Freedom in the World
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The ruling Fianna Fail and Green parties saw a sharp drop in support in local elections in June 2009. While they continued to govern, a series of resignations and defections left them with equal support in Parliament to the opposition. Irish voters also reversed their 2008 decision and approved the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty in October. Meanwhile, Ireland struggled with continued financial hardship throughout the year.
Ireland has faced severe economic problems in conjunction with the global crisis, driven by a rapid decline in property prices. In 2009 the economy entered a technical depression, with public finances in deep crisis and the Irish banking system extremely fragile despite government intervention.
Ireland is an electoral democracy. The Parliament (Oireachtas) consists of a lower house (the Dail), whose 166 members are elected by proportional representation for five-year terms, and an upper house (the Seanad, or Senate) with 60 members, 11 appointed and 49 elected by representatives of various interest groups. The Senate is mainly a consultative body. The president, whose functions are largely ceremonial, is directly elected for a seven-year term. The prime minister, or taoiseach, is chosen by Parliament.