|Long title||An Act to provide for the Constitution of the Irish Free State.|
|Citation||13 Geo. 5 Sess. 2 c. 1|
|Royal assent||5 December 1922|
|Repealed by||UK: Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1989 |
RoI: Statute Law Revision Act 2007
The Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 (Session 2) was 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As originally enacted, the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 consisted of a preamble, five sections (three of which were very brief), and a schedule. The schedule was 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 had 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 UK Act's preamble quotes section 2 of the Irish Act:
if any provision of the said Constitution or of any amendment thereof or of any law made there under is in any respect repugnant to any of the provisions of the Scheduled Treaty [the Anglo-Irish 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 such other things as may be necessary to implement the Scheduled Treaty.
The Irish Act had been approved by the Irish constituent assembly on 25 October 1922. The bill for the UK Act was 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 was on 30 November.
The New York Times reported on the passing of the Act on 5 December 1922 as follows:
At 6 o'clock this evening an event of great historic interest and of international importance took place in the House of Lords. A few minutes before that hour the Irish Free State Constitution bills had passed the final stage in the House of Commons by formal acceptance of the Lords' amendments. It was brought back, beribboned and sealed, by the Clerk of the Commons himself, and handed to the Clerk of the Parliament to receive the Royal assent. This was conferred, as usual, by the Royal Commission, the members of which were Lord Cave, Lord Novar and Lord Somerleyton ... King George will make a special journey from Sandringham tomorrow to hold a privy council in Buckingham Palace, at which he will sign a proclamation declaring the adoption of the Irish Constitution by the British and Irish Parliaments. The Constitution will come into operation immediately on the issue of the proclamation.
The New York Times also reported that in Parliament a group of Communists singing "The Red Flag" caused a minor disturbance as the formalities relating to the Act's passage were underway.
On 7 December 1922, the day after the establishment of the Irish Free State, the Parliament of Northern Ireland addressed the King requesting its secession from Irish Free State. The address was unanimous, with the abstentionist Nationalist and Sinn Féin members absent. The King replied shortly thereafter to say that he had caused his Ministers and the Government of the Irish Free State to be informed that Northern Ireland was to do so.
After the Statute of Westminster 1931, the UK government recognised the right of the Irish government to amend or repeal the UK act, but in fact the Irish government did not do so until it was formally repealed as spent by the Statute Law Revision Act 2007. The Irish government amended the Irish act in 1933, and the 1937 constitution repealed the entire Free State constitution. The UK Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ruled in 1935 that the 1933 Act had implicitly amended the UK Act with respect to the jurisdiction of the Free State. The Irish Supreme Court 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 election.