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In the Irish Free State, an extern minister, formally a Minister who shall not be a Member of the Executive Council, was a minister who had charge of a department but was not a member of the Executive Council. Extern ministers were individually appointed by Dáil Éireann, whereas the Executive Council comprised Ministers of the Crown appointed by the Governor-General. The Executive Council included the senior ministers and exercised cabinet collective responsibility, while the extern ministers filled more junior technocratic roles. In practice, all ministers formed a united administration, and no extern ministers were appointed after 1929.
The idea of extern ministers was first mooted as a way of placating Anti-Treaty Irish republicans. It would have allowed them from outside the Oireachtas to hold ministries without having to take the mandatory Oath of Allegiance required of members of both houses. However British objections to the proposal led to the toning down of the posts, with they being made appointees of the Governor-General to bring them into the monarchical symbolism prevalent in the final version of the Irish Free State Constitution enacted in both the Irish and British parliaments.
Nevertheless, as introduced, it still was hoped that extern ministers might be independent non-party figures, possibly non-politicians, who were not even members of Oireachtas Éireann. The Third Dáil as a constituent assembly passed a resolution on 6 October 1922 which stated in part:
- That this House approves as a general principle, of the proposal that certain Ministers who shall not be members of the Executive Council, nominated by the Dáil, and individually responsible to the Dáil alone for the departments respectively under their charge, need not be members of the Dáil
According to Article 55 of the constitution:
- Ministers who shall not be members of the Executive Council may be appointed by the Representative of the Crown, and shall comply with the provisions of Article 17 of this Constitution. Every such Minister shall be nominated by Dáil Éireann on the recommendation of a Committee of Dáil Éireann chosen by a method to be determined by Dáil Éireann, so as to be impartially representative of Dáil Éireann. Should a recommendation not be acceptable to Dáil Éireann, the Committee may continue to recommend names until one is found acceptable. The total number of Ministers including the Ministers of the Executive Council, shall not exceed twelve.
Abandonment of the innovation
However the concept of Extern Ministers never took off. While a few isolated Extern Ministers were appointed in the early years of the Free State, they were in reality part of the Cumann na nGaedheal government rather than independent of it. Nor were they chosen from outside the Dáil but were TDs. By 1927 the idea of having Extern Ministers was quietly dropped. The Constitution (Amendment No. 15) Act, 1929 increased the maximum size of the Executive Council from seven to twelve. Thereafter, since twelve was the maximum total number of Ministers, there was no point in a TD being an Extern Minister rather than a member of the Executive Council.
- "[Dáil] Committee selected to make recommendations as to Ministers who shall not be Members of the Executive Council". Committee Reports. Oireachtas. 1922. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
- "Report - Executive Articles of Constitution of Saorstát Eireann Bill". Committee Reports. Oireachtas. 10 October 1922. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
- "Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) Act, 1922". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
- "Constitution (Amendment No. 15) Act, 1929". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 21 September 2014.