Poynings' Law or the Statute of Drogheda (
10 Hen.7 c.4 [The Irish
Statutes numbering] or
10 Hen.7 c.9 [Analecta Hibernica numbering];
later titled "An Act that no Parliament be holden in this Land until
the Acts be certified into England") was a 1494 Act of the Parliament
Ireland which provided that the parliament could not meet until its
proposed legislation had been approved both by Ireland's Lord Deputy
and Privy Council and by England's monarch and Privy Council. It was a
major grievance in 18th-century Ireland, was amended by the
Constitution of 1782, rendered moot by the Acts of Union 1800, and
repealed by the Statute Law Revision (Ireland) Act, 1878.
1 Ambiguous name
3 Function and operation
4 Changes after 1692
4.1 Heads of bills
5 Amendment and repeal
The name "Poynings' Law" is ambiguous; it may refer to:
the complete statute or set of statutes passed by Poynings'
Parliament of Ireland
Parliament of Ireland summoned by Sir Edward Poynings
that met at
Drogheda in 1494–1495 (a time period referred to as 10
Hen.7; i.e. the 10th regnal year of king Henry VII of England)
in particular, either of two chapters (in modern parlance, Acts of
Parliament) giving the
Kingdom of England
Kingdom of England legislative power over
Ireland. An additional confusion is that the chapter numbers vary
between different sources; The Irish Statutes has smaller numbers than
Analecta Hibernica. The two chapters are:
chapter 4 / 9 (
10 Hen.7 c.4 /
10 Hen.7 c.9; later titled "An Act that
no Parliament be holden in this Land until the Acts be certified into
England") the usual meaning for historians, and the one used in this
chapter 22 / 39 (
10 Hen.7 c.22 /
10 Hen.7 c.39; later titled "An Act
confirming all the Statutes made in England") which gave all statutes
"late made" by the
Parliament of England
Parliament of England the force of law in Ireland.
This statute has two short titles:
Poynings' Law in Northern Ireland, where it remains in force.
Poynings' Act, 1495 in the Republic of Ireland, where it was
repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 2007, without thereby
repealing the English statutes it referred to, a few of which remain
Poynings' Parliament was called by Sir
Edward Poynings in his capacity
as Lord Deputy of Ireland, appointed by King
Henry VII of England
Henry VII of England in
his capacity as Lord of Ireland. Coming in the aftermath of the
divisive Wars of the Roses, Poynings' intention was to make Ireland
once again obedient to the English monarchy. Assembling the Parliament
on 1 December 1494, he declared that the
Parliament of Ireland
Parliament of Ireland was
thereafter to be placed under the authority of the Parliament of
England. This marked the beginning of Tudor direct rule in Ireland,
although Henry VII was still forced to rely on Old English nobles
(such as Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, despite his support
for Lambert Simnel) as his deputies in
Ireland through the intervening
Poynings' Law was a major rallying point for later groups
seeking self-government for Ireland, particularly the Confederate
Catholics in the 1640s and Henry Grattan's Patriot Party in the late
18th century, who consistently sought a repeal of Poynings' Law. The
Act remained in place until the
Constitution of 1782
Constitution of 1782 gave the Irish
parliament legislative independence.
Function and operation
The working of
Poynings' Law took place in several steps. The first
step was for the lieutenant governor and the Irish council (or Irish
executive) to decide that a parliament was needed, usually for the
purpose of raising funds. At this point the council and lieutenant
would write drafts of legislation to be proposed to the king and his
council. After this had been completed, the lieutenant and council,
according to the act, were required to certify the request for
parliament "under the great seal of that land [Ireland],” and
then forward it to England for approval. Once the request arrived in
England, it was reviewed by the King and his council, and a formal
licence, approving the request for parliament and the draft bills were
returned to Ireland. Once the licence was received in Ireland, the
governor would summon parliament, and the bills passed. It is
important to note that "government was not in the modern sense
representative, and there was no sustained opposition. Parliament's
consent was necessary for some purposes, and it frequently offered
advice, but the decisions were made by the English and Irish
councils". This is an important fact to consider when examining
exactly who the law was aimed to suppress. As the point above
demonstrates, parliament was virtually a rubber stamp, and it was the
Irish executive who made the actual decisions in proposing policy.
The two important aspects of the procedure presented by Poynings' Law
are transmission and certification. Both of these requirements placed
limits on various parties within the law making process in Ireland.
The combination of these processes created a situation where bills
could be sent, along with the request for parliament, and the king
could amend and remove such bills as he wished, however he could not
add new bills himself. This is a result of the certification process
which requires the submission to be made by the Irish council "under
the great seal of that land [Ireland]". The original intention of
the certification process was to remove the capacity of initiating
legislation from the parliament, and place it with the Irish council
and governor. But as a result of the way it was framed in the act,
it also removed that capacity from the English parliament and
administration as well because legislation could only be submitted for
approval by the Irish executive.
Furthermore, the two processes made it impossible for the Irish to add
more bills or amendments to a request, after the initial licence
request had been granted. This meant that any additional bills or
amendments that they wished to pass in parliament would have to be
re-sent along with an entirely new request for parliament. Clearly
this created severe inefficiencies in the legislative process, and
thus gave the executive in
Ireland as well as the crown an interest in
relaxing procedure. As early as 1496 "the rigid procedure laid down by
Poynings' Law was not being adhered to" and additional bills were
commonly sent to England after the original request, and were returned
Ireland before the meeting of a new parliament. The example from
1496 was the separate request for parliamentary licence and sending of
bills in the reappointment of the earl of Kildare. At this time,
because the rigid procedure of
Poynings' Law was not in the interest
of any of the parties involved, especially the crown and Irish
executive, Quinn argues that "no hesitation was felt about
transmitting additional bills" after the licence had been granted.
Changes after 1692
After the Revolution of 1688 and the ensuing Williamite War, an
important development in the
Poynings' Law procedure took place in the
1692 parliament as some members of the
Irish House of Commons
Irish House of Commons sought
to establish for themselves a more central role in the process of
drafting legislature. On 27 October 1692, the House of Commons passed
two notable resolutions. The first, 'that it was, and is, the
undoubted right of the commons… to prepare and resolve the ways and
means of raising money' and the second, 'that it was, and is, the sole
and undoubted right of the commons to prepare heads of bills for
raising money'. Opposition to the executive was then expressed as
the Commons used its veto power under
Poynings' Law to reject
'virtually two-thirds of the meticulously prepared government
bills'. Political deadlock ensued and parliament was prorogued.
Although judicial opinion in both
Ireland and England served to
vindicate the position of the
Lord Lieutenant and the English
Government in the matter, it became clear that a compromise solution
must be reached before parliament could be called again. From mid-1694
negotiations to this end began to bear fruit. The Irish parliament
would pass one government money bill relating to excise at the
beginning of the session in recognition of the royal prerogative. The
parliament would now appoint a committee to decide upon the 'ways and
means' of raising supply and draw up the 'heads of bills' of any
related legislation. Government support of penal legislation against
Catholics also helped placate the claims of the 'sole right'
advocates. The compromise solution was put into effect in the 1695
parliament and all fourteen government bills presented in the first
session were passed by both houses. Now the
Irish House of Commons
Irish House of Commons had
major input into the substance, or 'heads', of supply bills that would
then be transmitted to the English Privy Council for approval,
amendment or rejection under the
Poynings' Law procedure. This set the
precedent for the parliaments of the eighteenth century.
Heads of bills
Whereas an independent legislature can amend a bill between the time
of its introduction and the time it is passed, this was not possible
for the Parliament of Ireland, as only the bill originally introduced
would be in compliance with the requirement under
Poynings' Law to
have been pre-approved by the privy councils. As a consequence, a
legal fiction developed after the Revolution of 1688 whereby the Irish
parliament introduced and debated the "heads" of a bill before
transmitting the heads to the Irish Privy Council. In theory, the
"heads" of a bill are simply its broad outline or general scheme; in
practice, they were identical in form to a final bill, and processed
identically, except that the enacting clause "be it enacted" was
replaced with "we pray that it may be enacted". On occasion, if
either privy council amended a bill, the Irish parliament would
symbolically assert its authority by rejecting the amended bill and
resubmitting heads of a new bill identical to the rejected one.
Amendment and repeal
Declaratory Act of 1719 declared the right of the Parliament of
Great Britain to make laws for
Ireland and overrule judgments of the
Irish House of Lords. The Declaratory Act and
Poynings' Law were two
major grievances of the
Irish Patriot Party
Irish Patriot Party addressed by the
Constitution of 1782. One element of the Constitution was Barry
Yelverton's Act, an implied amendment of
Poynings' Law which
removed the Irish Privy Council altogether from the legislative
process and reduced the British Privy Council's power to one of veto
rather than amendment. The
Acts of Union 1800
Acts of Union 1800 rendered most of the
Constitution of 1782
Constitution of 1782 and
Poynings' Law moot.
Poynings' Law was
formally repealed as obsolete by the Statute Law Revision (Ireland)
^ Baker, John Hamilton (2003). The Oxford History of the Laws of
England. VI: 1483-1558. Oxford University Press. p. 110.
ISBN 9780198258179. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
^ Haughey, Charles (15 February 1962). "Short Titles Bill,
1961—Second Stage". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas.
pp. Vol.193 c.266. Retrieved 6 November 2013. Poynings' Act is
one of a series of Acts passed by the Parliament convened by Sir
Edward Poynings, Lord Deputy, at
Drogheda in 1494-5. This Parliament
was called to assist the Lord Deputy in his task of reducing Ireland
to “whole and perfect obedience”. The terms “Poynings' Law”
and “Poynings' Act” have been employed ambiguously both by
historians and lawyers. Sometimes they are applied to the whole series
of statutes passed at that Parliament, sometimes to one of those
statutes—Chapter 4 of 10 Henry 7 (Ireland)—which provided that no
Irish Parliament was to be held until the proposed legislation had
been sent by the Lieutenant and the Irish Council to the English
Council and returned under the English great seal; at other times,
they are used to indicate the statute Chapter 22 of 10 Henry 7
(Ireland). The latter is the statute to which the present Bill refers
and to which the short title “Poynings' Act, 1495”, is assigned,
putting an end to the ambiguity so far as legal usage [in the Republic
of Ireland] is concerned.
^ The Irish Statutes: 3 Edward II to the Union, AD 1310-1800. Round
Hall Press. 1995 . p. 761. ISBN 9781858000442.
Retrieved 13 March 2015.
^ Short Titles Act (Northern Ireland) 1951
^ Text of the
Poynings' Law 1495 (c.22) as in force today (including
any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk
^ Short Titles Act 1962
^ "Seanad debates". 1 May 2007. p. 7.
^ a b Curtis & McDowell 1968, p. 83.
^ Quinn 1941, p. 245.
^ Ellis 1985, p. 78.
^ Bradshaw 1979, p. 150.
^ Quinn 1941, p. 246.
^ Quinn 1941, p. 250.
^ Quinn 1941, p. 247.
^ McGrath 2000, p. 85.
^ Bartlett & Hayton 1979, p. 21.
^ McGrath 2000, p. 96.
^ "Parliament". The Standard Library Cyclopaedia of Political,
Constitutional, Statistical and Forensic Knowledge. 4. H.G. Bohn.
1853. p. 477.
^ 21&22 George III c.47
The Statutes at Large, passed in the Parliaments held in Ireland.
Vol.1: From the third year of Edward the Second, A.D. 1310, to the
eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth years of James the First, A.D. 1612,
inclusive. Boulter Grierson. 1765. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
(Where two chapters are given, the first is the printed number, the
second the enrolled number.)
10 Hen.7 c.4 (c.9) (p. 44)
10 Hen.7 c.22 (c.39) (pp. 56–57)
28 Hen.8 c.4 (pp. 89–90)
28 Hen.8 c.20 (c.31) (pp. 157–159)
3 & 4 Ph. & M. c.4 (c.11) (pp. 246–248)
11 Eliz.1 sess.3 c.8 (c.18) (pp. 346–347)
Irish Statute Book
Statute Law Revision (Ireland) Act, 1878
Short Titles Act, 1962
Statute Law Revision Act 2007
Bartlett, Thomas; Hayton, David, eds. (1979), Penal Era and Golden
Age, Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation,
ISBN 0-901905-23-2 .
Bradshaw, Brendan (1979), The Irish Constitutional Revolution of the
Sixteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
ISBN 0-521-22206-0 .
Curtis, E.; McDowell, R. B., eds. (1968), "Poynings' Law", Irish
Historical Documents 1172–1922, London: Methuen & Company
Limited, p. 83 .
Ellis, Steven G. (1985), 'Tudor Ireland: Crown, Community and the
Conflict of Cultures 1470–1603, New York: Longman,
ISBN 0-582-49341-2 .
McGrath, Charles Ivar (2000), The Making of the Eighteenth Century
Irish Constitution, Dublin: Four Courts Press,
ISBN 1-85182-554-1 .
Pack, Mark (2001), "Charles James Fox, the Repeal of Poynings Law, and
the Act of Union: 1782–1801" (PDF), Journal of Liberal History,
Porritt, Edward; Porritt, Annie (1909). "Poynings' Law". The
Unreformed House of Commons; Parliamentary representation before 1832.
2: Scotland and Ireland. Cambridge University Press.
pp. 424–449. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
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1494–1534", Irish Historical Studies, 2 (7): 241–254,
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Major constitutional laws affecting Ireland
Poynings' Law (1495)
Ireland Act (1542)
Grattan's constitution (1782)
Act of Union (1800)
Roman Catholic Relief Act (1829)
Irish Church Act (1869)
Reform Acts: 1884 and 1918
Ireland Act (1920)
Statute of Westminster (1931)
Ireland Act (1949)
Northern Ireland Constitution Act (1973)
Northern Ireland Act (1998)
Dáil Constitution (1919)
Free State Constitution (1922)
Ministers and Secretaries Act (1924)
Courts of Justice Act (1924)
External Relations Act (1936)
Republic of Ireland
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Human Rights Act (2003)
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