First Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The First Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was effected by the First Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1939, and signed into law on 2 September 1939. Its purpose was to extend the constitutional definition of "time of war" to include a period during which a war is occurring in which the state is not a direct participant. It was passed the day after Germany invaded Poland, and it allowed the government to exercise emergency powers during World War II (known in Ireland as The Emergency), despite the fact that the state was neutral. The amendment means that the state may exercise these powers in such circumstances provided the Oireachtas (parliament) declares a "national emergency".

Changes to the text[edit]

Addition to Article 28.3.3° (added text in bold):

3° Nothing in this Constitution shall be invoked to invalidate any law enacted by the Oireachtas which is expressed to be for the purpose of securing the public safety and the preservation of the State in time of war or armed rebellion, or to nullify any act done or purporting to be done in pursuance of any such law. In this sub-section ‘time of war’ includes a time when there is taking place an armed conflict in which the State is not a participant but in respect of which each of the Houses of the Oireachtas shall have resolved that, arising out of such armed conflict, a national emergency exists affecting the vital interests of the State.

Irish text[edit]

The First Amendment was passed in the English language only. This created a constitutional difficulty, as the Irish text of the Constitution has legal precedence. This was addressed by the Second Amendment, passed in 1941, which included in its provisions, at Reference No. 21, the Irish language text of the First Amendment.[1]

Background[edit]

Article 28.3.3° of the Constitution grants the state sweeping powers during a time of emergency but, in the form in which the article was adopted in 1937, these could only be invoked during a "time of war or armed rebellion". The First Amendment clarified that "time of war" need not mean a war in which the state is actually taking part.

The amendment was introduced by the Fianna Fáil government of Éamon de Valera. Unlike later amendments the First and Second Amendments were not submitted to a referendum because, under the terms of Article 51, one of the Transitory Provisions of the Constitution, from 1939 to 1941, the Constitution could be amended by a vote of the Oireachtas alone.

Legislation[edit]

The Emergency Powers Act 1939 was passed and signed on the same day as the First Amendment. Further Acts were passed over the course of the Second World War. The Emergency Powers Act 1976 was passed in response to The Troubles.

Later amendments[edit]

Article 28.3.3° was amended on two further occasions. The Second Amendment, passed in 1941, also under Article 51, clarified that emergency provisions must be within the time of war or armed rebellion itself, and added a clause at the end of the last sentence, specifying that a "time of war" could extend beyond the termination of hostilities. The Twenty-first Amendment, passed in 2001, prohibited the use of the death penalty, and provided that it could not be applied in a time of war. These later changes are highlighted in bold:

3° Nothing in this Constitution other than Article 15.5.2° shall be invoked to invalidate any law enacted by the Oireachtas which is expressed to be for the purpose of securing the public safety and the preservation of the State in time of war or armed rebellion, or to nullify any act done or purporting to be done in time of war or armed rebellion in pursuance of any such law. In this subsection "time of war" includes a time when there is taking place an armed conflict in which the State is not a participant but in respect of which each of the Houses of the Oireachtas shall have resolved that, arising out of such armed conflict, a national emergency exists affecting the vital interests of the State and "time of war or armed rebellion" includes such time after the termination of any war, or of any such armed conflict as aforesaid, or of an armed rebellion, as may elapse until each of the Houses of the Oireachtas shall have resolved that the national emergency occasioned by such war, armed conflict, or armed rebellion has ceased to exist.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gerard Hogan and Gerry Whyte, J. M. Kelly: The Irish Constitution, 4th ed., Tottel Publishing, 2003, p. 396.

Oireachtas debates[edit]

House 1st stage 2nd stage Committee and Final stage
Dáil 2 Sept 1939 2 Sept 1939 2 Sept 1939
Seanad 2 Sept 1939 2 Sept 1939

Legislation[edit]