Irish House of Lords
Irish House of Lords
|Disbanded||31 December 1800|
|Succeeded by||House of Lords of the United Kingdom|
The Earl of Clare1 (1789–1801)
Length of term
|Ennoblement by the monarch or inheritance of a peerage|
|Lords Chamber, Parliament House, Dublin|
Parliament of Great Britain
The Irish House of Lords was the upper house of the Parliament of Ireland that existed from medieval times until 1800. It was modelled on the House of Lords of England, with members of the Peerage of Ireland sitting in the Irish Lords, just as members of the Peerage of England did at Westminster. When the Act of Union 1800 abolished the Irish parliament, a subset of Irish peers sat in the House of Lords of the merged Parliament of the United Kingdom.
The Lords started as a group of barons in the Lordship of Ireland that was generally limited to the Pale, a variable area around Dublin where English law was in effect, but did extend to the rest of Ireland. They sat as a group, not as a separate House, from the first meeting of the Parliament of Ireland in 1297. From the establishment of the Kingdom of Ireland in 1542 the Lords included a large number of new Gaelic and Norman lords under the policy of surrender and regrant.
Religious division was reflected in the House, but as late as the 1689 "Patriot Parliament" a majority of Lords had remained Roman Catholics, while the administration and a slight majority in the Commons were Church of England. By 1632 the (Catholic) Lord Baltimore established colonies in Newfoundland and Maryland. In 1634 the campaign to secure "The Graces" came to a head. Most of these Catholic lords lost their titles in the ensuing 1641 rebellion, notably during the 1652 Cromwellian Settlement. These dispossessed lords were regranted their titles (if not always their lands) after the Restoration of 1660 by the Act of Settlement 1662. Others took the losing side in the Williamite War in Ireland (1689–91), and a much smaller number of them were re-granted their lands in the 18th century.
By the 1790s most of the Lords personified and wanted to protect the "Protestant Ascendancy". By the time of its abolition in 1800 some of the peerages were very ancient, such as the lords Kingsale, created in 1397, and the viscounts Gormanston from 1478. The first Earl of Kildare had been created in 1316.
Following the Act of Union in 1800, the peerage of Ireland elected just 28 of their number to sit in the United Kingdom House of Lords, described as the "representative peers". This practice ended in 1922 with the establishment of the Irish Free State. Other newly created Irish peers, such as Clive of India and Lord Curzon, were able to stand for election to the UK House of Commons (not being UK Peers) if they were not a Representative Peer. This was a convenient way of giving a title for reasons of prestige to someone who expected to sit in the British House of Commons.
The Parliament of Ireland was a bicameral legislature, and bills could originate in either the Commons or the Lords; both had to pass a bill for it to stand a chance of becoming law. Either house could amend or reject the others' proposals. Under Poynings' Law, matters passed by the Irish parliament had to be approved and could be amended by the Irish Privy Council and English Privy Council; main debates before this stage were thus technically on "heads of bills". Following approval the Parliament of Ireland voted on the formal finalised "bill" (which could only be rejected or passed unamended).
The Lords was the highest court of appeal in Ireland, as the English (later British) Lords were in England. However, the controversial British Declaratory Act of 1719 asserted the right of the British Lords to overrule the Irish Lords. The Irish Patriot Party secured the repeal of the Declaratory Act as part of the Constitution of 1782.
The House of Lords was presided over by the Lord Chancellor, who sat on the woolsack, a large seat stuffed with wool from each of the three lands of England, Ireland and Scotland. At the state opening of the Irish parliament Members of Parliament were summoned to the House of Lords from the House of Commons chamber by Black Rod, a royal official who would "command the members on behalf of His Excellency to attend him in the chamber of peers". Sessions were formally opened by the Speech from the Throne by the Lord Lieutenant, who sat on the throne beneath a canopy of crimson velvet.
William III's victory over James II/VII
The Battle of the Boyne tapestry that hangs in the Lords chamber
- James, F. G. (23 May 1979). "The Active Irish Peers in the Early Eighteenth Century". Journal of British Studies. 18 (2): 52–69 – via JSTOR.
- E.M. Johnson-Liik History of the Irish parliament in 6 vols. (Belfast, 2002).