The Oxford concise dictionary of politics defines a Constitution as "The set of fundamental rules governing the politics of a nation or subnational body" (McLean/McMillan 2009: 116). This essay will discuss the origins and development of the 1937 Irish Constitution (Bunreacht Na hE᷄ireann). It will outline the 1937 constitutions roots in the post Anglo Irish Treaty/ Free State Constitution and also highlight the main differences between the two. It will be shown how the constitution has developed during the last 78 years, and how with the declining influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland it has been amended to reflect this. The influential role played by Eamon De Valera and Fianna Fail will also be discussed.
The Free State constitution of 1922 was implemented after the Anglo Irish Treaty of the same year. This Constitution contained many elements which due to the nature of the Anglo Irish Treaty meant that there was still a lot of British influence on the Island. "The relationship of Ireland and Britain was still, perforce; a very special one and could not be influenced by the history of Anglo-Irish relations and by British constitutional ideas and patterns" (Chubb, 1982: 11). The 1922 Constitution provided for an oath of allegiance to the British crown and also provided for a governor general who would be the British representative in Ireland (Hogan, 2012: 2). These articles were highly contentious with the Anglo Irish Treaty and the Free State Constitution being a precursor to the Irish Civil War which was eventually won by Free State forces on the 24th of May 1923 (Ferriter, 2005: 265). Apart from these articles, there was a distinctly British influence to the Free State Constitution, with the government being arranged in two separate houses and being chaired by a prime minister. This was very similar to the British system. .
The use of P.R.S.T.V (Proportional representation single transferable vote) was endorsed in the 1937 Constitution.