Speaker of the Irish House of Commons

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The Irish House of Commons in session under Speaker Pery.

The Speaker of the Irish House of Commons was the presiding officer of the Irish House of Commons until its disestablishment in 1800.

In the absence of a government chosen from and answerable to the Commons, the Speaker was the dominant political figure in the Parliament of Ireland. Unlike in modern British and Irish parliamentary practice, the Speaker was not expected to be politically impartial and several Speakers held government or Crown-appointed positions while also presiding over the Commons. Even so, the conduct of everyday business in the House was generally overseen with impartiality and fairness by all holders of the Speakership. The position was one of considerable power and prestige in Ireland, and the holder enjoyed high precedence as the first gentleman in Ireland.[1]

Speakers of the Commons were elected on the first day of the session of a new parliament, unless the sitting Speaker resigned his post.[2] Before the reign of Queen Anne elections to the chair were uncontested. However, the House increasingly reflected the virulent political divisions between Whig and Tory factions, and Alan Brodrick's second candidacy was contested in 1713. Further contested elections occurred in 1771, 1776 and 1790.

From 1771 the Speaker had a considerable degree of independence from the government of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, although the Speaker was regularly consulted on the executive's business. Speakers needed to have considerable wealth to carry out their conventional roles as sources of patronage in Ireland, and the Speaker was expected to host all Members of Parliament several times year. The Speaker held the casting vote when the House divided as primus inter pares..[3]

The position was abolished when the Parliament of Ireland was merged with that of Great Britain to form the Parliament of the United Kingdom following the Acts of Union 1800. The last Speaker was John Foster, who had been a vehement opponent of the Union while in the chair.

List of Speakers[edit]

Speaker Term of office Portrait Date(s) of election Constituency Notes Peerage
John Chevir 1450
Thomas Cusack 1541 1543
James Stanihurst 1557 1568 1557
1560
1568
Nicholas Walsh 1585 1586
John Davies 1613 1615 Fermanagh
Nathaniel Catelyn 1634 1635 Dublin City
Maurice Eustace 1640 1649 Athy
Audley Mervyn 1661 1661 Tyrone
John Temple 1661 1662 Carlow Borough
Audley Mervyn 1662 1666 Tyrone
Sir Richard Nagle 1689 1692 Cork County
Sir Richard Levinge, 1st Baronet 1692 1695 5 October 1692 Blessington
Robert Rochfort 1695 1703 Robert Rochfort.jpg 27 August 1695 Westmeath
Alan Brodrick (first term) 1703 1710 Alan Brodrick.jpg 21 September 1703 Westmeath Resigned after his appointment as Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench in 1710. Viscount Midleton
John Forster 1710 1713 19 May 1710 Dublin City
Alan Brodrick (second term) 1713 1714 Alan Brodrick.jpg 15 November 1713 Westmeath Viscount Midleton
William Conolly 1715 1729 WilliamConnolly.jpg 12 November 1715
28 November 1727
Londonderry County Also First Commissioner of the Revenue (Ireland).
Resigned on the grounds of ill health on 13 October 1729.
Sir Ralph Gore, 4th Baronet 1729 1733 13 October 1729 Clogher
Henry Boyle 1733 1756 Henry Boyle, 1st Earl of Shannon.jpg 4 October 1733 Cork County Also Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland.
Resigned having been granted an Irish peerage on 17 April 1756.
Earl of Shannon
Hon. John Ponsonby 1756 1771 JohnPonsonby.jpg 26 April 1756
22 October 1761
17 October 1769
Newtownards Also First Commissioner of the Revenue (Ireland).
Resigned following a political disagreement with Lord Townshend on 4 March 1771.
Edmund Pery 1771 1785 GILBERT(1896) p101 EDMOND SEXTON PERY - SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.jpg 7 March 1771
18 June 1776
14 October 1783
Limerick City Resigned on the grounds of ill health on 5 September 1785. Viscount Pery
John Foster 1785 1800 The Right Honorable John Foster by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1790-1791 - Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art - DSC09033.JPG 5 September 1785
2 July 1790
9 January 1798
Louth Last Speaker; position abolished under the Acts of Union 1800. Baron Oriel

References[edit]

  1. ^ E. M. Johnston-Liik, MPs in Dublin: Companion to History of the Irish Parliament, 1692-1800 (Ulster Historical Foundation, 2006), p.389-398 (Retrieved 24 October 2016).
  2. ^ E. M. Johnston-Liik, MPs in Dublin: Companion to History of the Irish Parliament, 1692-1800 (Ulster Historical Foundation, 2006), p.398 (Retrieved 24 October 2016).
  3. ^ E. M. Johnston-Liik, MPs in Dublin: Companion to History of the Irish Parliament, 1692-1800 (Ulster Historical Foundation, 2006), p.395 (Retrieved 24 October 2016).