Innovation and Continuity: Statute Law of the Saorstat Eireann/Irish Free State 1922-1948
Modern Irish legal history is a largely unstudied field. This paper discusses one element of this broader field of enquiry by considering aspects of the legislation of the Saorstat Eireann / Irish Free State (“IFS”) from its creation in 1922 to its departure from the Commonwealth in 1948. The study is based on study of government files in the National Archives of Ireland, particularly the records of the Justice Department, Attorney-General’s Office and Parliamentary Draftsman’s Office, and from the reports of the debates in the Oireachtas / Irish legislature. The paper looks at aspects of the legislation of the Irish Free State, and the patterns of Irish use of precedents from Britain and the other Dominions (especially Canada and Australia) in the initial period of the setting up of the IFS, in later legislation affecting appeals to the Privy Council and in the area of social legislation and law reform. Although nationalist thinking, and political rivalry affected the pattern of legislation and law reform in the Irish Free State, there is nevertheless an underlying continuity in the drafting of legislation which reflected a very substantial, if frequently understated, use of English precedents.