Text of legislation

How Irish statutes were made

Sources for Irish legislation, 1692–1800

General Index of Bills

Members of parliament

Regnal years and statute numbers


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How Irish statutes were made

The Database

Selected information on each bill is recorded in the Database: the legislative body which initiated it; the dates of the key stages; the decisions of the privy councils; and the names of members associated with certain stages.

Only certain stages of bills are recorded in the Database. The dates of these key stages, rather than detailed source references, are given. The sources for legislation are organised chronologically, and the date will normally be enough to locate original entries. (Where necessary, the Database gives precise archival references).

There are major differences in legislative procedure before and after the session of 1783. These affect the treatment of bills in the Database and the ways in which bills are displayed.

The origins of bills and ‘heads of bills’ (1692 to 1782)
Until the session of 1782 bills could only (under Poynings’ Law) begin in the Irish privy council. However, informal legislative initiatives, known as ‘heads of bills’, began regularly in the houses of parliament. If they passed the commons or lords they were presented to the chief governor and were considered by the Irish privy council. Most of these were turned into bills in the strict legal sense (though often with amendments) and sent to the English privy council just like bills which had begun in the Irish privy council itself.

From bills to acts (1692 to 1782)

Once ‘transmitted’ (to use the contemporary term) to the English privy council all bills were afterwards treated in the same manner, whether they had begun as heads of bills or Irish privy council bills.


The reformed constitution (1783 to 1800)
Poynings’ Law was radically modified after 1782, as part of the Irish constitutional settlement of that year. The act governing the new procedures was 21 & 22 George III c.47 – ‘An act to regulate the manner of passing bills, and to prevent delays in summoning of parliaments' – sometimes known as ‘Yelverton’s act’ (after the proposer Barry Yelverton). It received the royal assent on 27 July 1782, but did not take effect until the session of 1783.

From 1783 heads of bills no longer existed, and the Irish privy council had no role in Irish legislation. The English privy council retained powers to supervise Irish legislation, but these were very rarely exercised.

From 1783 until the last session of the Irish parliament in 1800 all bills began in parliament, where they underwent all stages before being transmitted directly to the English privy council. On return they received the royal assent in parliament.