Law of the Republic of Ireland

Law of the Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland has a common law legal system with a written constitution which provides for a parliamentary democracy based on the British parliamentary system albeit with a popularly elected president, representative democracy, a separation of powers, a developed system of constitutional rights and judicial review.

ources of Irish law

The sources of Irish Law reflect Irish history and the various parliaments whose law affected the country down through the ages. Notable omissions from the list include laws passed by the first and second Dáil, and the Brehon Laws (traditional Celtic laws, the practice of which was only finally wiped out during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland). These latter laws are void of legal significance and are of historical interest only.

Constitutional law

"Main article: The Constitution of Ireland"

The Irish Constitution was enacted by a popular plebiscite held on 1 July 1937, and came into force on December 29 of the same year. The Constitution is the corner-stone of the Irish legal system and is held to be the source of power exercised by the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government. The Irish Supreme Court and High Court exercise judicial review over all legislation and may strike down laws if they are inconsistent with the constitution. As such the constitution is the truly distinguishing characteristic of the Irish legal system when compared to its English cousin.

Primary legislation

When the Irish Free State was created on 6 December 1922 the Constitution of the Irish Free State carried over all legislation which had applied to the twenty-six counties subject to its consistency with that Constitution. Article 50 of the Constitution of Ireland fulfilled the same task when than latter constitution came into force on 29 December 1937. Thus at no point in newly independent Ireland was it ever intended to start the statute book afresh. Consequently the Irish statute book stretches back some 800 years and includes law passed by the pre-Union English Parliament and by the Parliament of Great Britain applied to Ireland by "Poynings' Act 1495". As well as Acts of Parliament of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Parliament signed into law between 1 January 1800 and 5 December 1922 (inclusive) which on their terms applied to Ireland. One of the consequence of this is that laws such as "De donis conditionalibus, 1285" and the "Statute of Frauds, 1695" are still in force.

econdary legislation

In the Republic secondary legislation can only be enacted under an authorising statute. The government cannot enact legislation by decree, such as is done by the British government in the form of Orders in Council. While all secondary legislation are known as statutory instruments, only significant legislative acts — i.e. those which are required to be laid before parliament or which are of general application are numbered as statutory instruments and published by the Stationary Office. Secondary legislation cannot introduce new principles and policies but merely give effect to the principles and policies of the parent Act.

Case law

As with any common law system, the Irish courts are bound by the doctrine of Stare decisis to apply clear precedents set by the higher courts. This extends to the decisions of higher courts made before independence such as decisions made by the House of Lords and the Irish Court of Appeal.

European Union Law

"Main article: European Communities Act 1972"

The "European Communities Act, 1972", as amended, provides that Treaties of the European Union are part of Irish law, along with directly effective measures adopted under those treaties. It also provides that government ministers may adopt statutory instruments in order to implement European Union law and that as an exception to the general rule such statutory instruments have effect as if they were primary legislation.

International law

Under the Constitution, while the state is guided by the generally recognised principles of international law this has been held not to be justiciable. Ireland is a dualist state and treaties are not part of its domestic law unless incorporated by the Oireachtas. An example of incorporation is the Refugee Act 1996.

Under the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003, the European Convention on Human Rights has direct legal effect in the State. While applications can be made to the European Court of Human Rights following final judicial decisions, that court is not part of the Irish legal system as such, and nor is the UN Human Rights Committee or other such bodies.

ee also

* Legal systems of the world
* List of Acts of the Oireachtas
* Courts of the Republic of Ireland
** Supreme Court
** High Court
** Special Criminal Court
* Northern Ireland law

External links


* [ Irish Statute Book]
* [ Acts of the Oireachtas in Irish and English]
* [ Office of the Attorney General of Ireland]


* [ Irish Law Site at UCC]
* [ GlobaLex - Guide to Irish Law, 2005]
* [ - Guide to Irish Law, 2001]
* [ The Irish Legal Information Institute]
* [ The British and Irish Legal Information Institute]

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