Hester Swift, March 2012
About the author
This guide was updated by Hester Swift, Foreign & International Law Librarian at the IALS Library.
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Ireland is a unitary state covering twenty-six of the thirty-two counties that make up the island of Ireland; the remaining six counties form Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Ireland gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1922, at which time existing UK law was brought into Irish law. The constitutional name of the state from 1922 to 1937 was the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann). In 1937 the Irish Free State was abolished and the present Constitution came into effect: since then the name of the state has been Eire, or in the English language, Ireland.
Under the Constitution, the national parliament is called the Oireachtas (Assembly). It comprises the President and two chambers, the House of Representatives (Dáil Eireann) and the Senate (Seanad Eireann).
From 1922 to 1937, Irish (Gaelic) and English had equal status as official languages, but since 1937 Irish has been the first official language and English the second. In practice most official publications are in English, or bilingual.
Ireland joined the European Union in 1973 and adopted the Euro in 2002.
The Constitution of Ireland, or Bunreacht na hEireann, dates from 1937. Amendments are made by bills passed by the Oireachtas (Parliament), which become acts only if confirmed by referendum.The result of the referendum is published in the Iris Oifigiúil (official gazette).
The Constitution is available in English and Irish on the website of the Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister).
Consolidated amended editions of the Constitution are published periodically by Government Publications under the title Constitution of Ireland; IALS has the 2003 and 1951 editions. The Constitution is also reproduced in Kelly, The Irish Constitution (various editions held at IALS).
Statutes are published by the Irish official publisher, Government Publications, under the title Acts of the Oireachtas. IALS Library has the bound Acts of the Oireachtas from 1922 onwards, with indexes, plus individual unbound acts.
There is also an annotated set of acts, Irish Current Law Statutes Annotated (Dublin: Round Hall Press, 1984 - ). It contains statutes as enacted, along with commentary and legislative history and a citator listing amendments. IALS Library has it from 1984 to 1997, then from 2005 onwards.
For the period 1801 to 1921, see:
Statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801 to 1868/69)
Public General Statutes (1866-1925)
Before 1800, see:
The Irish statutes: 3 Edward II to the Union, AD 1310-1800 (Dublin, Round Hall Press, 1995)
Statutes and ordinances, and acts of the Parliament of Ireland: King John to Henry V [1199-1413], Henry Berry (ed.) (Dublin, His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1907)
Irish primary legislation is freely available on the Irish Statute Book (eISB) website, 1922 onwards. The site is provided by The Office of the Attorney General, Ireland. It provides each act as passed, with commencement dates and lists of amendments.
Consolidated versions of selected Irish statutes are available on the website of the Irish Law Reform Commission.
The BAILII (British and Irish Legal Information Institute) website also has Irish statutes as passed from 1922 onwards.
The UK Statutes collection on the subscription database Justis.com includes pre-1922 acts which applied to Ireland.
Irish secondary legislation is published in the form of statutory instruments, or, (before 1948) statutory rules and orders. IALS Library's holdings go back to 1934:
Statutory instruments (1948 - )
Statutory rules and orders (1934 -1947)
Statutory rules and orders prior to 1948 were not published in bound volumes, so loose issues had to be collected by libraries and specially bound. IALS was fortunate to obtain some of these volumes (1934-1947) as a donation from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Library and they are kept at classmark RES GA7.E.4.
An official Index to the Statutory Instruments (formerly Index to the Statutory Rules, Orders and Regulations) is published irregularly by the Stationery Office Dublin / Government Publications. It does not cumulate. IALS has it from 1922 onwards.
IALS also has Humphreys' Index to Irish Statutory Instruments (Dublin, Butterworth (Ireland),1988), covering the period 1922-1986 inclusive. The contents are: Volume 1: Statutory Instruments; Volume 2: Enabling Acts; and Volume 3: Subject Index.
Lists of statutory instruments are found in Irish Current Law Statutes Annotated (see primary legislation, above).
Secondary legislation is available on the Irish Statute Book website, 1922 onwards, with details of amendments made from 1999 onwards.
The leading series of law reports for Ireland is the Irish Reports, held at IALS and available online via Lexis®Library. Our print holdings are as follows:
Irish Reports, 1st Series, Irish Law Reports, 1838-1850 (published for Robert Carrick by D. Corbet)
Irish Reports, 1st Series, Irish Equity Reports, 1838-1850 (published for Robert Carrick by D. Corbet)
Irish Reports, 2nd Series, Irish Common Law Reports , 1850-1866 ( published by Hodges and Smith)
Irish Reports, 2nd Series, Irish Chancery Reports , 1850-1866 (Hodges and Smith)
Irish Reports, 3rd Series, Irish Reports, Common Law , 1866-1878 (Council of Law Reporting in Ireland)
Irish Reports, 3rd Series, Irish Reports, Equity , 1866-1878 (Council of Law Reporting in Ireland)
Irish Reports, 4th Series, Law Reports, Ireland , 1878-1893 (Council of Law Reporting in Ireland)
Irish Reports, 5th Series, 1894 onwards (Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for Ireland)
Another general series is Irish Law Reports Monthly (Round Hall Press 1981 - ). IALS has the whole set, including the retrospectively-published volumes covering cases from 1976 to 1980.
Other series available in the Library are:
Irish Law Times Reports, volumes 1-114, 1867-1980; continued by Irish Law Times and Solicitors' Journal, New Series, May 1983 onwards; now known as Irish Law Times and published by Thomson Round Hall.
Irish Jurist, together with the Irish Jurist Reports, volumes 1-31, 1935-1965; continued by The Irish Jurist, New Series, 1966 onwards (published by University College, Dublin).
The Irish Times newspaper has published synopses of judgments, known as the Irish Times Law Reports, every Monday since 1989. IALS Library does not collect these reports, but recent ones may be found on the Irish Times website.
There are several series of subject-based law reports in the Library:
Judgments of the Court of Criminal Appeal, edited by G.L.Frewen. 1924-1983 in 2 volumes. Dublin, Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for Ireland. Contains formerly unreported judgments.
Judgments of the Court of Criminal Appeal, edited by E. Casey. 1984-1989, 1 volume. Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Round Hall Press. (Cited as 3 Frewen, see above)
Reports of Irish Tax Cases, 1923/32 -1949/64. Dublin, Stationery Office, for the Revenue Commissioners.
Selected Employment Appeals Tribunal Cases, 1978 -1985. (Supplement to Gazette of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland.)
Employment Law Reports, 1990 onwards. Round Hall Press, Blackrock, Co. Dublin
Pre-twentieth century reports: IALS has a full set of old Irish nominate reports on microfilm (classmarks starting "FM9"), as well as some printed volumes.
Tribunals of inquiry: some matters of public concern in Ireland are investigated by tribunals of inquiry set up by the Oireachtas and vested with the powers and privileges of the High Court. The tribunal usually prepares interim reports and a final report with recommendations. Several recent prominent tribunals are listed on the Irish Government's public information website; there are links to websites for some tribunals which are still active.
Electronic sources of law reports
The online subscription service Lexis®Library has a collection of Irish case law, including the Irish Reports since 1919; Judgments of the Court of Criminal Appeal (Frewen) 1950-83 (under "Irish Cases, Combined"); and unreported cases ("Irish Approved Judgments") since 1967. To access Lexis, see the IALS Electronic Law Library.
Many decisions of Irish courts are available free on the web:-
BAILII (The British and Irish Legal Information Institute): Supreme Court cases 1998 onwards, with some older landmark decisions; High Court 1997 onwards, plus a few earlier decisions; Court of Criminal Appeal 2004 onwards, plus a few earlier decisions. Also available on BAILII are decisions of the Irish Competition Authority, the Irish Information Commissioner and the Irish Data Protection Commission.
Courts Service Ireland: Supreme Court 2001 onwards; High Court 2004 onwards; Court of Criminal Appeal (2004 onwards), plus background information on the history and organisation of the Irish courts.
IRLII, the Irish Legal Infomation Initiative, provides a complete searchable index to judgments of the Irish High Court, Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeal from 1997 onwards. It also has the full text of selected leading cases (arranged by subject), mainly from the 1970s onwards.
The Library has The Law reports... Digest of cases decided by the superior and other courts in Ireland.... The actual titles of the volumes vary somewhat, but the work is generally known as the 'Irish Digest' (see classmark GA5.H.2). It is published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for Ireland. The first volume covers cases from 1867 to 1877 and the most recent covers 1994 to 1999.
The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting began an annual Index to Supreme Court and High Court Written Judgments (known as the `Pink Sheets') in 1976. They were intended to be an interim service because of the late publication of law reports and are available in the Library up to 1996.
Another publication which could be described as a digest, and to which the Library subscribes, is the Annual Review of Irish Law,1987 onwards (published by Round Hall).
The Library has a good collection of books on Irish law. Recent titles include:
Kavanagh, Jennifer, Electoral law in Ireland. Bloomsbury, 2016.
Kelleher, Denis, Privacy and data protection law in Ireland. Bloomsbury Professional, 2015.
Daly, Eoin, Political theory of the Irish Constitution: republicanism and the basic law. Manchester University Press, 2015.
Byrne, Raymond, et al, The Irish legal system. 6th ed., Bloomsbury Professional, 2014.
Wylie, J. C. W., Irish land law. Bloomsbury Professional, 2013.
At IALS books are shelved either by jurisdiction, the Irish classmarks being GA5 and GA7,or by subject at classmarks beginning with S. As they are therefore not all kept in the same place, it is better to look for books on the online Catalogue than to browse the shelves.
Periodicals and indexes
The Library has good coverage of the well-established Irish law journals and a few other series. Current serial subscriptions include:
Dublin University Law Journal, 1976-
Gazette (Law Society of Ireland), 1969/70-
Irish Criminal Law Journal, 1991-
Irish Jurist, 1849- (various series)
Law Reform Commission Annual Report, consultation papers and working papers
For full details of our Irish journal holdings, see the Catalogue (subject heading "Law -- Ireland -- Periodicals").
Legal Journals Index (part of the Journals section on Westlaw UK) and Index to Legal Periodicals both cover Irish articles (see IALS Electronic Law Library).
LegalPeriodicals.org indexes Irish journals from 1997 onwards; it is a free web resource compiled by the Law Department at University College Cork and provided by the Irish Legal Information Initiative (IRLII).
For older articles, see Paul O'Higgins, A Bibliography of Periodical Literature relating to Irish Law, (Belfast, Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, 1966), first and second supplements (covering articles published up to 1981).
BAILII - the British and Irish Legal Information Institute: case law, legislation, reports of the Irish Law Reform Commission; decisions of the Irish Competition Authority, Irish Information Commissioner and Irish Data Protection Commission.
Citizens' Information - Irish government website for the general public, including information about tribunals of inquiry.
Courts Service Ireland - background information on the history and organisation of the Irish courts, plus judgments of the superior courts.
Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) - full text of the Constitution and other official information.
Guide to Irish Law: research guide by Dr. Darius Whelan, as published on New York University's Globalex website, October 2010.
Houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament) - acts and bills.
Irish Law Site - hosted by the Faculty of Law at University College, Cork, provides a set of Irish legal links, Irish legal news, legislation and case law.
Irish Statute Book - legislation from 1922 onwards, with lists of amendments, provided by the Office of the Attorney-General.
IRLII, the Irish Legal Infomation Initiative: complete index to judgments of the Irish High Court, Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeal from 1997 onwards; leading cases (arranged by subject); legislation.
Law Reform Commission: provides a collection of about 270 consolidated Irish statutes.
LegalPeriodicals.org - index to Irish legal journals provided by University College Cork / IRLII.