Poynings' Law

Last updated

Poynings' Law [lower-alpha 1]
Act of Parliament
Coat of arms of the Lordship of Ireland.svg
Long title An Act confirming all the Statutes made in England [lower-alpha 2]
Citation 10 Hen.7 c.4 (The Irish Statutes numbering)
10 Hen.7 c.9 (Analecta Hibernica numbering)
Introduced byProbably Sir Edward Poynings, Lord Deputy of Ireland
Territorial extent Ireland
Commencement 1 December 1494
Repealed8 May 2007 (Republic of Ireland)
Other legislation
Repealed by Statute Law Revision Act 2007 (Republic of Ireland)
Republic of IrelandRepealed
Northern IrelandStill in force
Text of the Poynings' Law 1495 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk.

Poynings' Law or the Statute of Drogheda [1] (10 Hen.7 c.4 [The Irish Statutes numbering] or 10 Hen.7 c.9 [Analecta Hibernica numbering]; later titled "An Act that no Parliament be holden in this Land until the Acts be certified into England") was a 1494 Act of the Parliament of Ireland which provided that the parliament could not meet until its proposed legislation had been approved both by Ireland's Lord Deputy and Privy Council and by England's monarch and Privy Council. It was a major grievance in 18th-century Ireland, was amended by the Constitution of 1782, rendered moot by the Acts of Union 1800, and repealed by the Statute Law Revision (Ireland) Act, 1878.


Ambiguous name

The name "Poynings' Law" is ambiguous; it may refer to: [2] [3]


Poynings' Parliament was called by Sir Edward Poynings in his capacity as Lord Deputy of Ireland, appointed by King Henry VII of England in his capacity as Lord of Ireland. Coming in the aftermath of the divisive Wars of the Roses, Poynings' intention was to make Ireland once again obedient to the English monarchy. Assembling the Parliament on 1 December 1494, he declared that the Parliament of Ireland was thereafter to be placed under the authority of the Parliament of England. This marked the beginning of Tudor direct rule in Ireland, although Henry VII was still forced to rely on Old English nobles (such as Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, despite his support for Lambert Simnel) as his deputies in Ireland through the intervening years. Poynings' Law was a major rallying point for later groups seeking self-government for Ireland, particularly the Confederate Catholics in the 1640s and Henry Grattan's Patriot Party in the late 18th century, who consistently sought a repeal of Poynings' Law. The Act remained in place until the Constitution of 1782 gave the Irish parliament legislative independence.

Function and operation

The working of Poynings' Law took place in several steps. The first step was for the lieutenant governor and the Irish council (or Irish executive) to decide that a parliament was needed, usually for the purpose of raising funds. At this point, the council and lieutenant would write drafts of legislation to be proposed to the king and his council. After this had been completed, the lieutenant and council, according to the act, were required to certify the request for parliament "under the great seal of that land [Ireland],” [8] and then forward it to England for approval. Once the request arrived in England, it was reviewed by the King and his council, and a formal licence, approving the request for parliament and the draft bills were returned to Ireland. [9] Once the licence was received in Ireland, the governor would summon parliament, and the bills passed. It is important to note that "government" was not representative as in the modern sense and there was no sustained opposition. Parliament's consent was necessary for some purposes, and it frequently offered advice, but the decisions were made by the English and Irish councils". [10] This is an important fact to consider when examining exactly who the law was aimed to suppress. As the point above demonstrates, parliament was virtually a rubber stamp, and it was the Irish executive who made the actual decisions in proposing policy.

The two important aspects of the procedure presented by Poynings' Law are transmission and certification. Both of these requirements placed limits on various parties within the lawmaking process in Ireland. The combination of these processes created a situation where bills could be sent, along with the request for parliament, and the king could amend and remove such bills as he wished, however, he could not add new bills himself. This is a result of the certification process which requires the submission to be made by the Irish council "under the great seal of that land [Ireland]". [8] The original intention of the certification process was to remove the capacity of initiating legislation from the parliament, and place it with the Irish council and governor. [11] But as a result of the way it was framed in the act, it also removed that capacity from the English parliament and administration as well: legislation could only be submitted for approval by the Irish executive.

Furthermore, the two processes made it impossible for the Irish to add more bills or amendments to a request after the initial licence request had been granted. [12] This meant that any additional bills or amendments that they wished to pass in parliament would have to be re-sent along with an entirely new request for parliament. Clearly, this created severe inefficiencies in the legislative process, and thus gave the executive in Ireland as well as the crown an interest in relaxing procedure. As early as 1496 "the rigid procedure laid down by Poynings' Law was not being adhered to" [13] and additional bills were commonly sent to England after the original request and were returned to Ireland before the meeting of a new parliament. The example from 1496 was the separate request for parliamentary licence and sending of bills in the reappointment of the Earl of Kildare. At this time, because the rigid procedure of Poynings' Law was not in the interest of any of the parties involved, especially the Crown and Irish executive, Quinn argues that "no hesitation was felt about transmitting additional bills" after the licence had been granted. [14]

Changes after 1692

After the Revolution of 1688 and the ensuing Williamite War, an important development in the Poynings' Law procedure took place in the 1692 parliament as some members of the Irish House of Commons sought to establish for themselves a more central role in the process of drafting legislature. On 27 October 1692, the House of Commons passed two notable resolutions. The first, 'that it was, and is, the undoubted right of the commons… to prepare and resolve the ways and means of raising money' and the second, 'that it was, and is, the sole and undoubted right of the commons to prepare heads of bills for raising money'. [15] Opposition to the executive was then expressed as the Commons used its veto power under Poynings' Law to reject 'virtually two-thirds of the meticulously prepared government bills'. [16] Political deadlock ensued and parliament was prorogued. Although judicial opinion in both Ireland and England served to vindicate the position of the Lord Lieutenant and the English Government in the matter, it became clear that a compromise solution must be reached before parliament could be called again. From mid-1694 negotiations to this end began to bear fruit. The Irish parliament would pass one government money bill relating to excise at the beginning of the session in recognition of the royal prerogative. The parliament would now appoint a committee to decide upon the 'ways and means' [17] of raising supply and draw up the 'heads of bills' of any related legislation. Government support of penal legislation against Catholics also helped placate the claims of the 'sole right' advocates. The compromise solution was put into effect in the 1695 parliament and all fourteen government bills presented in the first session were passed by both houses. Now the Irish House of Commons had major input into the substance, or 'heads', of supply bills that would then be transmitted to the English Privy Council for approval, amendment or rejection under the Poynings' Law procedure. This set the precedent for the parliaments of the eighteenth century.

Heads of bills

Whereas an independent legislature can amend a bill between the time of its introduction and the time it is passed, this was not possible for the Parliament of Ireland, as only the bill originally introduced would be in compliance with the requirement under Poynings' Law to have been pre-approved by the privy councils. As a consequence, a legal fiction developed after the Revolution of 1688 whereby the Irish parliament introduced and debated the "heads" of a bill before transmitting the heads to the Irish Privy Council. In theory, the "heads" of a bill are simply its broad outline or general scheme; in practice, they were identical in form to a final bill, and processed identically, except that the enacting clause "be it enacted" was replaced with "we pray that it may be enacted". [18] On occasion, if either privy council amended a bill, the Irish parliament would symbolically assert its authority by rejecting the amended bill and resubmitting heads of a new bill identical to the rejected one.

Amendment and repeal

The Declaratory Act 1719 declared the right of the Parliament of Great Britain to make laws for Ireland and overrule judgments of the Irish House of Lords. The Declaratory Act and Poynings' Law were two major grievances of the Irish Patriot Party addressed by the Constitution of 1782. One element of the Constitution was Barry Yelverton's Act, [19] an implied amendment of Poynings' Law which removed the Irish Privy Council altogether from the legislative process and reduced the British Privy Council's power to one of veto rather than amendment. The Acts of Union 1800 rendered most of the Constitution of 1782 and Poynings' Law moot. Poynings' Law was formally repealed as obsolete by the Statute Law Revision (Ireland) Act, 1878.

It was further specifically repealed by the Irish Statute Law Revision Act 2007.

Related Research Articles

Statute of Westminster 1931 United Kingdom legislation

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.

Edward Poynings English soldier, administrator and diplomat

Sir Edward Poynings KG was an English soldier, administrator and diplomat, and Lord Deputy of Ireland under King Henry VII of England.

Bill (law) proposed law

A bill is proposed legislation under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act of the legislature, or a statute. Bills are introduced in the legislature and are discussed, debated and voted upon.

The Statute of Westminster of 1275, also known as the Statute of Westminster I, codified the existing law in England, in 51 chapters.

Statute of Marlborough United Kingdom legislation

The Statute of Marlborough was a set of laws passed by King Henry III of England in 1267. It is the oldest piece of statute law in the United Kingdom that has not yet been repealed. There were twenty-nine chapters, of which four are still in force.

A repeal is the removal or reversal of a law. There are two basic types of repeal, a repeal with a re-enactment of the repealed law, or a repeal without any replacement.

The short title is the formal name by which a piece of primary legislation may by law be cited in the United Kingdom and other Westminster-influenced jurisdictions, as well as the United States and the Philippines. It contrasts with the long title which, while usually being more fully descriptive of the legislation's purpose and effects, is generally too unwieldy for most uses. For example, the short title House of Lords Act 1999 contrasts with the long title An Act to restrict membership of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage; to make related provision about disqualifications for voting at elections to, and for membership of, the House of Commons; and for connected purposes.

Treason Act 1351 United Kingdom legislation

The Treason Act 1351 is an Act of the Parliament of England which codified and curtailed the common law offence of treason. No new offences were created by the statute. It is one of the earliest English statutes still in force, although it has been very significantly amended. It was extended to Ireland in 1495 and to Scotland in 1708. The Act was passed at Westminster in the Hilary term of 1351, in the 25th year of the reign of Edward III and was entitled "A Declaration which Offences shall be adjudged Treason". It was passed to clarify precisely what was treason, as the definition under common law had been expanded rapidly by the courts until its scope was controversially wide. The Act was last used to prosecute William Joyce in 1945 for collaborating with Germany in World War II.

Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 United Kingdom legislation

The Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 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.

Repeal of Act for Securing Dependence of Ireland Act 1782 United Kingdom legislation

The Repeal Act of 1782 was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, which repealed the Declaratory Act of 1719. The 1719 Act had declared the Parliament of Ireland dependent on the Parliament and Privy Council of Great Britain; the Repeal Act was the first part of the Constitution of 1782, which granted legislative independence to the Kingdom of Ireland. It was passed after the resignation of the North Ministry, which had overseen defeat in the American War of Independence. The Irish Patriot Party and Irish Volunteers had demanded greater autonomy, and the new Rockingham Ministry conceded in fear of an American-style revolt. The Irish Parliament subsequently passed Yelverton's Act to amend Poynings' Law, the Irish statute which had given the British Privy Council advance oversight over legislation to be proposed to the Irish Parliament.

Events from the year 1494 in Ireland.

Succession to the Crown Act 1707 United Kingdom legislation

The Succession to the Crown Act 1707 is an Act of Parliament of the Parliament of Great Britain. It is still partly in force in Great Britain.

Royal Assent by Commission Act 1541 Former United Kingdom law

The Royal Assent by Commission Act 1541 was an Act of the Parliament of England, passed in 1542 to authorise the execution of Catherine Howard for adultery. It also created a new way in which the Royal Assent could be granted to legislation.

Statutes concerning forcible entries and riots confirmed United Kingdom legislation

Statutes concerning forcible entries and riots confirmed or the Forcible Entry Act 1391 (1391) was an Act of the Parliament of the Kingdom of England. It provided that the Forcible Entry Act 1381 and one or more other pieces of legislation were to be held and kept and fully executed. It also authorised any justice of the peace, who had received a complaint that such a forcible entry had been committed, to take the power of the county to arrest any person found committing forcible detainer after that forcible entry.

The Statute Law Revision Act 2007 is an Act of the Oireachtas of the Republic of Ireland which repealed a large amount of pre-1922 legislation of Ireland, England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom while preserving a shorter list of statutes. The Act was the largest single Statute Law Revision Act or repealing measure ever enacted internationally.

Statute Law (Ireland) Revision Act 1872 United Kingdom legislation

The Statute Law (Ireland) Revision Act 1872 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which repealed, as to Ireland, certain Acts of the Parliament of England which had been extended to Ireland royal writs or acts of the Parliament of Ireland down to Poynings' Law (1495). The act was intended, in particular, to make the revised edition of the statutes already published applicable to Ireland. The repeals largely mirrored those made for England and Wales by the Statute Law Revision Act 1863. The Statute Law (Ireland) Revision Act 1878 repealed acts of the Parliament of Ireland.

Newtown Act United Kingdom legislation

The Newtown Act was an act of the Parliament of Ireland regulating municipal corporations, in particular the manner in which parliamentary boroughs elected members to the Irish House of Commons.

Octennial Act United Kingdom legislation

The Octennial Act was a 1768 act of the Parliament of Ireland which set a maximum duration of eight years for the Irish House of Commons. Before this, a dissolution of parliament was not required except on the demise of the Crown, and the previous three general elections were held in 1715, 1727, and 1761, on the respective deaths of Anne, George I, and George II. After the act, general elections were held in 1769, 76, 83, 90, and 98.

The chief governor was the senior official in the Dublin Castle administration, which maintained English and British rule in Ireland from the 1170s to 1922. The chief governor was the viceroy of the English monarch and presided over the Privy Council of Ireland. In some periods he was in effective charge of the administration, subject only to the monarch in England; in others he was a figurehead and power was wielded by others.


  1. Baker, John Hamilton (2003). The Oxford History of the Laws of England. VI: 1483-1558. Oxford University Press. p. 110. ISBN   9780198258179 . Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  2. Haughey, Charles (15 February 1962). "Short Titles Bill, 1961—Second Stage". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. pp. Vol.193 c.266. Retrieved 6 November 2013. Poynings' Act is one of a series of Acts passed by the Parliament convened by Sir Edward Poynings, Lord Deputy, at Drogheda in 1494-5. This Parliament was called to assist the Lord Deputy in his task of reducing Ireland to “whole and perfect obedience”. The terms “Poynings' Law” and “Poynings' Act” have been employed ambiguously both by historians and lawyers. Sometimes they are applied to the whole series of statutes passed at that Parliament, sometimes to one of those statutes—Chapter 4 of 10 Henry 7 (Ireland)—which provided that no Irish Parliament was to be held until the proposed legislation had been sent by the Lieutenant and the Irish Council to the English Council and returned under the English great seal; at other times, they are used to indicate the statute Chapter 22 of 10 Henry 7 (Ireland). The latter is the statute to which the present Bill refers and to which the short title “Poynings' Act, 1495”, is assigned, putting an end to the ambiguity so far as legal usage [in the Republic of Ireland] is concerned.
  3. The Irish Statutes: 3 Edward II to the Union, AD 1310-1800. Round Hall Press. 1995 [1885]. p. 761. ISBN   9781858000442 . Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  4. Short Titles Act (Northern Ireland) 1951
  5. Text of the Poynings' Law 1495 (c.22) as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk .
  6. Short Titles Act 1962
  7. "Seanad debates". 1 May 2007. p. 7.
  8. 1 2 Curtis & McDowell 1968 , p. 83.
  9. Quinn 1941 , p. 245.
  10. Ellis 1985 , p. 78.
  11. Bradshaw 1979 , p. 150.
  12. Quinn 1941 , p. 246.
  13. Quinn 1941 , p. 250.
  14. Quinn 1941 , p. 247.
  15. McGrath 2000 , p. 85.
  16. Bartlett & Hayton 1979 , p. 21.
  17. McGrath 2000 , p. 96.
  18. "Parliament". The Standard Library Cyclopaedia of Political, Constitutional, Statistical and Forensic Knowledge. 4. H.G. Bohn. 1853. p. 477.
  19. 21&22 George III c.47


  1. Known as the Poynings' Act, 1495 in the Republic of Ireland, or the Statute of Drogheda.
  2. The long title is alternatively "An Act that no Parliament be holden in this Land until the Acts be certified into England". Both long titles were written after the passing of the law.