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Parliament and Ireland

In 1264 the first parliaments were held in England and Ireland. This was the beginning of the long and complex development of a parliamentary tradition in both countries.

The early parliaments were essentially councils through which the King consulted his chief nobles, but over time they evolved into the representative democracies we have today.


Over the past 750 years, although the main source of power in Ireland was the Crown and then the English - later British - Parliament, there has been a constant interaction and influence between the two traditions.

For most of this period Ireland had a parliament of her own, but the English and then British Parliament often asserted its right to legislate on Irish matters.

Home rule campaign

From 1801 the Irish and Westminster Parliaments were united, but gradually a campaign  for home rule strengthened, calling for the restoration of Irish legislative independence. When this was granted in 1920, Parliament's influence over Irish affairs declined until violence flared in Northern Ireland towards the end of the 1960s.

Parliament assumed direct control of the North from 1972 but made repeated attempts to restore devolved government, culminating with the Northern Ireland Assembly created by the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Video: Why is Ireland divided? The significance and legacy of the Government of Ireland Act 1920

8 minute video, published Dec 2020

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Explore works of art in the Parliamentary Art Collection selected to mark the centenary of the Government of Ireland Act.

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