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. Unsolicited applications for membership are not accepted. 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 the island of Ireland may be eligible if the body of work is deemed to significantly benefit the arts in Ireland.
Election to Aosdána involves a three-stage process.
If 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. Since 2006 membership has extended to architecture and choreography.
Members have a responsibility to familiarise themselves with the work of candidates up for election, and are expected to participate actively in all stages of the electoral process.
Stage 1 Nominations
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. Any form of canvassing by candidates is unacceptable.
The Toscaireacht 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 fail.
Together with written acknowledgement of the candidate’s acceptance of the nomination, the Registrar will seek information about where candidates’ work may be viewed, 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.
Stage 2 Discipline Ballot Vote
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 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. Blank ballot sheets will count towards the quota. Following the completion of this stage, the Registrar shall communicate with the nominators and their candidates, advising them of the outcome.
Stage 3 General Assembly Vote
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. The candidate with the greatest number of votes will be deemed to be elected to the first available place, the candidate with the next greatest number of votes will be deemed to be elected to the second available place and so on for the remaining available places. In the event of a tie between two or more candidates for the last available place, a postal ballot will be arranged as soon as possible to decide the matter. In this instance the unsuccessful candidate, or candidates, will, if agreeable, be automatically put forward for election at the following General Assembly.
Members who cannot attend the General Assembly because of illness or unavoidable absence from Ireland may apply to the Toscaireacht for a postal vote, which will remain anonymous.
The names of successful candidates are announced before the end of the General Assembly, 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 forward 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 stage one, nomination, and stage two, discipline ballot, 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 seconded by one or two other members.
Once elected, an artist remains a member of Aosdána unless the artist submits their resignation in writing to the Toscaireacht.