Okay, as I created this nodeshell several months ago, I feel it is my duty to fill it, now that I have a copy of the document to hand.

Introduction: The constitution of Ireland, properly called Bunreacht na hÉireann (more on the language issue later), was written by Eamon de Valera in 1936 and adopted in a referendum by the citizens of the Irish Free State in 1937. It represents the culmination of de Valera's campaign of unilaterally severing all institutional links with Britain, and replacing the Free State with an independent country which eventually came to be known as the Republic of Ireland. De Valera intended his new country to include the six counties of Northern Ireland, but as he had no practical way of achieving this, he fudged the issue with a couple of contentious constitutional articles (2 and 3), which were eventually repealed in 1998, as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

Language: The document contains both English and Irish versions. I only intend to node the English version here, but it should be noted that the official version is that in the Irish language: in the case of a dispute arising out of an ambiguous translation, the Irish text is taken to be the definitive. As far as I'm aware, a major dispute of this kind has never arisen.

The articles: I've decided to node this article by article. As some of these are quite short, I am aware that I am opening myself to accusations of noding for numbers. However, it should make up no more than about 60 nodes, and some of the articles are indeed quite long. I considered doing it by heading, but some of the headings take in a very large amount of text. It is hoped that having a node for each article, coupled with the index on this node, will be the most convenient and logical format.

Constitution of Ireland

Enacted by the People 1st July, 1937

In operation as from 29th December, 1937

This text of the Constitution is a copy of the text enrolled on 27 May, 1999 pursuant to Article 25.5.2° except that:

the Transitory Provisions (Articles 51-63) are omitted as required by their terms; the Irish text has been altered so as to make it conform to modern standardized Irish; the twentieth amendment, enacted subsequent to enrolment, is incorporated; the new Articles 2 and 3 and the new section 8 in Article 29 are inserted pursuant to the provisions of the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1998. Amendments effected since the Constitution was enacted in 1937 up to the time of printing of this edition (December 1999) are listed below.

Amending Acts


The Nation
Article 1, Article 2, Article 3

The State
Article 4, Article 5, Article 6, Article 7, Article 8, Article 9, Article 10, Article 11

The President
Article 12, Article 13, Article 14

The National Parliament

Constitution and Powers: Article 15
Dáil Éireann: Article 16, Article 17
Seanad Éireann: Article 18, Article 19
Legislation: Article 20
Money Bills: Article 21, Article 22
Time for Consideration of Bills: Article 23, Article 24
Signing and Promulgation of Laws: Article 25
Reference of Bills to the Supreme Court: Article 26
Reference of Bills to the People: Article 27

The Government
Article 28

Local Government
Article 28A

International Relations
Article 29

The Attorney General
Article 30

The Council of State
Article 31, Article 32

The Comptroller and Auditor General
Article 33

The Courts
Article 34, Article 35, Article 36, Article 37

Trial of Offences
Article 38, Article 39

Fundamental Rights

Personal Rights: Article 40
The Family: Article 41
Education: Article 42
Private Property: Article 43
Religion: Article 44

Directive Principles of Social Policy
Article 45

Amendment of the Constitution
Article 46

The Referendum
Article 47

Repeal of Constitution of Saorstát Éireann and Continuance of Laws
Article 48, Article 49, Article 50

The predominant goal of articles one through eight in the Irish constitution is to establish an Irish identity that is separate from England. Ireland’s pride has been injured by too many outsiders taking over and ruling the nation. This has made Ireland defensive, and some defensive language is seen in the constitution. In the wake of its oppression, Ireland needs to build a new identity. Article one states that Ireland will govern itself “in accordance with its own genius and tradition,” not according to the ideas of other nations. It is important that Ireland reject English ideas and customs, in order to distinguish itself from its oppressor. This sentiment is seen again and again throughout the constitution. Still, we also see that after being imposed upon by the British for so long, the Irish had trouble throwing off certain British ideas and customs.

First, we see Ireland’s scarred national identity, which has left the nation defensive. Article one asserts Ireland’s “inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign” right to govern itself, including its foreign policy, economy, and culture. So many adjectives are used to establish this right that it can be seen as protective. It seems that the author is using words to build a wall around Ireland in order to keep the strangers out. Merely using “inalienable” is good enough for the United States. But the United States was a new nation that had never been invaded by outsiders. Ireland’s different history has left the nation more self-protective. This is seen again in article five, which asserts that Ireland is a “sovereign, independent, democratic state.” It seems that this article only means to state that Ireland is a democracy. But for some reason, the writer adds that Ireland is also sovereign and independent. The word sovereign is repeated from the first article. This repetition demonstrates the huge importance Ireland places on its autonomy. Again, many words are used to describe Ireland’s self-rule, and the words are technically superfluous. So they can be seen as a wall. They are there to guard against any attack on Ireland’s independence. This seems a bit strange until one considers that the nation had been under outsiders’ attacks for centuries.

Article two goes beyond defense and makes an aggressive statement toward England. This article states that the national territory consists of “the whole island of Ireland.” This is strange because it’s incorrect. Ireland didn’t control Northern Ireland when this was written. The nation was fragmented, and England controlled Northern Ireland. Ireland is claiming territory that belongs to another nation, so this is an aggressive statement. It could even be seen as a passive-aggressive declaration of war. With this statement, Ireland indicates that it is no longer going to be oppressed.

Articles four and seven establish the foreignness of English culture, language, and values. This article says that the nation’s name is Eire, “or in the English language, Ireland.” Italics are usually reserved for words written in foreign languages. So writing the English word in italics is an understated way of saying that English is foreign. Article seven states that the Irish flag is “the tricolor of green, white, and orange.” Britain’s flag is predominantly red and blue, and Ireland has rejected both of these colors for its own flag. This shows a rejection is British values. But there is important symbolism in the colors Ireland chooses. Ireland traditionally represents itself with the color green. And an Irish Protestant organization, the Orange Society, uses the color orange to represent itself. So Ireland and the Protestants are symbolically separated on the Irish flag. The color that comes between them to separate them is white, which traditionally represents purity and virtue. So the flag can be understood to say what separates Ireland from Protestants is the degree to which each party is pure and virtuous. This is a harsh rejection of Britain’s religion.

Article six describes Ireland’s mode of self-government. It states that power comes from God, who gives power to the people. Then, the people can bestow the power to govern upon those that they see most fit. This article demonstrates the huge importance Ireland puts on religion. The Catholic religion is a huge part of Ireland’s national identity. This is especially important since Ireland wants to distinguish itself from Protestant Britain and govern itself “in accordance with its own genius and traditions.” The Catholic religion helps Ireland separate itself from its oppressor. But this article is a bit problematic because it mimics a governmental model proposed by John Milton. Milton was British, not Irish. When Milton argued against the divine right of kings to rule, he said that power flows from God to the people to the ruler. The ruler is chosen by the people and has power only for as long as the people want him to have power. The Irish constitution reproduces this model exactly, but the idea doesn’t come from Ireland’s own tradition. It seems that Ireland and England have shared an identity for so long that Ireland is having trouble making a complete break from the ideas imposed upon it by England.

Article eight establishes a hierarchy of languages within Ireland. Irish is “the first official language,” and English is “a second official language.” Not only is Irish first and above English, but Ireland is “the” language and English is merely “a” language. This subtle difference in articles hints that the Irish language is the true language that is essential to the nation, while English is an option that can also be used but is not truly necessary. Still, the Irish people cannot totally do away with the English language. It has been used in Ireland for too long. So many people speak English that it has become an indispensable part of the nation’s culture. As much as Ireland wants to shake off British influences, some things will not go away.

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