Solicitor-General for Ireland

The Solicitor-General for Ireland was the holder of an Irish and then (from the Act of Union 1800) United Kingdom government office. The holder was a deputy to the Attorney-General for Ireland, and advised the Crown on Irish legal matters. At least two holders of the office, Patrick Barnewall (1534–1550) and Roger Wilbraham (1586-1603), played a leading role in Government. As with the Solicitor General for England and Wales, the Solicitor-General for Ireland was usually a barrister rather than a solicitor.

Lord Atkinson, Solicitor-General for Ireland from 1890 to 1892.

The first record of a Solicitor General is in 1511, although the office may well be older than that. Early Solicitors invariably held the rank of Serjeant-at-law. In the sixteenth century a Principal Solicitor for Ireland shared the duties of the office: confusingly both were usually referred to as "the Solicitor".

Elizabeth I thought poorly of her Irish-born Law Officers, and from 1584 onwards there was a practice, which lasted for several decades, of appointing English-born lawyers as Solicitor General. At least one of them, Sir Roger Wilbraham (1586-1603), was a key figure in the Dublin government for many years.

Unlike the Attorney General he was not as a rule a member of the Privy Council of Ireland, although he might be summoned by the Council to advise it.[1]

With the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, the duties of both the Attorney General and Solicitor General for Ireland were taken over by the Attorney General of Ireland, and the office of Solicitor General was abolished, apparently as an economy measure. This led to complaints over many years about the undue burden of work which was placed on the Attorney General, whose office was seriously understaffed until the 1930s.

Solicitors-General for Ireland (1511–1922)Edit

16th centuryEdit

Sir Roger Wilbraham, Solicitor-General for Ireland 1586-1603

17th centuryEdit

18th centuryEdit

19th centuryEdit

20th centuryEdit

Principal Solicitors for Ireland (1537–1574)Edit


  1. ^ Delaney, V.T. H. Christopher Palles Allen Figgis and Co Dublin 1960 p.60
  2. ^ Here, and elsewhere, there appear to be gaps caused by the destruction of records- see Smyth Chronicle of the Irish Law Officers (1839)
  3. ^ In the confusion of the English Civil War, Sambach's office seems to have simply lapsed
  4. ^ There is considerable confusion as to who held the offices of Solicitor-General and Principal Solicitor during this period. Smyth states that Finglas was Principal Solicitor from 1554 until his death in 1574. Hart gives the same date for Finglas's death but refers to him as Solicitor General.

Further readingEdit

  • Hart, A.R. History of the King's Serjeants at law in Ireland Four Courts Press Dublin 2000
  • Smyth, Constantine J. (1839). Chronicle of the law officers of Ireland . London: Henry Butterworth.