The Gradam an Uachtaráin Bill 2023 was introduced on June 8 as a private members bill sponsored by Independent Senators Sharon Keogan, Victor Boyhan, Rónán Mullen, Tom Clonan, and Gerard P. Craughwell.

It seeks to establish an honors system to recognize the "exceptional achievements of citizens of the [Irish] State and also the outstanding contributions of others to the State."

The Bill envisions that the Gradam an Uachtaráin (President's Award) could be awarded in recognition of outstanding achievement in or outside of Ireland in the following areas: social and community affairs; education and healthcare; arts, literature and music; science and technology; migrant and minority communities; sport; and leadership and business.

Delighted that my Gradam an Uachtaráin Bill 2023 has been published today.

This legislation provides for an honours system to recognise the exceptional achievements of Irish citizens and others in the following categories and I can already think of so many who would be…

— Senator Sharon Keogan (@SenatorKeogan) June 8, 2023

Nominations of Gradam an Uachtaráin recipients could be made by the public or the Awarding Council, which would consist of nine members: the Secretary General to the President; two current serving lay members of the Council of State who have been nominated by the President of Ireland to serve on the Awarding Council; the serving President of the National University of Ireland; the serving President of the Royal Irish Academy; the serving President of IBEC; the serving President of the ICA; one serving member of the Executive of the Association of Irish Local Government; and one serving member of the Executive of the Local Authority Members Association.

The Bill proposes that a maximum of 12 people could receive the award per year, and in a calendar year, no more than four of the awards may be conferred upon persons of a nationality other than Irish.

The recipients of the Gradam an Uachtaráin would be presented with a  medal, which may be worn on formal occasions, and a lapel button by the President of Ireland.

Additionally, honorees could use the post-nominal letters “G.U.” indicating the honor which has been conferred upon him or her.

Senator Craughwell and Senator Keogan discussed the Bill in the Seanad on Wednesday, June 14. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar seemed skeptical but not opposed to the Bill, telling reporters on Tuesday: “I think it’s fair to say there would be a significant degree of reluctance and unease about going down that route in Ireland.

"Our constitution prohibits us from having titles of nobility. In fairness, no one is proposing anything like that.

“We do have Gaisce, which is the President’s Award, already. We have the Distinguished Service Award as well.

“Looking across the world and to other parts of the world, you often see people getting honors for the wrong reasons because of their connections. Then you see people – and I suppose this is inevitable in life – who later in life turn out to be undeserving of those honors.

“I’d be reluctant to go down the route, quite frankly. I think I can speak for the Government in that regard.” 

However, Varadkar said the government did not want to "shoot the idea down" and is not opposing further discussion on it.

On Wednesday, Senator Craughwell, one of the Bill's sponsors, told Newstalk that the Gradam an Uachtaráin is not designed to be equated to honors in other countries, namely the British OBE.

"We're not looking for an award system for the rich and the famous or the politically elevated," he said, adding, "we're looking for a way of honoring people who went over and beyond of what's required of them in their communities, in their specific fields."

Craughwell said the only "perks" of receiving the award would include being an "invited guest" at State occasions and events, and "you would be recognized for the remainder of your life for the work you did."