Society of Ireland

1949 declaring a republic

The Ireland Act 1949 is a British Act of Parliament that was intended to deal with the consequences of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 as passed by the Irish parliament (Oireachtas). The Act is still largely in force but has been amended.

Following the secession of most of Ireland from the United Kingdom in 1922, the then created Irish Free State remained (for the purposes of British law)[1] a dominion of the British Empire and thus its people remained as British subjects with the right to live and work in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the Empire. The British monarch, as King in Ireland, continued to be head of state until the Statute of Westminster, 1931 granted the Irish Free State equal status with the United Kingdom and thereafter Ireland had its own monarchy in personal union with Britain and the other Dominions of the British Commonwealth (albeit with no distinct title, having the same title throughout the British Empire).[2] However, by 1936, systematic attempts to remove references to the monarch from Irish constitutional law meant that the only functions remaining to the Crown were: signing Letters of Credence accrediting Irish ambassadors to other states; and signing international treaties on Ireland's behalf. This status quo remained, with Ireland participating little in the British Commonwealth and Eamon de Valera remarking in 1945 that "we are a republic" in reply to the question if he planned to declare Ireland as a republic. Then somewhat unexpectedly in 1948, during a visit to Canada, Taoiseach John A. Costello announced that Ireland was to be declared a republic. The subsequent Irish legislation, the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 provided for the abolition of the last remaining functions of the King in relation to Ireland and provided that the President of Ireland may instead exercise these functions in the King's place. When the Act came into force on 18 April 1949, it effectively ended Ireland's status as a British dominion. As a consequence of this, it also had the effect of ending Ireland's membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the existing basis upon which Ireland and its citizens were treated in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries as "British subjects", not foreigners.



ESHSI, Department of Modern History, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland Contact: Membership Secretary