The Executive Authority (External Relations) Act 1936 (No. 58 of 1936) was an Act of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament). The Act, which was signed into law on 12 December 1936, was one of two passed hurriedly in the aftermath of the Edward VIII abdication crisis to sharply reduce the role of the Irish Free State's monarchy. It is also sometimes referred to as the External Relations Act.
The Oireachtas of the Irish Free State was the legislature of the Irish Free State from 1922 until 1937. It was established by the 1922 Constitution of Ireland which was based from the Anglo-Irish Treaty. It was the first independent Irish Parliament officially recognised outside Ireland since the historic Parliament of Ireland which was abolished with the Act of Union in 1800.
A monarchical system of government existed in Ireland from ancient times until—for what became the Republic of Ireland—the early twentieth century. Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom, remains under a monarchical system of government. The Gaelic kingdoms of Ireland ended with the Norman invasion of Ireland, when the kingdom became a fief of the Holy See under the Lordship of the King of England. This lasted until the Parliament of Ireland conferred the crown of Ireland upon King Henry VIII of England during the English Reformation. The monarch of England held the crowns of England and Ireland in a personal union. The Union of the Crowns in 1603 expanded the personal union to include Scotland. The personal union between England and Scotland became a political union with the enactments of the Acts of Union 1707, which created the Kingdom of Great Britain. The crowns of Great Britain and Ireland remained in personal union until it was ended by the Acts of Union 1800, which united Ireland and Great Britain into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from January 1801 until December 1922.
Since coming to power after the Irish Free State's 1932 general election, Éamon de Valera's government had secured the passage of a number of amendments to the Irish constitution, reducing the role of the Crown in the state's internal affairs. This was a recapitulation of the idea of external association, which de Valera had unsuccessfully proposed as an alternative to the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty.
The 1932 Irish general election was held on 16 February 1932, just over two weeks after the dissolution of the Dáil on 29 January. It was the first election held since the Statute of Westminster granted full independence to the Irish Free State a year earlier.
Éamon de Valera was a prominent statesman and political leader in 20th-century Ireland. His political career spanned over half a century, from 1917 to 1973; he served several terms as head of government and head of state. He also led the introduction of the Constitution of Ireland.
The Constitution of the Irish Free State was adopted by Act of Dáil Éireann sitting as a constituent assembly on 25 October 1922. In accordance with Article 83 of the Constitution, the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 of the British Parliament, which came into effect upon receiving the royal assent on 5 December 1922, provided that the Constitution would come into effect upon the issue of a Royal Proclamation, which was done on 6 December 1922. In 1937 the Constitution of the Irish Free State was replaced by the modern Constitution of Ireland following a referendum.
The culmination of the 1936 abdication crisis in Edward VIII's signing an Instrument of Abdication on 10 December 1936 was seized upon by de Valera as an opportunity to almost completely eliminate the role of the Crown, including the abolition of the office of governor-general. The Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Act 1936 was thus rushed through the Oireachtas, amending the constitution by transferring all the responsibilities of the governor-general and almost all the responsibilities of the King to other offices. (The attempt to abolish the office of governor-general by removing all references to it in the constitution proved to be unsuccessful, requiring remedial legislation the following year.)
In 1936, a constitutional crisis in the British Empire arose when King-Emperor Edward VIII proposed to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was divorced from her first husband and was pursuing the divorce of her second.
The Governor-General was the official representative of the sovereign of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1936. By convention, the Office of Governor-General was largely ceremonial. Nonetheless, it was controversial, as many Irish Nationalists regarded the existence of the office as offensive to republican principles and a symbol of continued Irish involvement in the United Kingdom, despite the Governor-General having no connection to the British Government after 1931. For this reason, the office's role was diminished over time by the Irish Government.
The Constitution Act, 1936 was an amendment to the Constitution of the Irish Free State that was intended to abolish the office of Governor-General, removed all reference to the King, and almost completely eliminated the King's constitutional role in the state. Under the Act most of the functions previously performed by the King and his Governor-General were transferred to various other organs of the Irish government. Henceforth, the only role retained by the King was as representative of the state in foreign affairs. The amendment passed through the Oireachtas at the same time as the External Relations Act, becoming law on 11 December 1936. Its long title was:
An Act to effect certain amendments of the Constitution in relation to the executive authority and power and in relation to the performance of certain executive functions.
As a result of these changes, the only remaining reference to the King, albeit a deliberately oblique one, was in a proviso to Article 51, authorising the Executive Council (government) to "avail", for the appointment of diplomats, etc. and for the conclusion of treaties, "of any organ used as a constitutional organ for the like purposes" by any of the other members of the Commonwealth. This authority was made "to the extent and subject to any conditions which may be determined by law"; the Executive Authority (External Relations) Act 1936, signed on the following day, was that law.
The Executive Council was the cabinet and de facto executive branch of government of the 1922–1937 Irish Free State. Formally, executive power was vested in the Governor-General on behalf of the King. In practice, however, it was the Council that governed, since the Governor-General was bound to act on its advice. The Executive Council included a prime minister called the President of the Executive Council and a deputy prime minister called the Vice-President. A member of the Council was called an executive minister, as distinct from an extern minister who had charge of a department without being in the Council.
A treaty is an agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an (international) agreement, protocol, covenant, convention, pact, or exchange of letters, among other terms. Regardless of terminology, all of these forms of agreements are, under international law, equally considered treaties and the rules are the same.
The External Relations Act set out that the appointment of the Free State's diplomatic and consular representatives and the conclusion of international agreements would be either by or on the authority of the Executive Council (ss. 1–2). The act then stipulated that "so long as Saorstát Éireann [i.e. the Irish Free State] is associated with the [other member nations of the Commonwealth], and so long as the King recognised by those nations as the symbol of their co-operation continues to act on behalf of each of those nations (on the advice of the several Governments thereof) for the purposes of the appointment of diplomatic and consular representatives and the conclusion of international agreements, the King so recognised may, and is hereby authorised to, act on behalf of Saorstát Éireann for the like purposes as and when advised by the Executive Council so to do" (s. 3(1)). In other words, the King was authorised (upon the formal advice of the Irish government) to appoint diplomats and consuls and to be involved in the formalities of making treaties.
The Act also brought Edward VIII's Instrument of Abdication into effect for the purposes of Irish law (s. 3(2)). Due to the Act's phrasing, Edward VIII's abdication was actually back-dated to the day before that on which it took effect in the United Kingdom and most of the other Dominions.
The Dominions were the semi-independent polities under the British Crown that constituted the British Empire, beginning with Canadian Confederation in 1867. "Dominion status" was a constitutional term of art used to signify an independent Commonwealth realm; they included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, and the Irish Free State, and then from the late 1940s also India, Pakistan, and Ceylon. The Balfour Declaration of 1926 recognised the Dominions as "autonomous Communities within the British Empire", and the 1931 Statute of Westminster confirmed their full legislative independence.
Unfortunately the speed with which the 1936 Act was passed also meant that some serious legal matters had been overlooked by the draughtsmen, touching on the top of the Irish legal hierarchy. In May 1937 these were covered by the Executive Powers (Consequential Provisions) Act 1937. As the Governor-Generalship had not been actually abolished by the 1936 Act, this Act was required to validate the otherwise-unlawful appointment of the Chief Justice of Ireland Timothy Sullivan. Sullivan had in turn questionably appointed three High Court judges. The recent appointment of Patrick Lynch as the Attorney General of Ireland and even the pension of the outgoing Governor-General needed to be legalised.
The Executive Powers Act, 1937 was an Act of the Oireachtas which retrospectively completed the abolition of the Governor-General of the Irish Free State.
The Chief Justice of Ireland is the president of the Supreme Court of Ireland. The current Chief Justice is Frank Clarke.
Timothy Michael Sullivan was an Irish judge who served as Chief Justice of Ireland from 1936 to 1946, a Judge of the Supreme Court from 1924 to 1946, President of the High Court and a Judge of the High Court from 1924 to 1936.
In 1937 the constitution of the Irish Free State was repealed and replaced by the Constitution of Ireland. Article 29.4 of the new constitution stated that:
1° The executive power of the State in or in connection with its external relations shall [...] be exercised by or on the authority of the Government.
2° For the purpose of the exercise of any executive function of the State in or in connection with its external relations, the Government may to such extent and subject to such conditions, if any, as may be determined by law, avail of or adopt any organ, instrument, or method of procedure used or adopted for the like purpose by the members of any group or league of nations with which the State is or becomes associated for the purpose of international co-operation in matters of common concern.
As a result, the constitutional role of the King remained unaffected and the External Relations Act remained in force.[ citation needed ]
In the late 1940s, de Valera decided to change the law, though whether it would involve the total repeal of the Act or merely its amendment was not decided when he lost power in 1948.[ citation needed ] His then Attorney-General, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh had been working on the various options when de Valera's Fianna Fáil administration was replaced by the First Inter-Party Government under Costello.
The Executive Authority (External Relations) Act 1936 was finally repealed by the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which came into force on 18 April 1949. The new Act vested the powers possessed by the King in the President of Ireland.
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom whose modified versions are now domestic law within Australia and Canada; it has been repealed in New Zealand and implicitly in former Dominions that are no longer Commonwealth realms. Passed on 11 December 1931, the act, either immediately or upon ratification, effectively both established the legislative independence of the self-governing Dominions of the British Empire from the United Kingdom and bound them all to seek each other's approval for changes to monarchical titles and the common line of succession. It thus became a statutory embodiment of the principles of equality and common allegiance to the Crown set out in the Balfour Declaration of 1926. As the statute removed nearly all of the British parliament's authority to legislate for the Dominions, it had the effect of making the Dominions largely sovereign nations in their own right. It was a crucial step in the development of the Dominions as separate states.
The Irish Free State was a state established in 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921. That treaty ended the three-year Irish War of Independence between the forces of the self-proclaimed Irish Republic, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and British Crown forces.
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Republic of Ireland. 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 Irish Oath of Allegiance was a controversial provision in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which Irish TDs and Senators were required to swear before taking their seats in Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann before the 'Constitution Act, 1933' was passed on 3 May 1933. The controversy surrounding the Oath was one of the principal issues that led to the Irish Civil War of 1922–23 between supporters and opponents of the Treaty.
The Republic of Ireland Act 1948 is an Act of the Oireachtas which declared that Ireland may be officially described as the Republic of Ireland, and vested in the President of Ireland the power to exercise the executive authority of the state in its external relations, on the advice of the Government of Ireland. The Act was signed into law on 21 December 1948 and came into force on 18 April 1949, Easter Monday, the 33rd anniversary of the beginning of the Easter Rising.
The Great Seal of the Irish Free State is the seal which was used to seal official documents of the Irish Free State by the Governor-General. The physical seal is currently on public display at National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks, Dublin.
Dáil Éireann served as the directly elected lower house of the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1937. The Free State constitution described the role of the house as that of a "Chamber of Deputies". Until 1936 the Free State Oireachtas also included an upper house known as the Seanad. Like its modern successor, the Free State Dáil was, in any case, the dominant component of the legislature; it effectively had authority to enact almost any law it chose, and to appoint and dismiss the President of the Executive Council. The Free State Dáil ceased to be with the creation of the modern 'Dáil Éireann' under the terms of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland. Both the Dáil and Seanad sat in Leinster House.
His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936 was the Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that recognised and ratified the abdication of King Edward VIII and passed succession to his brother King George VI. The act also excluded any possible future descendants of Edward from the line of succession. Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry his lover, Wallis Simpson, after facing opposition from the governments of the United Kingdom and the Dominions.
During the period from December 1936 to April 1949, some commentators consider that it was unclear whether the Irish state was a republic or a form of constitutional monarchy and whether its head of state was the President of Ireland or King George VI. The exact constitutional status of the state during this period has been a matter of scholarly and political dispute. The Oireachtas removed all references to the monarch from the revised constitution in 1936, but under statute law the British monarch continued to play a role in foreign relations, though always on the advice of the Irish government. The state did not officially describe itself as the Republic of Ireland until 1949, when it passed legislation giving itself that description.
From its foundation on 6 December 1922 until 11 December 1936, the Irish Free State was in accordance with its constitution, governed formally under a form of constitutional monarchy. The monarch exercised a number of important duties, including appointing the cabinet, dissolving the legislature and promulgating laws. Nonetheless, by convention the monarch's role was largely ceremonial and exercised on his behalf by his official representative, the governor-general. The monarch's role and duties under the constitution were ended under a constitutional amendment adopted in 1936. From that point, the monarch no longer played any role in appointing the cabinet, dissolving the legislature or promulgating laws. Nor was the monarch mentioned anywhere in the constitution. Under separate legislation also adopted in 1936 it was provided that Irish diplomatic representatives would be appointed on the authority of the cabinet alone and international agreements would be concluded with the authority of the cabinet alone. At the same time, that legislation also created a new role for the king in his capacity as the "symbol of [the] co-operation" of Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, and South Africa for so long as the Irish Free State was associated with those states. The new role of the king in that capacity alone was to act on behalf of the Irish government with respect to the appointment of diplomatic and consular representatives and the conclusion of international agreements when advised by the cabinet so to do. The role of the king in acting on behalf of the Irish government with respect to appointing diplomats was not ended until 1949 and under United Kingdom law the king is regarded as having been the sovereign until that time but not under Irish law.
The current Constitution of Ireland came into effect on 29 December 1937, repealing and replacing the Constitution of the Irish Free State, having been approved in a national plebiscite on 1 July 1937 with the support of 56.5% of voters in the then Irish Free State. The Constitution was closely associated with Éamon de Valera, the President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State at the time of its approval.
In political science, Constitutional autochthony is the process of asserting constitutional nationalism from an external legal or political power. The source of autochthony is the Greek word αὐτόχθων translated as springing from the land. It usually means the assertion of not just the concept of autonomy, but also the concept that the constitution derives from their own native traditions. The autochthony, or home grown nature of constitutions, give them authenticity and effectiveness. It was important in the making and revising of the constitutions of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Ghana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Zambia and many other members of the British Commonwealth.
The granting, reserving or withholding of the Royal Assent was one of the key roles, and potentially one of the key powers, possessed by the Governor-General of the Irish Free State. Until it was granted, no bill passed by the Oireachtas could complete its passage of enactment and become law.
The Succession to the Throne Act is the act of the Canadian parliament that ratified the Cabinet's consent to His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936, an act of the United Kingdom parliament that allowed Edward VIII to abdicate and pass the throne to George VI. However, it was the Canadian government's request and consent, and not the Succession to the Throne Act, that gave the British Act of Parliament effect in and made it part of the law of Canada, as per section 4 of the Statute of Westminster 1931, which allowed the British parliament to legislate for the Dominions only with their agreement.
External association was a hypothetical relationship between Ireland and the Commonwealth of Nations proposed by Éamon de Valera in 1921–22, whereby Ireland would be a sovereign state associated with, but not a member of, the Commonwealth; the British monarch would be head of the association, but not head of state of Ireland. De Valera proposed external association as a compromise between isolationist Irish republicanism on the one hand and Dominion status on the other. Whereas a full republic could not be a member of the Commonwealth until the London Declaration of 1949, a Dominion could not be fully independent until the Statute of Westminster 1931.