The Arts Council determines the total number of members of Aosdána. It is currently limited to 250.
Membership of Aosdána is by peer nomination and election, not by application. The process of nomination and election is in three stages. To become a member of Aosdána, an artist must have created a significant body of work, and be resident for at least five years in Ireland. There are certain exceptions where artists resident outside of the island of Ireland may be eligible if the body of their work is deemed to significantly benefit the arts in Ireland.
Election to Aosdána involves a three-stage process. For so long as the ceiling of 250 members has not been reached, the Arts Council has determined that no more than ten new members will be elected each year, plus the number of vacancies created by the death or resignation of members. Membership is now open to architects and choreographers.
Members have a responsibility to familiarise themselves with the work of candidates for election, and are expected to participate actively in all stages of the electoral process.
Any member may nominate an artist for membership of Aosdána. Another member must second this proposal. There is no limit to the number of artists that any member may nominate or second for membership. A strong recommendation by the two nominating artists should be made in writing to the Registrar, indicating their conviction that their nominee is a worthy candidate for membership, and supported by a personal critical response to the work of the artist in question. Lists of works and curriculum vitae are not sufficient in themselves; third party appraisals are not appropriate. Unsolicited applications for membership are not accepted. Any form of canvassing by candidates is unacceptable.
The Toscairí of Aosdána will note nominations received, and satisfy themselves that the terms of the nomination process have been properly complied with before it enters the next stage. It is the responsibility of the nominator to provide to the Registrar a postal address and telephone number at which the nominee can be contacted after the nomination has been approved. This is to ensure the nominee's acceptance has been secured. Failure to secure this acceptance shall cause the nomination to fall.
Together with written acknowledgement of the candidate’s acceptance of the nomination, the Registrar will seek information about where candidates’ work may be reviewed – for example in public collections, libraries - and where appropriate will seek from candidates relevant documentation or materials for examination at the Arts Council’s offices or on its website by Aosdána members.
Once the nomination stage is over, the lists of candidates are forwarded for ballot to the members of the respective artistic discipline, together with relevant information about their work. The names of candidates who are assented to by a majority of those voting in the discipline ballot will then be forwarded to the General Assembly. Ballot papers for all three disciplines must be returned, properly completed, by a specified closing date. The Registrar shall undertake the counting of ballots in the second stage; the Toscaireacht shall nominate a member of Aosdána to be a scrutineer for this process. 50% plus 1 of ballots received in their discipline is the quota necessary to go forward to the General Assembly. Following the completion of this stage, the Registrar shall communicate with the nominators and their candidates, advising them of the outcome.
In advance of the General Assembly, all members shall receive relevant information about every candidate for election in any discipline.
Time is provided at the General Assembly for nominators to propose the election of their candidate(s). Only one such address is heard in relation to each candidate. In the absence of the proposer, the seconder shall speak to the nomination. In the event of the absence of both, the nomination (having already been approved by the discipline) shall be deferred until the next General Assembly, when the candidacy shall be proposed by the same nominators or by others (with the agreement of the candidate).
At the General Assembly, a ballot paper shall be circulated, listing the names of candidates for election. To secure election, a candidate must receive at least 50 plus one votes of those voting and then successful candidates are elected to the available vacant places in descending order to the number of votes cast. In the event of a tie for the last available place, a re-ballot is conducted immediately; in the event of a further tie, lots are drawn. With their consent, unsuccessful candidates from a tie-breaking ballot will automatically go forward for election at the next General Assembly.
Members who cannot attend the General Assembly because of infirmity or unavoidable absence from Ireland may have applied to the Toscairí for a postal vote, which will remain anonymous.
The names of successful candidates are announced before the end of the meeting, and the Registrar advises these candidates as soon as possible of the outcome. The Registrar shall also communicate with candidates who have not secured election, seeking their assent to the forwarding of their names to the subsequent General Assembly.
Because the number of candidates for membership frequently exceeds the number of available vacancies and to avoid the requirement for re-nomination, candidates for election who have satisfactorily completed stages one and two are automatically re-nominated to stage three at two subsequent General Assemblies. This process requires their agreement and that of their nominators (or failing one or both of their original nominators, that they be proposed and/or seconded by one or two other members).
Once elected, an artist remains a member of Aosdána unless he/she submits his/her resignation in writing to the Toscairí.
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