The need for a new constitution: Irish constitutional change 1932-35

Donal Coffey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this article is to provide an answer to one fundamental question: Why was a new Constitution enacted in 1937? Between May 29, 1934 and June 1, 1934, Eamon de Valera indicated to a civil service committee that was reviewing the 1922 Constitution that it should not attempt to draft a new Constitution.1 On April 30, 1935 and May 2, 1935 he gave verbal instructions to John Hearne to begin drafting a new Constitution.2 Between these two dates the decision was made to draft a new Constitution. It is instructive, therefore, to review the events that occurred between those dates with a view to identifying additional reasons why a new Constitution was to be enacted. In answering this question four strands emerge, which provide the basis for the reasoning underlying the decision to introduce a new Constitution: (1) The need to complete the implementation of Fianna Fáil’s republican constitutional project; (2) The problem of the juristic basis of the State as exposed in State (Ryan) v Lennon3; (3) The problem of the degradation of the rights provisions of the Irish Free State Constitution; and (4) The identification of weaknesses in the drafting of the 1922 Constitution. To analyse these different strands, it is necessary to consider the Irish constitutional history of the period and, in particular, the constitutional history of Fianna Fáil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-302
Number of pages28
JournalIrish Jurist
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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