Ireland, Government of, Act

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Ireland, Government of, Act, 1920–1. The first major constitutional reform since the Act of Union 1800–1 resulted from the need for an alternative to the third Home Rule Bill, suspended 1914, which no longer had the backing of Southern Irish nationalist opinion. It aimed to establish two devolved governments for the six counties of the north-east and the 26 counties of south and west. Essential powers were to be retained at Westminster, proportional representation was to be used at elections, and a Council of Ireland was to be established for the administration of agreed all-Ireland matters. It was intended to meet demands for self-determination and to hold out hope for eventual Irish unity. The Dáil rejected the Act, which was supplanted by the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921. Any prospect of a Council of Ireland collapsed in 1925. For 80 years the Act has provided the legal basis for Northern Ireland's existence. Following the Downing Street declaration of 1993, debate has concerned possible changes to the Act in response to the Irish Republic government's flexibility on its claim to Northern Ireland.

Michael Hopkinson

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