Ireland Act 1949

Ireland Act 1949

Infobox UK Legislation
short_title= Ireland Act 1949
parliament=Parliament of the United Kingdom
long_title=An Act to recognise and declare the constitutional position as to the part of Ireland heretofore known as Eire, and to make provision as to the name by which it may be known and the manner in which the law is to apply in relation to it...
statute_book_chapter=c. 41 12 and 13 Geo 6
territorial_extent=England and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland
royal_assent=2 June 1949
commencement=18 April 1949
amendments=Representation of the People Act 1949
Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964
Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 British Nationality Act 1981
The Ireland Act 1949 is a British Act of Parliament which 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 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 of Ireland, continued to be head of state, but by the 1936, systematic attempts to remove references to the monarch from Irish constitutional law meant that the only function remaining to the crown were:

* sign Letters of Credence accrediting Irish ambassadors to other states; and
* sign 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 unexpectedly in 1948, during a visit to Canada, Taoiseach John A. Costello announced that Ireland was to be declared a republic. The spur for this sudden and unexpected declaration was a reportedFact|date=August 2008 diplomatic spat involving symbols of British rule Ireland and a break from agreed protocol regarding toasts to the king (which Canada and Ireland shared). The Act that followed, on Costello's return to Ireland abolished 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. This effectively removed Ireland from the realm of British crown causing uncertainty with regard Northern Ireland (which fell under the same realm as the King of Ireland) and removing Irish men and women as subjects of the British monarch and thus their right to live and work in the United Kingdom.


The main provision of the British Parliament's Ireland Act 1949 was the acceptance that the declaration of a Republic of Ireland had meant that that state had "ceased to be part...of His Majesty's dominions" and thereby left the Commonwealth of Nations. However the Act also declared that the Republic of Ireland was "not a foreign country for the purposes of any law" in the United Kingdom and its territories. An additional provision stated that the term "Republic of Ireland" could be substituted for "Eire"(sic) in the UK. These provisions still have the force of law. [ Details, section 3(3)]

The Act also clarified the status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, giving a statutory guarantee that Northern Ireland (including every part of it) would remain part of the United Kingdom so long as the Parliament of Northern Ireland so desired. This was the first such legal guarantee given to the region.


The main reason for the Ireland Act was that as the Republic of Ireland had broken all constitutional links with the Crown it was necessary to ensure, from a British perspective, that the citizens of Ireland did not lose certain rights within the UK; other indirect results are that Irish citizens resident in the UK retained the right to vote in all elections and to stand as candidates and can hold certain public offices in which citizenship rules apply including the judiciary and police. Post-World War II reconstruction in Britain relied on Irish, and other Commonwealth citizens, contributing to the economic reconstruction and placing any barriers to immigration at this time was not a business or political optionFact|date=December 2007.

The Act also created outrage in the Republic of Ireland, as its Northern Ireland provisions gave that region a status which it previously did not have. Because Northern Ireland had a unionist majority, the guarantee that Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK unless the Belfast parliament resolved otherwise copper-fastened the so-called "unionist veto" in British law. The Irish parliament called for a [ Protest Against Partition] as a result. This was the first and last cross-party declaration against partition by the Irish parliament. The revival of an Irish Republican Army in the early 1950s has been attributed by Irish journalist and popular historian Tim Pat Coogan to the strength of popular feeling among nationalists on both sides of the border against the Act.

Citizenship of the UK & Colonies

In general, a person born in what was Southern Ireland while it was part of the United Kingdom before 6 December 1922 was not granted "Citizenship of the UK & Colonies" by the British Nationality Act 1948 unless such a person had a UK & Colonies born father (based on 1949 frontiers).

In order to acquire "Citizenship of the UK and Colonies" such persons were expected to reside in the United Kingdom or a Crown Colony and acquire UK citizenship by registration or declaration.

Section 5 of the Ireland Act provided for acquisition of UK citizenship upon some British subjects who had left what became the Republic of Ireland before it ceased to be part of the United Kingdom. Such persons generally became British citizens on 1 January 1983. See History of British nationality law

Persons not qualifying for this concession were nevertheless able to reclaim their British subject status under section 2 of the 1948 Act. This was later re-enacted as section 31 of the British Nationality Act 1981 and remains in effect as of 2006.

External links

* [ Partly innacurate scanned copy of the Ireland Act as originally enacted in 1949]
* [ Partial text of the Act, incorporating amendments to late 2004]

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