seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Adoption of the Constitution of the Irish Free State

The Constitution of the Irish Free State (Irish: Bunreacht Shaorstát Eireann) is adopted by Act of Dáil Éireann sitting as a constituent assembly on October 25, 1922. In accordance with Article 83 of the Constitution, the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 of the British Parliament, which comes into effect upon receiving the royal assent on December 5, 1922, provides that the Constitution will come into effect upon the issue of a Royal Proclamation, which is done on December 6, 1922. In 1937 the Constitution of the Irish Free State is replaced by the modern Constitution of Ireland following a referendum.

Shortly after the British evacuate their troops from Dublin Castle in January 1922, Michael Collins sets about establishing a committee to draft a new constitution for the nascent Irish Free State which would come into being in December 1922. Collins chairs the first meeting of that committee and at that point is its chairman, but is assassinated before the constitution is finalised. Darrell Figgis, the vice-chairman becomes acting Chair. The committee produces three draft texts, designated A, B and C. Draft A is signed by Figgis, James McNeill and John O’Byrne. Draft B is signed by James G. Douglas, C.J. France and Hugh Kennedy and it differs substantially from draft A only in proposals regarding the Executive. Draft C is the most novel of the three. It is signed by Alfred O’Rahilly and James Murnaghan, and provides for the possibility of representation for the people of the northern counties in the Dáil in the event of that area opting out of the proposed free state.

On March 31, 1922, an act of the United Kingdom Parliament called the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act 1922 is passed. It gives the force of law to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which had been negotiated between the British government and Irish leaders in 1921. It also provides by for the election of a body to be called the “House of the Parliament,” sometimes called the “Provisional Parliament,” to which the Provisional Government establishes under that act will be responsible. The act gives no power to the Provisional Parliament to enact a constitution for the Irish Free State. In due course, “the House of the Parliament,” provided for by that act, is elected and meets on September 9, 1922, and calling itself Dáil Éireann, proceeds to sit as a constituent assembly for the settlement of what becomes the Constitution of the Irish Free State.

The Constitution establishes a parliamentary system of government under a form of constitutional monarchy, and contains guarantees of certain fundamental rights. It is intended that the constitution would be a rigid document that, after an initial period, could be amended only by referendum. However, amendments are made to the Constitution’s amendment procedure, so that all amendments can be and are in fact made by a simple Act of the Oireachtas (parliament).

Following a change of government in 1932 and the adoption of the Statute of Westminster 1931, a series of amendments progressively removes many of the provisions that had been required by the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

(Pictured: The Constitution Committee meeting at the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, 1922)


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De Valera’s 1937 Constitution

Éamon de Valera’s new constitution, with its assertions of Ireland as a sovereign 32-county state, and its definition of Catholic morality and “women’s place” is approved on January 14, 1937.

De Valera’s 1937 constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann) evokes a passionate rebuke of the articles defining the role and rights of women. The aspirations of 1916 had been eroded to the extent that the rights of half of the State’s citizens were reduced and effectively became second-class citizens. In 1936, while formulating the new constitution, Éamon de Valera establishes a civil service committee to assist him. They are all men. He also takes extensive advice from the president of the Supreme Court and the High Court. Both again are men. Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, also heavily influences the final text. There are only three women TDs at the time and none of them say a word in the Dáil debates on the draft.

Women are told that marriage should be their highest aspiration, child rearing their only creative outlet, and that economic dependence their civic duty. That in its turn produces levels of misogyny, emotional sterility and civic immaturity.

Article 41.2.1 becomes famous as ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ statement: “the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.”

Many women protest in public and in private during the drafting of de Valera’s constitution. The Irish Women Workers Union, many of whose members had been involved in the 1916 Easter Rising, express outrage. A letter from the secretary to de Valera, quoting the clauses which refer to the position of women says, “it would hardly be possible to make a more deadly encroachment upon the liberty of the individual.” The constitution is accepted and a combination of revisionism and isolationism in the years that follow leave the majority of Ireland’s citizens ignorant of the legacy woman had been denied.

The fundamental principle of the 1916 proclamation, which guaranteed religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all citizens, echoed by the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State, guaranteeing those rights to every person “without distinction of sex,” had been changed.

As commander of the Boland’s Mill outpost in 1916, de Valera had been the only leader to refuse women’s participation in the Rising. As with many of the woman who fought in the Rising, in the same streets where Elizabeth O’Farrell walked through gunfire, now with Article 41 of the Constitution, de Valera closes the door on women’s progress in a more definitive way.


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Northern Ireland Opts Out of the Irish Free State

The six counties of what would become Northern Ireland opt out of the Irish Free State on December 7, 1922 and become a separate political entity with allegiance to England.

The Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 (Session 2) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, passed in 1922 to enact in UK law the Constitution of the Irish Free State, and to ratify the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty formally.

As originally enacted, the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 consists of a preamble, five sections (three of which are very brief), and a schedule. The schedule is the text of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922, which had been passed in Ireland by the Third Dáil sitting as a constituent assembly and provisional parliament for the nascent Free State. This Irish Act itself has two schedules, the first being the actual text of the Constitution, and the second the text of the 1921 Treaty, formally the Articles of Agreement for a treaty between Great Britain and Ireland.

The Irish Act had been approved by the Irish constituent assembly on 25 October 25, 1922. The bill for the UK Act is introduced by the Prime Minister Bonar Law into the Parliament of the United Kingdom in November 1922. The bill’s third reading in the House of Commons is on November 30. The Act receives Royal assent on December 5, 1922.

On December 7, 1922, the day after the establishment of the Irish Free State, the Parliament of Northern Ireland addresses King George V requesting its secession from the Irish Free State. The address is unanimous, with the abstentionist Nationalist Party and Sinn Féin members absent. The King replies shortly thereafter to say that he has caused his Ministers and the Government of the Irish Free State to be informed that Northern Ireland is to do so.

After the Statute of Westminster 1931, the UK government recognises the right of the Irish government to amend or repeal the UK act, but in fact the Irish government does not do so until it is formally repealed as spent by the Statute Law Revision Act 2007. The Irish government amends the Irish act in 1933 and the 1937 Constitution of Ireland repeals the entire Free State constitution. The UK Judicial Committee of the Privy Council rules in 1935 that the 1933 Act had implicitly amended the UK Act with respect to the jurisdiction of the Free State. The Supreme Court of Ireland has taken the view that the Free State constitution was enacted by the Irish Act, not by the subsequent UK Act. This reflects the view of popular sovereignty rather than parliamentary sovereignty, with the constitution’s legitimacy ultimately springing from the 1922 Irish general election.


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Birth of Hugh Kennedy, Politician, Barrister & Judge

File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hugh_Kennedy.jpgHugh Edward Kennedy, Fine Gael politician, barrister and judge, is born in Abbotstown, Dublin on July 11, 1879. He serves as Attorney General of Ireland from 1922 to 1924, a Judge of the Supreme Court of Ireland from 1924 to 1936 and Chief Justice of Ireland from 1924 to 1936. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South constituency from 1923 to 1927. As a member of the Irish Free State Constitution Commission, he is also one of the constitutional architects of the Irish Free State.

Kennedy is the son of the prominent surgeon Hugh Boyle Kennedy. His younger sister is the journalist Mary Olivia Kennedy. He studies for the examinations of the Royal University of Ireland while a student at University College Dublin and King’s Inns, Dublin. He is called to the Bar in 1902. He is appointed King’s Counsel in 1920 and becomes a Bencher of King’s Inn in 1922.

During 1920 and 1921, Kennedy is a senior legal adviser to the representatives of Dáil Éireann during the negotiations for the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He is highly regarded as a lawyer by Michael Collins, who later regrets that Kennedy had not been part of the delegation sent to London in 1921 to negotiate the terms of the treaty.

On January 31, 1922, Kennedy becomes the first Attorney General in the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State. Later that year he is appointed by the Provisional Government to the Irish Free State Constitution Commission to draft the Constitution of the Irish Free State, which is established on December 6, 1922. The functions of the Provisional Government are transferred to the Executive Council of the Irish Free State. He is appointed Attorney General of the Irish Free State on December 7, 1922.

In 1923, Kennedy is appointed to the Judiciary Commission by the Government of the Irish Free State, on a reference from the Government to establish a new system for the administration of justice in accordance with the Constitution of the Irish Free State. The Judiciary Commission is chaired by James Campbell, 1st Baron Glenavy, who had also been the last Lord Chancellor of Ireland. It drafts the Courts of Justice Act 1924 for a new court system, including a High Court and a Supreme Court, and provides for the abolition, inter alia, of the Court of Appeal in Ireland and the Irish High Court of Justice. Most of the judges are not reappointed to the new courts. Kennedy personally oversees the selection of the new judges and makes impressive efforts to select them on merit alone. The results are not always happy. His diary reveals the increasingly unhappy atmosphere, in the Supreme Court itself, due to frequent clashes between Kennedy and his colleague Gerald Fitzgibbon, since the two men prove to be so different in temperament and political outlook that they find it almost impossible to work together harmoniously. In a similar vein, Kennedy’s legal opinion and choice of words could raise eyebrows amongst legal colleagues and fury in the Executive Council e.g. regarding the Kenmare incident.

Kennedy is also a delegate of the Irish Free State to the Fourth Assembly of the League of Nations between September 3-29, 1923.

Kennedy is elected to Dáil Éireann on October 27, 1923, as a Cumann na nGaedheal TD at a by-election in the Dublin South constituency. He is the first person to be elected in a by-election to Dáil Éireann. He resigns his seat when he is appointed Chief Justice of Ireland in 1924.

On June 5, 1924, Kennedy is appointed Chief Justice of Ireland, thereby becoming the first Chief Justice of the Irish Free State. He is also the youngest person appointed Chief Justice of Ireland. When he is appointed he is 44 years old. Although the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal had been abolished and replaced by the High Court and the Supreme Court respectively, one of his first acts is to issue a practice note that the wearing of wigs and robes will continue in the new courts. This practice is still continued in trials and appeals in the High Court and the Supreme Court (except in certain matters). He holds the position of Chief Justice until his death on December 1, 1936 in Goatstown, Dublin.

In September 2015, a biography by Senator Patrick Kennedy (no relation) is written about Kennedy called Hugh Kennedy: The Great But Neglected Chief Justice.


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The Constitution of Ireland Comes Into Force

constitution-of-ireland-1937The Constitution of Ireland, the second constitution of the Irish state since independence, comes into force on December 29, 1937 following a statewide plebiscite held on July 1, 1937, replacing the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State. It asserts the national sovereignty of the Irish people. The constitution falls broadly within the tradition of liberal democracy, being based on a system of representative democracy. It guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected non-executive president, a bicameral parliament based on the Westminster system, a separation of powers and judicial review. The Constitution may be amended solely by a national referendum.

The Constitution of Ireland replaces the Constitution of the Irish Free State which had been in effect since the independence, as a dominion, of the Irish state from the United Kingdom on December 6, 1922. There are two main motivations for replacing the constitution in 1937. Firstly, the Statute of Westminster 1931 grants parliamentary autonomy to the six British Dominions (now known as Commonwealth realms) within a British Commonwealth of Nations. This has the effect of making the dominions sovereign nations in their own right. The Irish Free State constitution of 1922 is, in the eyes of many, associated with the controversial Anglo-Irish Treaty. The anti-treaty faction, who oppose the treaty initially by force of arms, is so opposed to the institutions of the new Irish Free State that it initially takes an abstentionist line toward them, boycotting them altogether. However, the largest element of this faction becomes convinced that abstentionism cannot be maintained forever. This element, led by Éamon de Valera, forms the Fianna Fáil party in 1926, which enters into government following the 1932 Irish general election.

After 1932, under the provisions of the Statute of Westminster, some of the articles of the original Constitution which were required by the Anglo-Irish Treaty are dismantled by acts of the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State. Such amendments remove references to the Oath of Allegiance, appeals to the United Kingdom’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the British Crown and the Governor-General of the Irish Free State. The sudden abdication of Edward VIII in December 1936 is quickly used to redefine the Royal connection. Nevertheless, the Fianna Fáil government still desires to replace the constitutional document they see as having been imposed by the British government in 1922.

The second motive for replacing the original constitution is primarily symbolic. De Valera wants to put an Irish stamp on the institutions of government, and chooses to do this in particular through the use of Irish Gaelic nomenclature.

The text of the draft constitution, with minor amendments, is approved on June 14, 1937 by Dáil Éireann, then the sole house of parliament as the Seanad had been abolished the previous year.

The draft constitution is then put to a plebiscite on July 1, 1937, the same day as the 1937 Irish general election, when it is passed by a plurality of 56% of the voters, comprising 38.6% of the whole electorate. The constitution formally comes into force on December 29, 1937.

Among the groups who oppose the constitution are supporters of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, Unionists, and some independents and feminists. The Seal of the President of Ireland is also adopted in the same year. Ireland does not become a republic until 1948.

(Pictured: Headline from The New York Times, May 1, 1937)


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First Edition of the “Irish Press” Published

irish-press-may-25-1995The first edition of the Irish Press, a Dublin daily newspaper founded by Éamon de Valera as a platform for Fianna Fáil, is published on September 5, 1931.

Irish Press Ltd. is officially registered on September 4, 1928, three years before the paper is first published, to create a newspaper independent of the existing media where the Independent Newspapers group is seen as supporting Cumann na nGaedheal/Fine Gael, and The Irish Times being pro-union, and with a mainly middle-class or Protestant readership.

The paper’s first issue is published on the eve of the 1931 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final between Cork and Kilkenny. Other newspapers do not cover GAA sports in any detail at the time. Margaret Pearse, the mother of Patrick and Willie Pearse, presses the button to start the printing presses. The initial aim of its publisher is to achieve a circulation of 100,000 which it quickly accomplishes. It goes on to list 200,000 subscribers at its peak.

The money to launch the Irish Press is raised in the United States during the Irish War of Independence by a bond drive to finance the First Dáil. Five million dollars is raised , however 60 percent of this money is left in various banks in New York City. No one knows why de Valera ordered the bulk of the money to be left in New York when he returned to Ireland in late 1920.

In 1927, as a result of legal action between the Irish Free State government and de Valera, a court in New York orders that the bond holders be paid back outstanding money due to them. However de Valera’s legal team has anticipated the ruling and has prepared for the outcome. A number of circulars are sent to the bond holders asking them to sign over their holdings to de Valera. The bond holders are paid 58 cents to the dollar. This money is then used as start up capital to launch the Irish Press. Following the 1933 Irish General Election, de Valera uses his Dáil Éireann majority to pass a measure allowing the bond holders to be paid the remaining 42 percent of the money still owed.

In December 1931, editor Frank Gallagher is prosecuted by an Irish Free State military tribunal for publishing articles alleging that Garda Síochána had mistreated the Anti-Treaty republicans of the Irish Free State government. This is facilitated by Amendment 17 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State and Gallagher is convicted and fined £50. An example of animosity from those who support Independent Newspapers and the Free State government is that the Irish Press is excluded from the special train which delivers newspapers from Dublin to the countryside. As a result, it is circulated throughout Ireland by a specially rented train.

The Irish Press sustains itself with its own resources until The Sunday Press is founded in 1949. In its heyday, the Irish Press has a number of first-rate reporters and columnists. One notable section, New Irish Writing is edited by David Marcus.

In the 1970s, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, Conor Cruise O’Brien, tries to use and amend The Emergency Powers Act and Section 31 of the Broadcasting Authority Act, to censor coverage of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Irish Press editor, Tim Pat Coogan, publishes editorials attacking the Bill. The Fine Gael/Labour Coalition Government tries to prosecute the Irish Press for its coverage of the maltreatment of republican prisoners by the Garda “Heavy Gang,” with the paper winning the case.

The Irish Press starts two further newspapers, the Evening Press (1954), and The Sunday Press. The Evening Press is aimed at an urban readership and achieves a daily circulation of 100,000. The new newspapers subsidise the Irish Press when its circulation sags. Its adoption of a tabloid format does not rescue its declining circulation.

The final issue of the Irish Press and Evening Press is on Thursday, May 25, 1995. The newspapers close because of a bizarre industrial dispute over the sacking of the group business editor, Colm Rapple. The group has not been in a healthy financial state for several years. When it eventually closes, with indebtedness of £20 million, 600 people lose their jobs.

(Pictured: Cover of last ever edition of the Irish Press from May 25, 1995)


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The Government of Ireland Act 1920 Becomes Law

government-of-ireland-act-1920The Government of Ireland Act 1920, an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom also known as the Fourth Home Rule Bill, becomes law on December 23, 1920.

The Act is intended to establish separate Home Rule institutions within two new territories of Ireland – the six northeastern counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, and Tyrone are to form “Northern Ireland,” while the remaining 26 counties of the country are to form “Southern Ireland.” Each territory is to be self-governing, except in areas specifically reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom such as defence, foreign affairs, international trade, and currency. Provision is made for their future reunification under common Home Rule institutions.

Home Rule never takes effect in Southern Ireland due to the Irish War of Independence, which results instead in the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the establishment in 1922 of the Irish Free State. However, the institutions set up under this Act for Northern Ireland continue to function until they are suspended by the British parliament in 1972 as a consequence of the Troubles.

The final provisions of the 1920 Act remaining in force are repealed under the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, after the Good Friday Agreement. In the republic, the Statute Law Revision Act 2007 repeals the Act almost 85 years after Constitution of the Irish Free State replaced it as the basic constitutional law.


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Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

constitution-of-ireland-2The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, which is effected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1972, is approved by referendum on December 7, 1972 and signed into law on January 5, 1973.

The amendment deletes the entirety of Article 44.1.2 which allowed the State to recognise the special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens.

Also deleted by the amendment is Article 44.1.3 which allowed the State to also recognise the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland, as well as the Jewish Congregations and the other religious denominations existing in Ireland at the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution.

In drafting the Irish constitution in 1936 and 1937, Éamon de Valera and his advisers choose to reflect what has been a contemporary willingness by constitution drafters and lawmakers in Europe to mention and in some ways recognise religion in explicit detail. This contrasts with many 1920s constitutions, notably the Constitution of the Irish Free State of 1922, which, following the secularism of the initial period following World War I, simply prohibits any discrimination based on religion or avoids religious issues entirely.

De Valera, his advisers, and the men who put words to de Valera’s concepts for the constitution face conflicting demands in his drafting of the article on religion. In contemporary terms, the Amendment marks a defeat for conservative Catholics and Pope Pius XI explicitly withholds his approval from it.

Though perceived in retrospect as a sectarian article, Article 44 is praised in 1937 by leaders of Irish Protestant churches, notably the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, and by Jewish groups. Conservative Catholics condemn it as “liberal.”

When the contents of Article 44 are put to Pope Pius XI by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, then Cardinal Secretary of State, later Pope Pius XII, the pope states in diplomatic language, “We do not approve, nor do we not disapprove – we will remain silent.” It is said that the Vatican is privately more appreciative of the constitution, and Pius XII later praises it.

The Fifth Amendment is introduced by the Fianna Fáil government of Jack Lynch and supported by every other major political party. The Catholic Church does not voice any objection to the amendment, but it is opposed by some conservative Catholics. Some leading members of the Church of Ireland and the Jewish Community say during the campaign that while they appreciate the Article’s recognition of their existence in 1937, it is no longer needed in the 1970s and has lost its usefulness.

The referendum on the amendment occurs on the same day as the referendum on the Fourth Amendment which lowers the voting age to eighteen. The Fifth Amendment is approved by 721,003 (84.4%) in favour and 133,430 (15.6%) against.

Having completed its passage through the Oireachtas and been adopted by the people, it is enacted by being signed into constitutional law by the President of Ireland, the man who had drafted the original article, Éamon de Valera.


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Irish Free State Admitted to League of Nations

league-of-nations-delegationThe Irish Free State is admitted into the League of Nations on September 10, 1923.

In 1922, Éamon de Valera speaks at a League of Nations meeting and is critical of Article 10 of the League Covenant which preserves the existing of territorial integrity of member states. This article prevents Ireland from gaining membership in the League of Nations, because it is a territory of the United Kingdom, who is a member state. However, it does not clarify what rights dominion states have and if they can have their own seat. This means that when the Constitution of the Irish Free State goes into effect, the Irish government does not know what type of role it can play in the League of Nations and if, at that point, it is possible to become a member. The League of Nations final decision is that Ireland can not become a member until it’s constitution is officially enacted and it officially becomes a free state.

The Constitution of the Irish Free State is enacted on December 6, 1922, and is recognized as an official international instrument. This allows Ireland to submit an application for entry into the League of Nations.

The applications process goes smoothly until the spring of 1923 when the Seanad Éireann, the upper house of the Oireachtas, complains that only Dáil Éireann, the lower house, has approved the application. A previous decision has made the application an Executive Council decision, and under the Provisional Government, the Seanad has approved the application process. With this approval, the Executive Council continues the application process, however, the new Seanad is upset about their lack of input. This problem is settled when the Attorney-General creates the League of Nations (Guarantee) Bill, which gives both Houses an opportunity to discuss and approve the application.

With this approval in September, Ireland is admitted as a full and equal member to the League of Nations on September 10, 1923, giving it access to the rest of the world. This membership means that Ireland now has representatives in one place, who can meet with other representatives, instead of sending delegates to each country. One location not only saves time, but money. Early Irish foreign policy is driven by the need to stress the country’s legal status as a platform from which to pursue a fuller foreign policy. With admission to the League of Nations this is now possible. Ireland’s acceptance into the League of Nations helps create legitimacy for the new nation.

(Pictured: Irish Delegation to the League of Nations, 1923)


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Enactment of the Constitution of Ireland

constitution-of-irelandThe current Constitution of Ireland is enacted by a national plebiscite of voters on July 1, 1937 in what is then the Irish Free State. The Constitution comes into effect on December 29, 1937. The Constitution is closely associated with Éamon de Valera, the President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State at the time, who is personally eager to replace the Constitution of the Irish Free State.

There are two main motivations for replacing the constitution in 1937. Firstly, the Irish Free State constitution of 1922 is, in the eyes of many, associated with the controversial Anglo-Irish Treaty. The second motive for replacing the original constitution is primarily symbolic. De Valera wants to put an Irish stamp on the institutions of government, and chooses to do this in particular through the use of Irish nomenclature.

De Valera, as President of the Executive Council, personally supervises the writing of the Constitution. It is drafted initially by John Hearne, legal adviser to the Department of External Affairs. De Valera serves as his own External Affairs Minister, hence the use of the Department’s Legal Advisor, with whom he has previously worked closely, as opposed to the Attorney General or someone from the Department of the President of the Executive Council. He also receives significant input from John Charles McQuaid, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, on religious, educational, family, and social welfare issues. The text is translated into Irish over a number of drafts by a group headed by Micheál Ó Gríobhtha who works in the Department of Education.

The framers of the 1937 Constitution decide that it will be enacted not by an elected body but by the people themselves by means of a plebiscite. The preamble to the 1937 Constitution is thus written in the name not of the legislature but of “We, the people of Éire.” On June 2, 1937, the Oireachtas passes the Plebiscite (Draft Constitution) Act 1937, which mandates the holding of a plebiscite on the draft constitution on the same date as the next general election. The Dáil is dissolved on June 14, 1937, as soon as it has approved the draft constitution. The ensuing general election is held on July 1, 1937, and the plebiscite is held in parallel. The question put to voters is simply “Do you approve of the Draft Constitution which is the subject of this plebiscite?” It is passed by a plurality – 56% of voters are in favour, comprising 38.6% of the entire electorate.

Neither the Dáil resolution approving the draft Constitution nor the Plebiscite (Draft Constitution) Act 1937 provide for the plebiscite establish how the Constitution would come into force. It is the Constitution itself which states that this will occur 180 days after its approval, and that the 1922 Constitution will simultaneously be repealed. This happens on December 29, 1937, one hundred eighty days after the July 1 plebiscite.

Consequential acts are passed between July and December to provide for the establishment of, and holding elections for, the new Seanad and the Presidency, as well as for other adaptations. The Presidential Establishment Act, 1938 is passed after the Constitution has come into effect but before the first President, Douglas Hyde, takes office.