 1949 coming into force of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, the president has authority to sign and seal important treaties and diplomatic credentials. Before 1949, the Executive Authority (External Relations) Act 1936 provided that the diplomatic functions of Irish head of state were performed by the British monarch, who signed such documents and sealed them with the External Great Seal.[25] Before and after 1949, practically all diplomatic documents have in fact been signed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and sealed with his ministerial seal. The presidential seal has only been used for Full Powers instruments relating to the Treaties of the European Union.[26]

See also



  • McDunphy, Michael (1945). "XXIII. The Presidential Seal". The President of Ireland: His Powers, Functions and Duties. Dublin: Browne and Nolan. pp. 87–89. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  • "Presidential Seal Act 1937 [No 37 of 1937]". Acts of the Oireachtas (in English and Irish). Oireachtas. 25 November 1937. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  • "Constitution of Ireland". electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB). Retrieved 25 October 2019.


  1. Presidential Seal Act 1937 (Irish-language translation) s.2
  2. McDunphy 1945 p.87
  3. McDunphy 1945 p.88
  4. McDunphy 1945 pp.88–89
  5. Office of the Secretary to the President (20 November 1937). "PRES 1/P 23". National Archives of Ireland. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  6. "Harp Emblem - 20th century to the present day". An Chomhairle Leabharlanna (Irish Library Council). Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  7. "In Committee on Finance. — Presidential Seal Bill, 1937—Money Resolution". Dáil Éireann (9th Dáil) debates. Oireachtas. 24 November 1937. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  8. "In Committee on Finance. - Presidential Seal Bill, 1937—Committee Stage". Dáil Éireann (9th Dáil) debates. Oireachtas. 24 November 1937. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  9. "NAI TSCH/3/S14507 Handwritten minute from Nicholas G. Nolan to Rónán Ó Foghludha (Dublin) Dublin, 2 April 1949". Documents on Irish Foreign Policy. IX: 1948–1951. Royal Irish Academy. 2014. No. 297. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  10. O'Leary, Art [@ArtOLeary] (27 June 2020). "All set for the appointment of Members of Cabinet by @PresidentIRL" (Tweet). Retrieved 29 June 2020 via Twitter.
  11. Anderson, Nicola (12 November 2018). "Pomp, ceremony and laughter as Michael D takes office for second stint in the Áras". Irish Independent. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  12. McDunphy 1945 pp.87–88
  13. Constitution of Ireland, Article 27.5.1°, 27.6
  14. Constitution of Ireland, Article 31.3, 31.7
  15. Constitution of Ireland, Article 33.5.3°
  16. Constitution of Ireland, Article 35.4.3°
  17. Constitution of Ireland, Articles 13.3.1°, 25.2, 25.3, 27.6, 46.5
  18. Constitution of Ireland, Article 25.5.2°
  19. Doolan, Brian (1984). Constitutional law and constitutional rights in Ireland. Gill and Macmillan. p. 41.
  20. "President Presents Taoiseach With Seal Of Office". Diary. Office of the President of Ireland. 14 June 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  21. Presidential Seal Act 1937 s.2(2)
  22. Presidential Seal Act 1937 s.3(2)b
  23. "Defence Act, 1954 s.42". electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB). 13 May 1954. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  24. "Office of Secretary to the President: registers". Catalogue. National Archives of Ireland. Retrieved 24 April 2019.; "Record series descriptions (continued)". Exhibition of the records of the Office of the Secretary to the President. National Archives of Ireland. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  25. Walshe, Joseph P. (26 October 1937). "Memorandum on external seals to Eamon de Valera". Documents on Irish Foreign Policy. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  26. "Treaties". Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Tabs "Consent to be Bound", "Full Powers". Retrieved 24 April 2019.