State and Public Sector Land

There is no automatic or presumed access to State or public sector land. The  State is in the same position as other landowners.

The State and public authorities are subject to the general laws of property and do not enjoy any special position. The State is the successor to the Crown since  1922 and has title to large areas of land.

The Crown may have acquired ownership by purchase, conquest or forfeiture. The State as successor to the Crown may continue to hold title to wasteland, which was never granted to anyone in the past.

Crown and State

Under English common law, which applied in Ireland, all land was held of the King. In many cases, the Crown acquired ownership by conquest or forfeiture. The King was the residual owner.

Throughout most of the Island, lands were granted by the King from the 12th Century. In 1530-40 many Gaelic chiefs surrendered their lands and were regranted them by the King. Lords and others might, in turn grant lands to others.

In many cases in Ireland, lands were forfeited after rebellions and reverted back to the Crown. A lot of dubious machinations occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries in relation to titles.

Acquisitions and OPW

Much land was acquired by the State at various times by acquisition by agreement or compulsorily. Various entities or bodies comprised public administration over the centuries. Those bodies were reorganised numerous times, and their assets and lands were transferred.

The Commissioners for Public Works in Ireland were established in 1831. In 1869 they were incorporated for the purpose of holding lands. They have continued to this day as the Office of Public Works, a branch of the Department of Finance in which much State property is vested.

1922 & 1937 Constituton

Under the Irish Free State Constitution, all lands and waters, mines and minerals within the territory of the Irish Free State became vested in the State, boards and departments thereof, subject to such grants, leases, trusts and concessions as existed in respect thereof or of any valid private interest.

This effectively vested all land which was the property of the Crown in the Irish Free State or in any department to hold the same.

In many cases, land may be vested in state bodies which no longer exist. In most cases, the functions and assets of one body, which ceased to exist, were transferred to another.

Article 10 of the Irish Constitution 1937 provides that land vested in the Irish Free State became vested in the State, Ireland. The State Property Act 1954 deemed State land to be land which belongs to the state or a state authority. The legislation vested  State land, which was not immediately before the Act not vested in the State, in the Minister for Finance.


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