Statutes in Force

The statute law of Ireland comprises the following:

  • Acts of the Oireachtas established under the 1937 Constitution
  • Acts of the Oireachtas established under the 1922 Constitution
  • Statutes of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801 -1922) which  applied to Ireland;
  • Statutes of Irish Parliaments passed prior to the Union  with Great Britain in 1801;
  • Statutes of the Parliaments of England and Great Britain which were extended to Ireland by legislation of the Irish Parliament or the Parliament of the United Kingdom;
  • Statutes of Parliaments of England applies to Ireland by writ of mandate from the Norman Conquest through to Poynings\’ Law;
  • Statutes of Parliaments of England applied to Ireland by Poynings\’ Law (1485);
  • Statutes of Parliaments of England and Great Britain applied to Ireland under various Acts.

The pre-Union Irish  Statutes were published in 20 volumes in the early 19th century. A revised edition of the Irish Statutes was published as a single volume, the Irish statutes, 1310 to 1800 by the Stationery Office in 1885.  This was re-published within the last 20 years.  Very few statutes of importance of the Irish Parliaments remain in force.

Statutes passed by the United Kingdom parliament between 1800 and 1922 potentially applied volumes.  Statutes might be common to the whole of the United Kingdom. In some cases, they applied a part only of the UK, such as Ireland, England and Wales or Scotland.  The United Kingdom Statutes have been published in annual volumes for over two Centuries. Revised Statues in classified or multi-annual volumes have been published from time to time.

There is no comprehensive collection of pre-1922 Irish Statutes available.  A significant number of statutes still in force, comprising approximately a fifth of all legislation in force, was made by the United Kingdom Parliament. A smaller proportion pre-date 1801. The number of such Statutes in force has been reduced dramatically, by recent Statute Law Revisions Acts,

Statutes made since 1922 have been published in an annual volume of Public General Acts. Revised statutes (incorporating amendments) have not been published until very recently. This compared unfavourably, with the position with UK and Northern Ireland Statutes.

Unlike the case in Britain and Northern Ireland, the State has not published revised statutes or updated or amended statutes, until recently.  It is generally necessary to look at the original statutes and then apply the amendments.  In many cases, amendments are not straightforward as areas are adopted and restrained, for example, in particular institutions.

Therefore finding the current form of the statute may involve more than simply inserting words in amending act.  It may be necessary to refer to general legislation which for example on the reestablishment of a particular regulatory body deems all references to the predecessor body to refer to the successor body.

There is now provision for the publication of restated Statutes. There are now a growing number of formal and informal restatements which are hosted in the Law Reform Commission’s website.  See below.

A commercial series of annotated statutes, the Irish Current Law Statutes has been published (ultimately in annual volumes) since 1984.  It contains the text of statutes with commentary.

Revision and Restatement

Statute Law Revision Acts had been passed to tidy up the statute book.  The Statute Law Revisions Act 1962, 1983 and 2005 repealed numerous old acts which were redundant, spent or irrelevant.  The Statute Law Revision Act 2007 took a different approach. It followed a  review of all pre- 1922 public statutes. It repealed all Acts except those which it specifically continued in force. Over 1,064 acts were retained so that it is possible now to readily ascertain all-pre 1922 legislation in force.

The Statute Law Revision Act 2012 followed a review of Local and Personal Acts passed from 1851 to 1922 and Private Acts passed from 1751 to 1922. The Act repealed a large number of pre-1922 Local and Personal, and Private Acts of Ireland, England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom while preserving a shorter list of statutes that were deemed suitable for retention.  The 2012 Act followed from the Statute Law Revision Act 2009 which took the same approach to Local and Personal legislation pre-1850 and Private legislation pre-1750.

Restatement, Consolidation and Codification

The Statute Law (Restatement) Act 2002 allows the publication of restatements of Statute Law in both print and electronic forms. The attorney general may certify the text published to be a statement of law contained in the provision.  The Law Reform Commission has undertaken two programs of statutory restatements.  A significant number of statutes are now available in restated and consolidated form on the Law Reform Commission website.

Consolidation legislation has been passed from time to time to tidy up the law in a particular area into a single statute.  This is done from time to in respect of particularly large statutes, which are frequently amended. Some older Consolidating Acts have not been amended in over a century; the Customs Consolidation Act 1876 and the Merchant Shipping Act 1894.

Tax and Social Welfare Acts are amended annually so that it quickly becomes difficult to work out the current law. The Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax Acts were consolidated by the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. The Capital Acquisitions Acts was consolidated in 2003 The Stamp Duties Act was consolidated, 109 after the previous consolidation in 1999. The Social Welfare Acts have been consolidated in a number of occasions including 1981, 1993 and 2005.

Some legislation seeks to codify pre-existing law. In the latter part of the Nineteenth Century, a number of important statutes codified the existing law. The Partnership Act 1890 and Sale of Goods Act 1893 and the Marine Insurance Act attempted to codify the existing common law. The Bill of Exchange Acts 1882 sought to codify existing Statute law.

In more modern times, some reforms of criminal legislation have sought to abolish existing common law and modernise the law in particular areas, in a single updating statute.  The Criminal Damage Act 1991, the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997, Criminal Justice, (Theft and Fraud) Act 2001 and the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 are examples of recent criminal statutes which have codified the law in certain areas.

An expert group on the codification of the Criminal Law was established under the Criminal Justice Act 2006. The group oversees the development of a program of codification of criminal law. The Companies Consolidation Bill seeks to codify and consolidate the existing law. It has been the product of an advisory committee.   The Local Government Act. 2001 evolved from a similar process of consultation provided for by earlier statutes.

Statutory Instruments

The volume of statutory instruments greatly exceeds that of statutes. The ratio of statutory instruments to statutes is of the order in 15 to 1, numerically, somewhat less in quantity terms.

A wide variety of authorities make statutory instruments under primary legislation. The majority of statutory instruments are made by Government Departments / Ministers.  Others are made by local authorities, boards, semi-state bodies, and other designated entities, which are expert in a particular area or represent particular interests.

The Statutory Instruments Act 1947 defines statutory instruments as all orders, regulations, rules, schemes and bylaws made in pursuance of statutory power.  The Act requires that most statutory instruments are printed and published. They must be deposited in certain designated libraries. Notice of their publication must be given in Iris Oifigiúil. The statutory instruments are published electronically in the Irish Statute Book, together with statutes.

Many statutory instruments are laid before the houses of the Oireachtas, where they affect the public. Since 2012, this is dome electronically/  The Oireachtas can, but rarely does, annul them by resolution. Oireachtas Committees may consider statutory instruments.

Index to Legislation

There were considerable difficulties in securing access to Irish Legislation until the advent of the Internet and information technology. Post-1922 legislation, both statutes and statute instruments, were published in CD-ROM format in 1997.  At the same time, the Attorney General\’s Office published the same legislation on the web.

The Attorney General’s Office now publishes the Irish Statute Book, which comprises all post-independence Statutes and Statutory Instruments. It includes a Directory of legislation showing repeals and amendments to both pre-1922 and post-1922 statutes. The statutory index on-line is kept relatively up-to-date and generally shows the status of repeals and amendments up to a point, some months earlier.

A hardcopy of the Index to the Statutes has been published periodically since the late Nineteenth Century. They have been republished from time to time, most recently in 1975, 1982 and 1995. An annual index was incorporated at the end of the annual volumes of statutes. Short supplements were sometimes published covering periods of one or more years between Indexes.

The hard copy Index of the Statutes comprises of the following:

  • Chronological table of statutes from 1922 to date with a note of the repeals or amendments, effected by later legislation;
  • List of orders made under the Ministers and Secretaries Act transferring powers on the reorganisation of Government Departments, typically on change of government;
  • Chronological list of regulations made under the  European Communities Act;
  • Chronological list of pre-1922 statutes affected by post-1922 statutes. The latest edition of the Index in the Irish Statute Book has incorporated a note of the effect of pre-1922 statutes on pre-1922 statutes;
  • List of statutes adapted by the Adaptation of Enactments Act, 1922 and the Constitution (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1937;
  • Regulation made under the European Communities Acts

Index to Statutory Instruments

Indexes to the Statutory Instruments were published approximately every 10 years until the mid-1990s. There were seven periodic volumes of statutory instruments indexes published before 1986.  They are divided into two main parts.  The first gives an alphabetical list of statutes and statutory instruments thereunder.  The second gives an alphabetical list of instruments each year.

A private publication, by Richard Humphreys, published a comprehensive three-volume  Index of the Statutes Instruments in 1986.  It included a table of statutory instruments listing statutory instruments alphabetically and chronologically within that classification, a table with reference to the primary statute under which the instrument was made and a subject-matter index.

The first volume is an Index of statutory instruments. It shows statutory instruments in force as of 1986 in bold.  The second volume is an alphabetical list of Enabling Act, with statutory instruments made thereunder.  The third volume is a subject-matter index.  The last Stationary office published an Index covering the period 1987 -1995.

An index of statutory instruments from 2000 forward has been incorporated in the on-line Irish Statute Book.  It is expected that over time, the statute law database will be expanded to provide a comprehensive index of the statutory instruments.  The task is immense, given the sheer quantity of statutory instruments published since 1922.

A very small number of pre-1922 statutory instruments continue in forward.  There is no comprehensive index.  Statutory instruments in the modern form developed from the end of the 19th century.  The statutory rules were published at that time, and annual statutory rules books with indexes were published after that (relevant until 6th December 1922. ). They are available in a small number of libraries.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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