No. 403 UCDA P150/2345

Notes by the Department of External Affairs for Eamon de Valera on the
Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Bill, 1936, and Executive Authority
(External Relations) Bill, 1936

Dublin, 11 December 1936

1. The purpose of the Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Bill is to bring to an end the functions of the British Monarch in relation to the internal affairs of Saorstát Éireann, that is to say the functions hitherto exercised by the Governor General. The Article of the Constitution relating to the appointment, remuneration and establishment of the Governor General is being deleted, but for the moment it may be necessary to retain the present occupant of the position in office until other arrangements are made for the performance of certain routine functions performed on the advice of the Executive Council.

2. The Executive Authority (External Relations) Bill is a corollary to the other measure. It gives authority for the continued exercise by the British Monarch, on the advice of the Executive Council, of those functions, in regard to external affairs which he has hitherto exercised on behalf of the Saorstát. This provision is evidence of the desire we have always expressed for co-operation with the States of the British Commonwealth in matters of common concern to us and to them.

3. It will be seen that the Bills taken together anticipate to some extent the Constitutional proposals which the Government some months ago announced its intention to introduce. An event which could not then have been foreseen has made it necessary to bring this part of the scheme before the House at the present time and in the present manner.

4. The situation created by the abdication of King Edward the Eighth made it necessary to pass legislation of some kind here. Failure to do so would result in an ambiguous position. It would appear on the one hand to imply acceptance of the British legislation providing for the abdication and succession as binding on the Saorstát, and, on the other hand, it would cause some uncertainty as to the validity of future Acts of this House.

5. Having, then, to introduce some legislation to deal with the situation, the Government had to decide between

(a) formally conferring upon the new British Monarch all the functions exercisable by the Crown under the existing Constitution;

(b) giving him functions in relation to external affairs only;

(c) establishing a Republic for the Twenty-six Counties.

6. To propose that the new Monarch should have formally conferred on him all the present royal functions would be entirely inconsistent with the known policy of the Government and with the will of the Irish people. It would be a definitely retrograde measure which, in the opinion of the Government, would be deservedly regarded by the people as a national humiliation. To establish a Republic for Twenty Six Counties in an emergency situation without full consideration of the possible effects of such a course on the ultimate unity of the country would be an irresponsible proceeding. To do so without reference to the people would be a violation of the Government's election pledges.

7. There remained the course of limiting the functions of the Monarch, so far as the Saorstát is concerned, to external affairs. This is the course which the Government is proposing to the House. It does not claim that in doing so it is suggesting any revolutionary change. The present Bills will simply bring the law and theory into conformity with the realities of our position. All the functions which are now being withdrawn from the Crown have been in fact only nominal. In proposing their withdrawal the Government is asking the House to put an end to a fruitful source of irritation and of misunderstanding of the Constitutional facts, in this country, and to a constant obstacle to the establishment of friendly relations with Great Britain. If in relation to these measures, the British Government observes the attitude of respect for the independence of the Saorstát which we have a right to demand, I think we may say that the prospects of co-operation between the two countries in matters where co-operation is required by their common interests will have been greatly enhanced.

8. I know that there are people who will think that we are not going far enough in these Bills, and some people will say it who do not believe it. My answer is that we are going as far as we think right at this stage, and we are putting no barrier in the way of anyone who wants to go further and is supported by the Irish people.

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO