Constitution of the Irish Free State

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Constitution of the Irish Free State

5 December 1922

The 1922 constitution was drafted in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel by a committee chaired by Michael Collins. The initial version was designed to win the support of opponents of the Anglo-Irish Treaty by omitting contentious clauses such as the oath of allegiance to the king, but this version was extensively altered by the British law officers to ensure that it conformed to the treaty. This constitution remained in force until 1937.

SEE ALSO Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921; Civil War; Politics: Independent Ireland since 1922

AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE CONSTITUTION OF THE IRISH FREE STATE

Whereas the house of the parliament constituted pursuant to the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, 1922, sitting as a constituent assembly for the settlement of the constitution of the Irish Free State, has passed the measure (hereinafter referred to as "the Constituent Act") set forth in the schedule to this act, whereby the constitution appearing as the First Schedule to the Constituent Act is declared to be the constitution of the Irish Free State:

And whereas by the Constituent Act the said constitution is made subject to the following provisions, namely:—

The said constitution shall be construed with reference to the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland set forth in the Second Schedule hereto annexed (hereinafter referred to as the Scheduled Treaty) which are hereby given the force of law, and if any provision of the said constitution or of any amendment thereof or of any law made thereunder is in any respect repugnant to any of the provisions of the Scheduled Treaty, it shall, to the extent only of such repugnancy, be absolutely void and inoperative and the parliament and the executive council of the Irish Free State shall respectively pass such further legislation and do all such other things as may be necessary to implement the Scheduled Treaty.

And whereas by Article seventy-four of the said constitution provision is made for the continuance within the Irish Free State of existing taxation in respect of the current present financial year and any preceding financial year, and in respect of any period ending or occasion happening within those years, and it is expedient to make a corresponding provision with respect to taxation within the rest of the United Kingdom:

Be it therefore enacted by the king's most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:—

1. The constitution set forth in the First Schedule to the Constitution Act shall, subject to the provisions to which the same is by the Constituent Act so made subject as aforesaid, by the constitution of the Irish Free State, and shall come into operation on the same being proclaimed by his majesty in accordance with article eighty-three of the said constitution, but his majesty may at any time after the proclamation appoint a governor-general for the Irish Free State.

2. (1) In relation to taxes and duties, so far as leviable outside the Irish Free State, the following provisions shall have effect:—

  • (a) The establishment of the Irish Free State shall not affect any liability to pay any tax or duty payable in respect of the current or any preceding financial year, or in respect of any period ending on or before the last day of the current financial year, or payable on any occasion happening within the current or any preceding financial year, or the amount of such liability, and all such taxes and duties as aforesaid and arrears therefore shall continue to be assessed, levied, and collected and all payments and allowances of such taxes and duties shall continue to be made in like manner in all respects as immediately before the establishment of the Irish Free State, subject to the like adjustments of the proceeds collected as were theretofore applicable, and arrears thereof shall continue to be assessed, levied, and collected and all payments and allowances of such taxes and duties shall continue to be made in like manner in all respects as immediately before the establishment of the Irish Free State, subject to the like adjustments of the proceeds collected as were theretofore applicable.
  • (b) Goods transported during the current financial year from or to the Irish Free State to or from any other part of the United Kingdom or the Isle of Man shall not, except in respect of the forms to be used and the information to be furnished, be treated as goods imported or exported as the case may be.

(2) If an arrangement is made with the Irish Free State for an extension of the provisions of this section as respects all or any taxes and duties to the next ensuing financial year or any part thereof, it shall be lawful for his majesty, if a resolution to that effect is passed by the Commons House of Parliament, by order in council to extend the provisions of this section so as to apply, in the case of the taxes and duties to which the arrangement relates, in respect to the next ensuing financial year or part thereof in like manner as it applies in respect of the current financial year.

(3) For the purposes of this section, the expression "financial year" means, as respects income tax (including super-tax), the year of assessment, and as respects other taxes and duties, the year ending on the thirty-first day of March.

3. If the parliament of the Irish Free State make provision to that effect, any act passed before the passing of this act which applies to or may be applied to self-governing dominions, whether alone or to such dominions and other parts of his majesty's dominions, shall apply or may be applied to the Irish Free State in like manner as it applies or may be applied to self-governing dominions.

4. Nothing in the said constitution shall be construed as prejudicing the power of parliament to make laws affecting the Irish Free State in any case where, in accordance with constitutional practice, parliament would make laws affecting other self-governing dominions.

5. This act may be cited as the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922 (Session 2), and shall be deemed to be the act of parliament for the ratification of the said Articles of Agreement as from the passing whereof the month mentioned in Article eleven of the said articles is to run.

SCHEDULE

Constituent Act

Dáil Éireann sitting as a Constituent Assembly in this provisional parliament, acknowledging that all lawful authority comes from God to the people and in the confidence that the national life and unity of Ireland shall thus be restored, hereby proclaims the establishment of the Irish Free State (otherwise called Saorstát Éireann) and in the exercise of undoubted right, decrees and enacts as follows:—

1. The constitution set forth in the First Schedule hereto annexed shall be the constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann).

2. The said constitution shall be construed with reference to the Articles of Agreement for a treaty between Great Britain and Ireland set forth in the Second Schedule hereto annexed (hereinafter referred to as "the Scheduled Treaty") which are hereby given the force of law, and if any provision of the said constitution or of any amendment thereof or of any law made thereunder is in any respect repugnant to any of the provisions of the Scheduled Treaty, it shall, to the extent only of such repugnancy, be absolutely void and inoperative and the parliament and the executive council of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) shall respectively pass such further legislation and do all such other things as may be necessary to implement the Scheduled Treaty.

3. This act may be cited for all purposes as the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act, 1922.

FIRST SCHEDULE ABOVE REFERRED TO CONSTITUTION OF THE IRISH FREE STATE (SAORSTÁT ÉIREANN)

Article 1 The Irish Free State (otherwise hereinafter called or sometimes called Saorstát Éireann) is a coequal member of the community of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Article 2 All powers of government and all authority legislative, executive, and judicial in Ireland, are derived from the people of Ireland and the same shall be exercised in the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) through the organisations established by or under, and in accord with, this constitution.

Article 3 Every person, without distinction of sex, domiciled in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) at the time of the coming into operation of this constitution who was born in Ireland or either of whose parents was born in Ireland or who has been ordinarily resident in the area of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) for not less than seven years, is a citizen of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) and shall within the limits of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) enjoy the privileges and be subject to the obligations of such citizenship: Provided that any such person being a citizen of another State may elect not to accept the citizenship hereby conferred; and the conditions governing the future acquisition and termination of citizenship in the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) shall be determined by law.

Article 4 The national language of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) is the Irish language, but the English language shall be equally recognised as an official language. Nothing in this Article shall prevent special provisions being made by the parliament of the Irish Free State (otherwise called and herein generally referred to as the "Oireachtas") for districts or areas in which only one language is in general use.

Article 5 No title of honour in respect of any services rendered in or in relation to the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) may be conferred on any citizen of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) except with the approval or upon the advice of the executive council of the state.

Article 6 The liberty of the person is inviolable, and no person shall be deprived of his liberty except in accordance with law. Upon complaint made by or on behalf of any person that he is being unlawfully detained, the high court and any and every judge thereof shall forthwith enquire into the same and may make an order requiring the person in whose custody such person shall be detained to produce the body of the person so detained before such court or judge without delay and to certify in writing as to the cause of the detention and such court or judge shall thereupon order the release of such person unless satisfied that he is being detained in accordance with the law: Provided, however, that nothing in this article contained shall be invoked to prohibit control or interfere with any act of the military forces of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) during the existence of a state of war or armed rebellion.

Article 7 The dwelling of each citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered except in accordance with law.

Article 8 Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen, and no law may be made either directly or indirectly to endow any religion, or prohibit or restrict the free exercise thereof or give any preference, or impose any disability on account of religious belief or religious status, or affect prejudicially the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending the religious instruction at the school, or make any discrimination as respects state aid between schools under the management of different religious denominations, or divert from any religious denomination or any educational institution any of its property except for the purpose of roads, railways, lighting, water or drainage works or other works of public utility, and on payment of compensation.

Article 9 The right of free expression of opinion as well as the right to assemble peaceably and without arms, and to form associations or unions is guaranteed for purposes not opposed to public morality. Laws regulating the manner in which the right of forming associations and the right of free assembly may be exercised shall contain no political, religious or class distinction.

Article 10 All citizens of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) have the right to free elementary education.

Article 11 All the lands and waters, mines and minerals, within the territory of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) hitherto vested in the state, or any department thereof, or held for the public use or benefit, and also all the natural resources of the same territory (including the air and all forms of potential energy), and also all royalties and franchises within that territory shall, from and after the date of the coming into operation of this constitution, belong to the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann), subject to any trusts, grants, leases or concessions then existing in respect thereof, or any valid private interest therein, and shall be controlled and administered by the Oireachtas, in accordance with such regulations and provisions as shall be from time to time approved by legislation, but the same shall not, nor shall any part thereof, be alienated, but may in the public interest be from time to time granted by way of lease or licence to be worked or enjoyed under the authority and subject to the control of the Oireachtas: Provided that no such lease or licence may be made for a term exceeding ninety-nine years, beginning from the date thereof, and no such lease or licence may be renewable by the terms thereof.

Article 12 A legislature is hereby created to be known as the Oireachtas. It shall consist of the king and two houses, the chamber of deputies (otherwise called and herein generally referred to as "Dáil Éireann") and the Senate (otherwise called and herein generally referred to as "Seanad Éireann"). The sole and exclusive power of making laws for the peace, order and good government of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) is vested in the Oireachtas.

Article 13 The Oireachtas shall sit in or near the city of Dublin or in such other place as from time to time it may determine.

Article 14 All citizens of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) without distinction of sex, who have reached the age of twenty-one years and who comply with the provisions of the prevailing electoral laws, shall have the right to vote for members of Dáil Éireann, and to take part in the referendum and initiative. All citizens of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) without distinction of sex who have reached the age of thirty years and who comply with the provisions of the prevailing electoral laws, shall have the right to vote for members of Seanad Éireann. No voter may exercise more than one vote at an election to either house and the voting shall be by secret ballot. The mode and place of exercising this right shall be determined by law.

Article 15 Every citizen who has reached the age of twenty-one years and who is not placed under disability or incapacity by the constitution or by law shall be eligible to become a member of Dáil Éireann.

Article 16 No person may be at the same time a member both of Dáil Éireann and of Seanad Éireann and if any person who is already a member of either house is elected to be a member of the other house, he shall forthwith be deemed to have vacated his first seat.

Article 17 The oath to be taken by members of the Oireachtas shall be in the following form:—

I do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established, and that I will be faithful to H.M. King George V., his heirs and successors by law in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Such oath shall be taken and subscribed by every member of the Oireachtas before taking his seat therein before the representative of the Crown or some person authorised by him. . . .

Reprinted in Irish Political Documents, 1916–1949, edited by Arthur Mitchell and Pádraig Ó Snodaigh (1985), pp. 150–156.