Probably the single greatest blog I’ve ever come across is Wait But Why, run by two dudes named Tim Urban and Andrew Finn. It’s the kind of blog that makes other bloggers really, really, really depressed, that’s how good I’m talking here. The kind of blog that blows your mind while giving your funny bone an enthusiastic reach-around. Anyway, WBW is currently in the middle of ranking all 44 American Presidents (give or take a Grover) and that got me thinking, why has no one ever done something similar for the Taoisigh?
Well I care, dagnabbit. So here it is, my list of every Taoiseach ranked from worst to best, here we go…
Uh, Mouse? What are you doing?
Ah. As I’m aware that the vast majority of my readership consists of
perfidious yanks friends from across the water perhaps some explanation is in order.
Yeah. What’s a…no, back up a step. How do I pronounce Taoiseach?
You don’t. I mean c’mon. Look at this.
That, my friends, is a trackless jungle of hidden vowel sounds, treacherous guttarals and untameable sibbilants. You even attempt that word and the chances are your saxon tongue will spasm into a knot and choke you. I don’t want that on my conscience. However, “tee-shock” is close enough to be getting on with.
Okay, so what’s a Tee-shock?
Easily offended golf-balls.
No, no, but seriously folks. Ireland, being a republic, has a president as its head of state but in truth the office of President is largely (although not totally) ceremonial. Irish presidents spend most of their time opening museums, visiting other heads of state and trying to find ways to fill the long, empty hours.
The real meat in the sandwich, politically speaking, is the Taoiseach, who is the chief executive. The Taoiseach is the leader of the lower house, the Dáil, and in practice is almost always the head of whichever party has the most seats in the Dáil.
Sounds a lot like a prime minister.
Yes, it does.
So why don’t they just call him the Prim…
The office of the Taoiseach was first established in 1937 when we got a new constitution. Before that, the Irish government was headed by the President of the Executive Council. However, most historians include the two men who held the office of President of the Executive Council to be the first two Taoisigh retroactively. So; WT Cosgrave who served for ten years after the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922 is considered to be the first Taoiseach even though if you had ever called him that he probably would have looked at you funny and said “geshundheit”
Mouse, I have a terrible feeling this is going to be boring. Is this going to be boring?
If it is, it’ll be entirely my fault. Look, we’re going to be covering civil wars, world wars, terrorism, religious repression, economic catastrophes, crime, corruption, arms dealing, sword-fighting, torture, true love, miracles…
So, over the next month I will be updating every two days with a new Taoiseach, starting from the worst and ending with the best. Alright, so a few last things to go over before we begin:
Things to remember for Non-Irish readers:
- As there are no term limits for Taoisigh, many of these guys served multiple non-consecutive terms as elections were lost and won and lost again.
- You’ll notice that all of these Taoisigh came from one of two parties; Fianna Fáil (“The Soldiers of Destiny”) or Fine Gael (“Tribe of the Gael”). You might think that this means that Ireland has a two-party system, but almost all of these governments were coalitions. It’s actually very rare for one party to get enough seats in the Dáil to form a government on its own, so what usually happens is that one of the big two will partner up with a smaller party as its plucky sidekick. This is important to remember. Most Taoisigh have had to balance the goals of their own party while keeping their junior partners happy, partners who might have goals and politics quite different from the main party’s.
Things to remember for Irish readers
- Lads. Chill.