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Speaker of the Irish House of Commons

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Speaker of the Irish House of Commons

For the other body sometimes called the "Irish House of Commons", see House of Commons of Southern Ireland.

Irish House of Commons
Type Lower house
Established 1297
Disbanded 31 December 1800
Succeeded by House of Commons of the United Kingdom
Speaker of the House John Foster
Since 1785
Seats 3001
Voting system First past the post with limited suffrage
Meeting place
Commons Chamber, Irish Houses of Parliament, Dublin (painting: The Irish House of Commons by Francis Wheatley, 1780)
1 In 1800
See also: House of Commons of Great Britain

The Irish House of Commons was the lower house of the Parliament of Ireland that existed from 1297 until 1800. The upper house was the House of Lords. The membership of the House of Commons was directly elected, but on a highly restrictive franchise, similar to the Unreformed House of Commons in contemporary England and Great Britain. In counties, forty shilling freeholders were enfranchised whilst in most boroughs it was either only the members of self electing corporations or a highly restricted body of freemen that were able to vote for the borough's representatives. Most notably, Roman Catholics were disqualified from sitting in the Irish parliament from 1691, even though they comprised the vast majority of the Irish population. From 1728 until 1793 they were also disfranchised. Most of the population of all religions had no vote. The vast majority of parliamentary boroughs were pocket boroughs, the private property of an aristocratic patron. When these boroughs were disfranchised at the under the Act of Union, the patron was awarded £15,000 compensation for each.[1]

The British-appointed Irish executive, under the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was not answerable to the House of Commons but to the British government. However, the Chief Secretary for Ireland was usually a member of the Irish parliament. In the Commons, business was presided over by the Speaker who, in the absence of a government chosen from and answerable to the Commons, was the dominant political figure in the parliament. The House of Commons was abolished when the Irish parliament merged with its British counterpart in 1801 under the Act of Union, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The House sat for the last time in Parliament House, Dublin on 2 August 1800.

Famous members

  • Henry Grattan: Went on to serve as an Irish member of the United Kingdom House of Commons.
  • Boyle Roche: The "father" of Irish bulls
  • Hon. Arthur Wellesley: Later became Duke of Wellington, defeated Napoleon I at Waterloo, and served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He represented his family borough of Trim, County Meath from 1790–96.
  • William Conolly: A past Speaker, Conolly remains today one of the most widely known figures ever to be produced by the Irish parliament. He is famous not just for his role in parliament but also for his great wealth that allowed him to build one of Ireland's greatest Georgian houses, Castletown House.
  • Nathaniel Clements: 1705–77 Government and Treasury Official, Managed extensive financial functions from 1720–77 on behalf of the Government, de facto Minister for Finance 1740–77, extensive property owner and developer. major influence on the architecture of Georgian Dublin and the Irish Palladian Country house.
  • John Philpot Curran: Orator and wit, originator of the quotation "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty".



The House was elected in the same way as the British House of Commons. By the time of the Union, the shape of the House had been fixed with two members elected for each of the 32 Counties of Ireland, two members for each of 117 Boroughs, and two members for Dublin University, a total of 300 members. The number of Boroughs invited to return members had originally been small (only 55 Boroughs existed in 1603) but was doubled by the Stuart monarchs.

Constituency Type County Creation Enfranchised Fate after the union
Antrim Borough Borough Antrim 1666 Potwalloper 0Disfranchised
Antrim County County Antrim Freeholders 2Two seats
Ardee Borough Louth 1378 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Ards County Down by 1559 0Already disfranchised[n 1]
Ardfert Borough Kerry 1639? Corporation 0Disfranchised
Armagh Borough Borough Armagh 1613 Corporation 1One seat
Armagh County County Armagh Freeholders 2Two seats
Askeaton Borough Limerick 1614 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Athboy Borough Meath 1613 Manor 0Disfranchised
Athenry Borough Galway 1310? Corporation 0Disfranchised
Athlone Borough Westmeath 1607 Corporation 1One seat
Athy Borough Kildare 1614 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Augher Borough Tyrone 1614 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Ballynakill Borough Queen's County 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Ballyshannon Borough Donegal 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Baltimore Borough Cork 1614 Potwalloper 0Disfranchised
Baltinglass Borough Wicklow 1664 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Banagher Borough King's County 1629 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Bandonbridge Borough Cork 1614 Corporation 1One seat
Bangor Borough Down 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Bannow Borough Wexford  ? Corporation 0Disfranchised
Belfast Borough Antrim 1613 Corporation 1One seat
Belturbet Borough Cavan 1614 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Blessington Borough Wicklow 1670 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Boyle Borough Roscommon 1614 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Callan Borough Kilkenny  ? Corporation 0Disfranchised
Carlingford Borough Louth 13?? Corporation 0Disfranchised
Carlow Borough Borough Carlow 1613 Corporation 1One seat
Carlow County County Carlow 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Carrick Borough Leitrim 1614 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Carrickfergus County borough Antrim[n 2] 1326 Freeholder and householder 1One seat
Carysfort Borough Wicklow 1629 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Cashel Borough Tipperary  ? Corporation 1One seat
Castlebar Borough Mayo 1614 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Castlemartyr Borough Cork 1676 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Cavan Borough Borough Cavan 1611 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Cavan County County Cavan Freeholders 2Two seats
Charlemont Borough Armagh 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Charleville Borough Cork 1673 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Clare County Clare Freeholders 2Two seats
Clogher Borough Tyrone  ? Ecclesiastical 0Disfranchised
Clonakilty Borough Cork 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Clonmel Borough Tipperary  ? Corporation 1One seat
Clonmines Borough Wexford  ? Corporation 0Disfranchised
Coleraine Borough Londonderry 16?? Corporation 1One seat
Connacht County Multiple[n 3] 1297 0Already disfranchised[n 3]
Cork City County borough Cork[n 2] 1299 Freeholder and Freemen 2Two seats
Cork County County Cork 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Dingle Borough Kerry 1607 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Donegal Borough Borough Donegal 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Donegal County County Donegal Freeholders 2Two seats
Doneraile Borough Cork 1640 Manor 0Disfranchised
Down County Down Freeholders 2Two seats
Downpatrick Borough Down 1586 Potwalloper 1One seat
Drogheda County borough Louth[n 2] 1299 Freeholders and freemen 1One seat
Dublin City County borough Dublin[n 2] 1299 Freeholders and freemen 2Two seats
Dublin County County Dublin 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Dublin University University Dublin[n 4] Graduates 1One seat
Duleek Borough Meath 1727 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Dundalk Borough Louth  ? Corporation 1One seat
Dungannon Borough Tyrone 1613 Corporation 1One seat
Dungarvan Borough Waterford 1610 Potwalloper 1One seat
Dunleer Borough Louth 1679 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Ennis Borough Clare 1613 Corporation 1One seat
Enniscorthy Borough Wexford 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Enniskillen Borough Fermanagh 1613 Corporation 1One seat
Fermanagh County Fermanagh Freeholders 2Two seats
Fethard Borough Tipperary 1608 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Fethard Borough Wexford 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Fore Borough Westmeath  ? Corporation 0Disfranchised
Galway Borough County borough Galway[n 2]  ? Freemen 1One seat
Galway County County Galway Freeholders 2Two seats
Gorey (also Newburgh) Borough Wexford 1620 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Gowran Borough Kilkenny 1609 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Granard Borough Longford 1679 Manor 0Disfranchised
Harristown Borough Kildare 1684 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Hillsborough Borough Down 1662 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Inistioge Borough Kilkenny  ? Corporation 0Disfranchised
Jamestown Borough Leitrim 1622 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Kells Borough Meath 1561 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Kerry County Kerry 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Kilbeggan Borough Westmeath 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Kildare Borough Borough Kildare 15?? Corporation 0Disfranchised
Kildare County County Kildare 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Kilkenny City County borough Kilkenny[n 2] 1299? Freeholders and Freemen 1One seat
Kilkenny County County Kilkenny 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Killybegs Borough Donegal 1616 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Killyleagh Borough Down 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Kilmallock Borough Limerick 15?? Corporation 0Disfranchised
King's County County King's County Freeholders 2Two seats
Kinsale Borough Cork 1334? Corporation and Freemen 1One seat
Knocktopher Borough Kilkenny 1665 Potwalloper 0Disfranchised
Lanesborough Borough Longford 1642 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Leitrim County Leitrim Freeholders 2Two seats
Lifford Borough Donegal 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Limerick City County borough Limerick[n 2] 1299 Freeholders and Freemen 1One seat
Limerick County County Limerick 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Lisburn Borough Antrim 1661 Potwalloper 1One seat
Lismore Borough Waterford 1614 Manor 0Disfranchised
Londonderry City Borough Londonderry 16?? Corporation 1One seat
Londonderry County County Londonderry Freeholders 2Two seats
Longford Borough Borough Longford 1669 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Longford County County Longford Freeholders 2Two seats
Louth County Louth 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Mallow Borough Cork 1613 Manor 1One seat
Maryborough Borough Queen's County 1571 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Mayo County Mayo Freeholders 2Two seats
Meath County Meath 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Midleton Borough Cork 1671 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Monaghan Borough Borough Monaghan 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Monaghan County County Monaghan Freeholders 2Two seats
Mullingar Borough Westmeath 1583 Manor 0Disfranchised
Naas Borough Kildare 1570 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Navan Borough Meath 1469 Corporation 0Disfranchised
New Ross Borough Wexford  ? Corporation 1One seat
Newcastle Borough Dublin c. 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Newry Borough Down 1612 Potwalloper 1One seat
Newtown Limavady Borough Londonderry 16?? Corporation 0Disfranchised
Newtownards Borough Down 1614 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Old Leighlin Borough Carlow  ? Ecclesiastical corporation 0Disfranchised
Philipstown Borough King's County 1571 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Portarlington Borough Queen's County 1668 Corporation 1One seat
Queen's County County Queen's County Freeholders 2Two seats
Randalstown Borough Antrim 1683 Freeman / Potwalloper 0Disfranchised
Rathcormack Borough Cork c. 1611 Potwalloper / Manor 0Disfranchised
Ratoath Borough Meath  ? Manor 0Disfranchised
Roscommon Borough Borough Roscommon  ? Corporation 0Disfranchised
Roscommon County County Roscommon Freeholders 2Two seats
St Canice Borough Kilkenny[n 5]  ? Corporation 0Disfranchised
St Johnstown Borough Donegal 1618 Corporation 0Disfranchised
St Johnstown Borough Longford 1628 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Sligo Borough Borough Sligo 1614 Corporation 1One seat
Sligo County County Sligo Freeholders 2Two seats
Strabane Borough Tyrone 1613 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Swords Borough Dublin  ? Potwalloper 0Disfranchised
Taghmon Borough Wexford bef. 1642 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Tallow Borough Waterford  ? Manor / Potwalloper 0Disfranchised
Thomastown Borough Kilkenny 1541 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Tipperary County Tipperary 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Cross Tipperary County Tipperary by 1585 Freeholders 0Already disfranchised[n 6]
Tralee Borough Kerry 1613 Corporation 1One seat
Trim Borough Meath 1572 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Tuam Borough Galway 1614 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Tulsk Borough Roscommon 1663 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Tyrone County Tyrone Freeholders 2Two seats
Ulster County Multiple[n 7] 1297 0Already disfranchised[n 7]
Waterford City County borough Waterford[n 2] 1299 Freemen and freeholders 1One seat
Waterford County County Waterford 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Westmeath County Westmeath Freeholders 2Two seats
Wexford Borough Borough Wexford  ? Freemen 1One seat
Wexford County County Wexford 1297 Freeholders 2Two seats
Wicklow Borough Borough Wicklow 1614 Corporation 0Disfranchised
Wicklow County County Wicklow Freeholders 2Two seats
Youghal Borough Cork  ? Corporation and Freemen 1One seat


Parliaments of Edward III

Parliament of 1374

Parliament of 1375[2]

  • Sir Richard Plunkett, Meath
  • Henry Mitchell
  • John Tirel

Parliaments of Richard II


Parliament of 1380

  • Sir Richard Plunkett
  • John Tirel

Parliaments of Henry VI


Parliament of 1429

Parliament of 1450

Parliaments of Henry VIII

Parliament 1536-1537

Parliament 1541-1543

  • First session held at Dublin 1541
  • Second session held at Limerick February 1542
  • Third session held at Trim June 1542

Speaker: Sir Thomas Cusack

Parliaments of Elizabeth I

Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
1 12 January 1559 1 February 1559 ?
2 17 January 1568 25 April 1571 James Stanyhurst ?


Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
3 26 April 1585 14 May 1586 Nicholas Walsh ?


Parliaments of James I

Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
? 18 May 1613 24 October 1615 Sir John Davies ?


Parliaments of Charles I

Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
1 14 July 1634 18 April 1635 Sir Nathaniel Catelyn


Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
2 16 March 1639 (prorogued 1641) 30 January 1649 Sir Maurice Eustace ?


Parliament of Charles II

Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
1 8 May 1661 7 August 1666 Sir Audley Mervyn ?


  • Nicholas Plunkett, Meath
  • Sir Audley Mervyn, Tyrone, Speaker
  • Sir Arthur Forbes, later Earl of Granard, Tyrone
  • Sir Maurice Eustace junior, Knocktopher
  • Sir William Domville, Dublin City
  • St. John Broderick
  • Randolph Clayton
  • Sir Henry Ingoldsby, 1st Baronet, Clare
  • Sir William Davys, Dublin City
  • Sir MIchael Cole
  • Sir Robert Cole
  • Sir Arthur Gore, 1st Baronet, Mayo
  • Matthew Harrison
  • Sir James Ware, University of Dublin
  • Lord John Butler, University of Dublin
  • Sir William King
  • Robert Oliver
  • Sir John Cole, 1st Baronet
  • Sir Paul Davys, Kildare
  • Sir Robert King. 1st Baronet, Ballyshannon
  • Henry Bellingham
  • John Blennerhassett
  • Robert Blennerhassett
  • Sir John Skeffington
  • Sir Toby Poyntz
  • Richard Southwell, Askeaton
  • Sir Richard Bulkeley, 1st Baronet, Baltinglass
  • Sir Arthur Chichester
  • Sir Thomas Bramhall
  • Nicholas Ward, Downpatrick
  • Sir Edward Dering, 2nd Baronet, Lismore
  • Sir Nicholas Purdon, Baltimore
  • Richard Townsend, Baltimore
  • Sir Randal Berseford, Coleraine
  • Moses Hill, Drogheda
  • Sir Robert Reading, Ratoath
  • Sir William Flower, St. Canice
  • Oliver Wheeler, St. Canice
  • William Handcock, Westmeath
  • John Chambers, Ardee
  • John Ruxton, Ardee
  • Richard Boyle, Cork County
  • Roger Boyle, Cork County
  • Sir Henry Tynte, Cork County
  • Sir John Perceval, Cork County
  • John St Leger, Cork County
  • Henry Mervyn, Augher
  • Richard Palfrey, Augher
  • Francis Harvey, Clonmines
  • John Povey, Swords
  • Sir George Bingham, 2nd Baronet, Castlebar
  • Moses Hill, Drogheda
  • Sir Richard Reynell, 1st Baronet, Athboy

Parliaments of James II

Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
1 7 May 1689 20 July 1689 Sir Richard Nagle[5] ?


Main article: Patriot Parliament

Parliaments of William III and Mary II

Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
1 5 October 1692 26 June 1693 Sir Richard Levinge, 1st Baronet 1


Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
2 27 August 1695 14 June 1699 Robert Rochfort 2


Parliaments of Anne

Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
3 21 September 1703 6 May 1713 Alan Brodrick 6


Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
4 25 November 1713 1 August 1714 on death of Queen Anne Alan Brodrick 1


Parliament of George I

Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
1 12 November 1715 11 June 1727 William Conolly 6


Parliament of George II

Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
1 28 November 1727 25 November 1760 on death of King George II Sir Ralph Gore, Chancellor of the Exchequer 17

Members: (elected 1727)

Members: (elected 1728/29)

Members: (elected 1739)

Members: (in 1747)

Members: (elected 1751/1752)

Members: (elected 1753/1754)


Parliaments of George III

Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
1 22 October 1761 28 May 1768 Octennial Act John Ponsonby 4


Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
2 17 October 1769 5 April 1776 John Ponsonby to 4 March 1771, Edmond Pery Sexton 5


Grattan's Parliament

Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
3 18 June 1776 25 July 1783 Edmund Sexton Pery 4


Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
4 14 October 1783 8 April 1790 Edmund Sexton Pery 7


Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
5 2 July 1790 11 July 1797 John Foster 8


Number Opened Dismissed Speaker Sessions
6 9 January 1798 31 December 1800 John Foster 3



Until 1793 members could not resign their seats. They could cease to be a member of the House only by one of four ways:

In 1793 a methodology for resignation was created, equivalent to the Chiltern Hundreds in the British House of Commons. Irish members could now be appointed to either the Escheatorship of Munster, the Escheatorship of Leinster, the Escheatorship of Connaught or the Escheatorship of Ulster. Possession of one of these Crown offices, with entailed a 30/ (30 shilling) salary, automatically terminated one's membership of the House of Commons.

See also


  • Charles Ivar McGrath, The making of the 18th century Irish Constitution; Government, Parliament and the Revenue, 1692-1714, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000, ISBN 1-85182-554-1
  • Eoin Magennis, The Irish Political System 1740-1765, Doublin: Four Courts Press, 2000, ISBN 1-85182-484-7
  • Moody/Vaughan, A new history of Ireland, Oxford, 1986, ISBN 0-19-821742-0 and ISBN 0-19-821739-0
  • Mary Frances Cusack, Illustrated History of Ireland, Project Gutenberg

External links

  • Members Name Search (Commons and Lords, 1692–1800) Irish Legislation Database, Queen's University Belfast
  • History of the Irish Parliament: Constituencies Ulster Historical Foundation
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