Open main menu

The Third Dáil was both the Provisional Parliament or the Constituent Assembly of Southern Ireland from 9 August to 6 December 1922; and the lower house (Dáil Éireann) of the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State from 6 December 1922 until 9 August 1923.

Third Dáil
Second Dáil Fourth Dáil
Flag of Ireland.svg
Overview
JurisdictionIrish Republic
Southern Ireland
Irish Free State
Meeting placeUCD (Earlsfort Terrace)
Leinster House
Term9 September 1922 – 9 August 1923
Election1922 general election
GovernmentGovernment of the 3rd Dáil
Members128
Ceann ComhairleMichael Hayes
Sessions
1st9 September 1922 – 9 August 1923

Election of the Third Dáil/Provisional ParliamentEdit

The election to the Third Dáil took place on 16 June 1922. It occurred under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. Unlike the Second Dáil, which included members from the whole island of Ireland, the Third Dáil did not include members elected from Northern Ireland. Since the largely uncontested election of the Second Dáil in 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty had been negotiated, and Sinn Féin—the only political party represented in the Dáil—had split into pro- and anti-Treaty factions; these two factions became the major contestants of the 1922 election, and other parties stood for the first time.

On 20 May Arthur Griffith read out to the Second Dáil the agreed pre-election Sinn Féin "Pact", and also declared new elections for the constituencies of the former Southern Ireland, and this was agreed to unanimously.[1] Griffith could not call elections in Northern Ireland because of the Treaty provision that: .. no election shall be held for the return of members to serve in the Parliament of the Irish Free State for constituencies in Northern Ireland[2]

Despite the pact between the two Sinn Féin factions, the elections were seen by many as an endorsement of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and a draft of the proposed Constitution of the Irish Free State was published in the week before election as an example of the work under way. The pro-treaty side won a majority of seats; the anti-treaty faction boycotted the new assembly, refusing to recognise the body as the legitimate heir to the Second Dáil, and the Irish Civil War broke out shortly afterwards.

Article 17 of the Anglo-Irish TreatyEdit

Article 17 of the Anglo-Irish Treaty provided:

By way of provisional arrangement for the administration of Southern Ireland during the interval which must elapse between the date hereof [6 December 1921] and the constitution of a Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State [This ultimately occurred on 6 December 1922] in accordance therewith, steps shall be taken forthwith for summoning a meeting of members of Parliament elected for constituencies in Southern Ireland since the passing of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and for constituting a provisional Government, and the British Government shall take the steps necessary to transfer to such provisional Government the powers and machinery requisite for the discharge of its duties, provided that every member of such provisional Government shall have signified in writing his or her acceptance of this instrument [the Treaty]. But this arrangement shall not continue in force beyond the expiration of twelve months from the date hereof.

Article 17 therefore envisaged by way of "provisional arrangement" the creation of a provisional government. For the purposes of giving effect to Article 17, the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act 1922, an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom provided in Section 1(2) that:[3]

  • the British Government could by Orders in Council transfer powers to the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State;
  • the Parliament of Southern Ireland would be dissolved within four months from the passing of the Act; and
  • elections would be held for "the House of the Parliament" to which the Provisional Government would be responsible. The Act did not give a name to that Parliament, but said that in matters within the jurisdiction of the Provisional Government (i.e. only certain matters concerning Southern Ireland), it would have power to make laws in like manner as the Parliament of the Irish Free State when constituted. This last-mentioned "House of the Parliament" is what is more commonly referred to as the Third Dáil.

Rival political theoriesEdit

The assembly was:

  • the Third Dáil, the successor of the First Dáil (1919–1921) and the Second Dáil (1921–1922) according to Irish political theory; and
  • the Provisional Parliament, the successor of the House of Commons of Southern Ireland (1921–1922) according to British political theory.

Both theories agree that it was a constituent assembly which created the constitution of the Irish Free State.

Rival political theories existed in Ireland at the time. Ireland since 1919 had been governed under two rival political theories. To nationalists and republicans, an assembly of Irish members of parliament (who adopted the equivalent Irish language term Teachta Dála or TD) had formed in Dublin in 1919 and was seen as the valid parliament of the Irish people, from which the Irish Republic received its sovereignty. Each Dáil in turn was the successor of the earlier one and the legitimate parliament of the Irish Republic. The Second Dáil had been chosen through an election in 1921 called by the British administration in Ireland, the elected republican members forming themselves into the Second Dáil rather than the Parliament of Southern Ireland they had been elected to. The Second Dáil agreed to the elections leading to the Third Dáil.

However, according to British political theory, the assembly of Irish MPs in Dublin did not constitute a valid parliament, and was subsequently declared illegal. In this view, legal government remained vested in His Majesty's Government in Westminster, and its Irish executive, under the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland based in Dublin Castle. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 created two Irish parliaments with effect from May 1921: one for Northern Ireland in Belfast and one for Southern Ireland, which was called to assemble in Royal College of Science in Dublin. The uncontested elections in Southern Ireland produced the House of Commons of Southern Ireland, though when the new house was called to assemble, only four MPs turned up. The remaining members assembled as TDs of the Second Dáil. Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Westminster parliament passed the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act 1922 which provided for dissolution of the Parliament of Southern Ireland and the election of a replacement parliament to which the Provisional Government would be responsible. The Act named this parliament as "the House of the Parliament", perhaps to distinguish it from the Houses of parliament at Westminster.

Two governments, two parliaments, one objectiveEdit

Under the Treaty, procedures were set in place to merge the republican and British systems. Initially both remained separate to validate the Treaty from their own perspectives. So the Second Dáil and the House of Commons of Southern Ireland both voted separately to ratify the Treaty. Each house chose their own distinct but overlapping governments, with a government of the Irish Republic being chosen under President Arthur Griffith, while a Provisional Government under Michael Collins was chosen by the House of Commons of Southern Ireland. In reality, both governments effectively worked as a team. Both governments then dissolved both houses, and called elections to a body that could be seen, depending on the political theory followed, as the successor of either or both houses. The Proclamation by the Provisional Government which called the body stated that it was made 'pursuant to the provisions of … an Act entitled the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, 1922'.[4]

Crown assembly or Republican Dáil?Edit

Whether the new house, the Third Dáil/Provisional Parliament, was a republican parliament or crown assembly became an issue for some anti-Treaty Irish republicans. Laurence Ginnell turned up in the assembly to demand an answer as to which category, crown or republic, it belonged. On 9 September 1922, the first day of the Third Dáil in session, the Ceann Comhairle read a message from Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Lord FitzAlan "conveying to this Parliament his very best wishes", which suggests that both the Lord Lieutenant and the Ceann Comhairle were content to consider this body one convened under the terms of the Treaty rather than Dáil of the Irish Republic.[5]

The ambiguities and constitutional puzzles regarding the two governments previously chosen by the different parent assemblies of the current constituent assembly, were reconciled when the separate governments themselves were merged after the sudden death of Arthur Griffith, President of Dáil Éireann, and the assassination of Michael Collins, Chairman of the Provisional Government, within one week of each other, and W. T. Cosgrave succeeded to both positions.[6] This produced a unique constitutional hybrid; a crown-empowered prime minister who was also president of a republic. Amid all the confusion of the status of parliaments and prime ministerial titles, the ambiguous combination of monarchy and republicanism in Cosgrave's office was accepted by both political theories.

Enactment of the Constitution – two systems become oneEdit

The Constitution of the Irish Free State provided, within its own articles, that it would not come into effect until it had been adopted by both the British Parliament and the Third Dáil, which it referred to as the "constituent assembly". The Third Dáil adopted the Constitution of the Irish Free State on 25 October 1922. The document was then enacted by the British Parliament by the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 and came into force on 6 December. Under British law, the term Dáil was legitimate only after the establishment of the Irish Free State. The new constitution used the name Dáil Éireann for the lower house of a new parliament called the Oireachtas. However it provided that until the first elections to this new lower house the "constituent assembly" would exercise "all the powers and authorities" conferred on the 'new' Dáil Éireann. The Third Dáil therefore functioned as a legislative lower house from December 1922 until it was dissolved on 9 August 1923 to enable the 1923 general election to be held. The Fourth Dáil, the first Dáil Éireann of the Irish Free State, was convened one month later in September. The numbering system of Dála uses Irish political theory rather than the recognition of the Dáil under British law.

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ Dail Debate, "NATIONAL COALITION PANEL JOINT STATEMENT." 20 May 1922 (downloaded 11 Feb 2019)
  2. ^ Anglo-Irish Treaty, Article 11.
  3. ^ Irish Free State (Agreement) Act 1922
  4. ^ "Dáil Éireann debate (3rd Dáil) - PROCLAMATIONS. - SUMMONING AND PROROGUING OF PARLIAMENT". Oireachtas. 9 September 1922. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  5. ^ "Dáil Éireann debate (3rd Dáil) - STANDING ORDERS COMMITTEE". Oireachtas. 9 September 1922. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  6. ^ Cosgrave, like Griffith, used the title President of Dáil Éireann, rather than the term President of the Republic which had been adopted by an amendment to the Dáil Constitution in August 1921.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit