Dáil Constitution
The Constitution of Dáil Éireann , more commonly known as the Dáil Constitution, was the constitution of the 1919–22 Irish Republic
Irish Republic
The Irish Republic was a revolutionary state that declared its independence from Great Britain in January 1919. It established a legislature , a government , a court system and a police force...

. It was adopted by the First Dáil
First Dáil
The First Dáil was Dáil Éireann as it convened from 1919–1921. In 1919 candidates who had been elected in the Westminster elections of 1918 refused to recognise the Parliament of the United Kingdom and instead assembled as a unicameral, revolutionary parliament called "Dáil Éireann"...

 at its first meeting on 21 January 1919 and theoretically remained in force for four years. As adopted it consisted of only five short articles. Article 1 declared that the Dáil had "full powers to legislate" and would consist of representatives elected in elections conducted by the British government. For the exercise of executive power
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

 it created a cabinet, answerable to the Dáil, called the Aireacht
The Aireacht or Ministry was the cabinet of the 1919–1922 Irish Republic. The Ministry was originally established by the Dáil Constitution adopted by the First Dáil in 1919, after it issued the Irish Declaration of Independence...

 (or Ministry), headed by a prime minister called the "Príomh Aire" (in practice also known as the President of Dáil Éireann
President of Dáil Éireann
The President of Dáil Éireann was the leader of the revolutionary Irish Republic of 1919–1921. The office, also known as Príomh Aire , was created in the Dáil Constitution adopted by Dáil Éireann, the parliament of the Republic, at its first meeting in January 1919. This provided that the...

). The constitution made no reference to a judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 but this did not prevent the Dáil from establishing a system of Dáil Courts
Dáil Courts
During the Irish War of Independence, the Dáil Courts were the judicial branch of government of the short-lived Irish Republic. They were formally established by a decree of the First Dáil Éireann on 29 June 1920, replacing more limited Arbitration Courts that had been authorised a year earlier...

. The final article of the constitution declared that it was intended to be a provisional document, in the sense that it was subject to amendment. As adopted the constitution came to only around 370 words. In comparison the modern Constitution of Ireland
Constitution of Ireland
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Irish state. The constitution falls broadly within the liberal democratic tradition. It establishes an independent state based on a system of representative democracy and guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected...

 has approximately 16,000 words. Overall, the structure of the document was roughly as follows:
  • Article 1: Dáil Éireann
  • Article 2: Ministry
    The Aireacht or Ministry was the cabinet of the 1919–1922 Irish Republic. The Ministry was originally established by the Dáil Constitution adopted by the First Dáil in 1919, after it issued the Irish Declaration of Independence...

  • Article 3: Chairman of the Dáil
    Ceann Comhairle
    The Ceann Comhairle is the chairman of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas of Ireland. The person who holds the position is elected by members of the Dáil from among their number in the first session after each general election...

  • Article 4: Finance
  • Article 5: Amendments

As first adopted the Dáil Constitution made no provision for a head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

. Some deputies believed that the Dáil did not have authority to elect a President of the Republic and that there should be a direct election for the post. It was also the case that Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

 had almost split between monarchists and republicans at its 1917 Ardfheis. However in August 1921 the constitution was amended to state, vaguely, that the cabinet would be headed by "the President who shall also be Prime Minister". This allowed the then head of government, Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera was one of the dominant political figures in twentieth century Ireland, serving as head of government of the Irish Free State and head of government and head of state of Ireland...

, to begin using the title President of the Republic. However after de Valera left office in 1922 leaders resumed the practice of using the lesser title President of Dáil Éireann. The constitution provided that it could be amended in the same way it had been adopted, by a simple resolution of the Dáil. Changes were made to the document on two dates:
  • 1 April 1919: Five amendments were made to the constitution on this day. These included adding provision for a deputy president called the "President-Substitute" and for the appointment of Minister-Substitutes. The cabinet was also increased from four members to "not more than nine". A minor change was made to the dates for the auditing of government accounts in Article 4.
  • 25 August 1921: A single constitutional amendment was adopted, which altered the title of the head of government, so he could be referred to as the 'President of the Republic', and reduced the cabinet to six members. The amendment also made further changes to the dates mentioned in Article 4.

The constitution's close modelling of its institutional system on the Westminster system
Westminster System
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the politics of the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....

 of government, specifically with the inclusion of a parliament from whom a ministry was both chosen and to whom it was answerable, has been noted by Irish
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 political scientists and historians, notably Professor Brian Farrell
Brian Farrell
Brian Farrell is an Irish author, journalist, academic & broadcaster.-Early life:Although born in Manchester, England, Farrell moved to Dublin, Ireland during the Second World War. He was educated in Ireland at , Dublin, University College Dublin and Harvard University in the United States...

, who suggested that the leaders of the new state stuck to a system that, through Irish participation in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

, the new Irish political elite had close experience of, and identification with, notwithstanding their radical republican
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...


In 1922 after the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty
Anglo-Irish Treaty
The Anglo-Irish Treaty , officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the secessionist Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of...

, the institutions mentioned in the Dáil Constitution began to operate in parallel with a rival set of structures. In order to implement the Treaty the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 adopted the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, 1922
Irish Free State (Agreement) Act 1922
The Irish Free State Act 1922 was an Act of the British Parliament passed on 31 March 1922. It gave the force of law to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which was scheduled to the Act.-Main provisions:...

. This provided for an executive, called the Provisional Government
Provisional Government of Southern Ireland
The provisional Government of Southern Ireland was the provisional government for the administration of Southern Ireland between 16 January 1922 and 6 December 1922. The government was effectively a transitional administration for the period between the ratifying of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the...

, and a "house of parliament" to which it would be accountable. However in practice the two systems of government were eventually merged. When the "house of parliament" was convened in 1922 it was treated by those in attendance as the Third Dáil
Third Dáil
The Third Dáil, also known as the Provisional Parliament or the Constituent Assembly, was:*the "provisional parliament" or "constituent assembly" of Southern Ireland from 9 August 1922 until 6 December 1922; and...

, and its first act was to merge the Provisional Government and the Ministry of the Dáil into a single cabinet. The Dáil Constitution finally became defunct when the new Constitution of the Irish Free State
Constitution of the Irish Free State
The Constitution of the Irish Free State was the first constitution of the independent Irish state. It was enacted with the adoption of the Constitution of the Irish Free State Act 1922, of which it formed a part...

 came into force on 6 December 1922.

External links

  • Full texts from Wikisource:
    • Original text in English
    • Original text in Irish
    • Text as amended in April 1919
    • Text as amended in August 1921
  • Historical Debates from the official website of the Irish parliament
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