Guide last updated by Hester Swift, September 2022
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, 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 the Government Publications Office 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). HeinOnline's World Constitutions Illustrated has current and historical versions of the 1937 constitution as well as the Constitution of the Irish Free State.
Statutes are published by the Irish official publisher, the Government Publications Office, under the title Acts of the Oireachtas. IALS Library has the bound Acts of the Oireachtas from 1922 onwards, with indexes. Publication of the bound volumes is many years behind schedule.
Irish Current Law Statutes Annotated (Dublin: Round Hall Press, 1984 - ) contains statutes as enacted, with commentary, legislative history and a citator listing amendments. IALS Library has this title from 1984 to 1997 and 2005 to 2011.
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; reprint of 1885 title)
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)
All Irish primary legislation from 1922 onwards is available on the Irish Statute Book (eISB) website, together with most of the pre-1922 statutes still in force in Ireland after the Statute Law Revision Act 2007. The site is provided by The Office of the Attorney General, Ireland. It contains each act as passed, with commencement dates and lists of amendments.
Consolidated versions of many Irish statutes can be found on the website of the Irish Law Reform Commission.
BAILII (the British and Irish Legal Information Institute) has Irish statutes as passed from 1922 onwards.
Pre-1922 acts which applied to Ireland are included in the UK Statutes collection on vLex Justis, a subscription-based service,
Irish secondary legislation is published in the form of statutory instruments, or (before 1948), statutory rules and orders; IALS Library holds them from 1934 onwards:
Statutory rules and orders / Saorstát Éireann (Irish Free State), 1934-1937 (RES GA7.E.4)
Statutory instruments / Éire (Ireland), 1938 onwards; bound volumes are still received by the library, but publication is many years behind schedule
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) was published irregularly by the Stationery Office Dublin / Government Publications Office until the mid-1990s. Held at IALS, it covers Irish statutory instruments, statutory rules and orders from 1922 to 1995, in several volumes (not cumulative).
IALS also has Humphreys' Index to Irish Statutory Instruments (Butterworth Ireland,1988), covering 1922-1986. 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 (held at IALS 1984 -1997 and 2005-2011).
Secondary legislation is on the Irish Statute Book website from 1922 onwards, with details of amendments made from 1931 onwards.
The leading series of law reports for Ireland is the Irish Reports, which started in 1867 (see ICLR for Ireland). The hard copy is held at IALS and it is on Lexis+ from 1919 onwards. Irish Reports has had various titles and subdivisions:
Irish Reports, Common Law (IRCL) (Council of Law Reporting in Ireland, 1867-78)
Irish Reports, Equity (IR Eq) (Council of Law Reporting in Ireland, 1867-78)
Law Reports, Ireland (LRI) (Council of Law Reporting in Ireland, 1879-93)
Irish Reports (IR) (Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for Ireland, 1894 onwards)
The following earlier series, also held at IALS, are sometimes considered to be part of the Irish Reports*:
Irish Law Reports (published for Robert Carrick by D. Corbet, 1839-52)
Irish Equity Reports (published for Robert Carrick by D. Corbet, 1839-52)
Irish Common Law Reports (Hodges and Smith, 1852-67)
Irish Chancery Reports (Hodges and Smith, 1852-1867)
Other general law reports available in the library are:
Irish Law Reports Monthly (ILRM) (Round Hall Press, 1981 - ), which covers cases decided from 1976 onwards
Irish Law Times Reports, later Irish Law Times and Solicitors' Journal, New Series, now called Irish Law Times (John Facloner / Round Hall, 1867 - )
Irish Jurist, together with the Irish Jurist Reports (Jurist Publishing,1935-1965) / Irish Jurist, New Series (University College Dublin, 1966 - )
The Irish Times newspaper has published synopses of judgments, known as the Irish Times Law Reports, since 1989. IALS Library does not collect these reports.
Nominate reports (series cited by the name of the reporter, for example Glascock's Reports): IALS has a set of Irish nominate reports on microfilm (classmark FM9, along with other Irish material), as well as many in hard copy (RES GA5.G.1).
For more information about Irish law reports, see Eamonn G., Hall, The Superior Courts of Law: 'Official' Law Reporting in Ireland, 1866-2006 (Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for Ireland, 2007); Thomas O'Malley, Sources of Law (2nd ed., Round Hall, 2001); and Wallace Breem and Sally Phillips (ed.s), Bibliography of Commonwealth Law Reports (Mansell, 1991). All are held at IALS.
IALS has several series of subject-based law reports for Ireland:
Judgments of the Court of Criminal Appeal, edited by G.L.Frewen (Dublin, Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for Ireland, 1983). Contains cases from 1924 to 1983. including formerly unreported judgments.
Judgments of the Court of Criminal Appeal, edited by E. Casey (Round Hall Press, 1991). Cases from 1984 to 1989. Cited as 3 Frewen (see above).
Reports of Irish Tax Cases (Stationery Office, 1956-1975). Cases from 1923 to 1986.
Selected Employment Appeals Tribunal Cases (supplement to Gazette of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland). Cases from 1978 to 1985.
Employment Law Reports (Round Hall Press 1990 - ). Held at IALS 1990 - 2011.
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.
Lexis has the Irish Reports since 1919 and a collection of unreported cases ('Irish Approved Judgments') since 1967.
Many decisions of Irish courts are available free on the web:-
BAILII (The British and Irish Legal Information Institute): Supreme Court cases 1998 onwards, plus some earlier decisions; Court of Appeal 2014 onwards; Court of Criminal Appeal 2004 onwards, plus a few earlier decisions. High Court 1997 onwards, plus some 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; Court of Appeal 2014 onwards; Court of Criminal Appeal 2004 onwards; High Court 2004 onwards; selected District, Circuit and Central Criminal Court cases, plus information about the history and organisation of the Irish courts.
IRLII, the Irish Legal Information Initiative, based at University College Cork, 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.
IALS Library has The Law reports... Digest of cases decided by the superior and other courts in Ireland..., generally known as the 'Irish Digest' (classmark GA5.H.2). It is published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for Ireland and covers cases from 1867 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.
The library also holds the Irish Current Law Monthly Digest from 2005 - 2011.
Another publication which could be described as a digest is the Annual Review of Irish Law, published by Round Hall, which is held at IALS from 1987 onwards.
The library has a good collection of books on Irish law. The jurisdictional classmarks for Ireland are GA5 and GA7 (GA5 is used mainly for Irish law before 1921) and some Irish books are also found at classmarks for particular subjects. It is therefore better to search the Catalogue than browse the shelves, as not everything about Irish law is kept in the same place. Recent titles include:
Faulkner, Mary, and Mac Cárthaigh, Dáithí, Essentials of Irish law . Clarus Press, 2022
Coonan, Genevieve, Criminal procedure in the District Court. Round Hall, 2022
Egan, Paul, Irish securities law. Bloomsbury Professional, 2021
Costello, Kevin, and Howin, Niamh (ed.s), Law and religion in Ireland, 1700-1970. Palgrave Macmillan, 2021
Doyle, Oran, Constitutional law: text, cases and materials. Clarus Press, 2019
Hogan, G., Kelly: The Irish Constitution. Bloomsbury, 2018.
IALS Library holds a few books covering Irish legal research, Irish law publications and related topics, including the following:
O'Malley, Thomas, Sources of law: an introduction to legal research and writing (Round Hall Sweet & Maxwell, 2001)
Furlong, John, 'Ireland', in Winterton, Jules, and Moys, Elizabeth M. (ed.s), Information sources in law (2nd ed., Bowker Saur, 1997)
(See also: Curtin, Sinead, and Steen, Alice, 'Researching Irish law - a guide to legislation, case law and commentary sources' (2011) 11 LIM 185).
The library holds the well-established Irish law journals and a few other series. Current subscriptions include:
Bar Review, 2005 -
Dublin University Law Journal, 1976-
Gazette (Law Society of Ireland), 1969/70-
Hibernian Law Journal, 2000-
Irish Criminal Law Journal, 1991-
Irish Jurist, 1849- (various series)
Irish Law Times (formerly Irish Law Times and Solicitors Journal), 1867/68 -
Trinity College Law Review, 1998 -
For full details of our Irish journal holdings, see the Library Catalogue (subject heading "Law -- Ireland -- Periodicals"). Many of our Irish journals are available online as well as in hard copy, via links on Catalogue.
The library holds periodical publications by the Law Reform Commission of Ireland (also available on the Commission's website):-
consultation papers 1987-2005 (GA7.J.13)
law reform reports 1981 - 2005 (GA7.J.12)
working papers 1987-1984 (GA7.J.6)
annual reports 1975/77-2007 (GA7.J7 and FOL GA7.J.7)
Westlaw UK indexes Irish journals.
Net Lawman hosts the free Irish journal index formerly known as LegalPeriodicals.org (which used to be provided by the Irish Legal Information Initiative). It covers Irish journals from 1997 onwards, but has not been updated in recent years.
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 (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; treaties.
Citizens' Information: Irish government portal for the general public, including information about tribunals of inquiry. the court system and legal aid.
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): the Constitution and other official information.
Guide to Irish Law: research guide by Dr. Darius Whelan , last updated in 2019, on New York University's Globalex website.
Houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament): bills and acts from 1922 onwards, with details of the legislative process and links to debates.
Irish Law Updates: blog by Dr. Darius Whelan of University College Cork.
Irish Statute Book: legislation from 1922 onwards, with lists of amendments, provided by the Office of the Attorney-General.
IRLII (Irish Legal Infomation Initiative): index to judgments of the Irish High Court, Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeal from 1997 onwards; leading cases; index to Irish journal articles. Run by the School of Law at University College Cork.
Law: library research guide, National University of Ireland, Galway.
Law Reform Commission of Ireland: reports and papers; over 300 consolidated Irish statutes ('Revised Acts').
Library of Trinity College Dublin: Classic Catalogue: Irish publishers and distributors have to give a print copy of every title to the Library of Trinity College Dublin.
Net Lawman: free index to Irish journals from 1997 onwards (formerly University College Cork's 'LegalPeriodicals.org'); not updated in recent years.