Irish House of Commons

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. Catholics were disqualified from sitting in the Irish parliament from 1691, even though they comprised the vast majority of the Irish population.

Irish House of Commons
Disbanded31 December 1800
Succeeded byHouse of Commons of the United Kingdom
John Foster (1785–1801)
Seats300[lower-alpha 1]
First past the post with limited suffrage
Meeting place
The House of Commons in session (by Francis Wheatley, 1780)
  1. In 1800.

The Irish executive, known as the Dublin Castle administration, 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.

From 1 January 1801, it ceased to exist and was succeeded by the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.


The limited franchise was exclusively male. From 1728 until 1793, Catholics were disfranchised, as well as being ineligible to sit in the Commons. Most of the population of all religions had no vote. In counties, forty-shilling freeholders were enfranchised while in most boroughs it was either only the members of self-electing corporations or a highly-restricted body of freemen that were eligible to vote for the borough's representatives. The vast majority of parliamentary boroughs were pocket boroughs, the private property of an aristocratic patron.


The House of Commons was abolished under the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the Kingdom of Ireland into the Kingdom of Great Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with effect from 1 January 1801. The Irish House of Commons sat for the last time in Parliament House, Dublin on 2 August 1800. One hundred of its members were designated or co-opted to sit with the House of Commons of Great Britain, forming the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. The patron of pocket boroughs that were disfranchised under the Act of Union was awarded £15,000 compensation for each.[1]

Speaker of the Commons

Drawing of the front of the Irish Parliament House with the dome, seen from the street-level, in the 18th century

The Speaker of the Irish House of Commons was the presiding officer of the House and its most senior official. The position was one of considerable power and prestige, and in the absence of a government chosen from and answerable to the Commons, he was the dominant political figure in the Parliament. The last Speaker was John Foster.


Engraving of section of the Irish House of Commons chamber by Peter Mazell based on the drawing by Rowland Omer 1767

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. By the time of the Union, there were 150 constituencies, each electing two members:[2]

Following the Act of Union, from 1801, there were 100 MPs from Ireland in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. The constituencies were adapted from those in the Irish House of Commons as follows:

  • 32 county constituencies, with two MPs each;
  • 2 county borough constituencies, Cork City and Dublin City, both with two MPs;
  • 6 remaining county borough constituencies, with 1 MP each;
  • 25 borough constituencies; with one MP each;
  • Dublin University, with one MP.
ConstituencyTypeCountyCreation[lower-alpha 1]FranchiseFate after the union
Antrim BoroughBoroughAntrim1666PotwalloperDisfranchised
Antrim CountyCountyAntrim1570[3]FreeholdersTwo seats
ArdsCountyDownBy 1560[4]Previously disfranchised[lower-alpha 2]
Armagh BoroughBoroughArmagh1613 (26 March) [5]CorporationOne seat
Armagh CountyCountyArmagh1585 (September)[6]FreeholdersTwo seats
AskeatonBoroughLimerick1613 (30 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
AthboyBoroughMeathBy 1560[4]ManorDisfranchised
AthloneBoroughWestmeath1606 (10 December)[5]CorporationOne seat
AthyBoroughKildareBy 1560[4]CorporationDisfranchised
AugherBoroughTyrone1613 (15 April)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
BallynakillBoroughQueen's County1612 (10 December)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
BallyshannonBoroughDonegal1613 (23 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
BaltimoreBoroughCork1613 (25 March)[5]PotwalloperDisfranchised
BanagherBoroughKing's County1629CorporationDisfranchised
BandonbridgeBoroughCork1613 (30 March)[5]CorporationOne seat
BangorBoroughDown1613 (18 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
BannowBoroughWexfordBetween 1614 and 1692CorporationDisfranchised
BelfastBoroughAntrim1613 (27 April)[5]CorporationOne seat
BelturbetBoroughCavan1613 (30 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
BoyleBoroughRoscommon1613 (25 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
Carlow BoroughBoroughCarlow1613 (19 April)[5]CorporationOne seat
Carlow CountyCountyCarlow1297FreeholdersTwo seats
CarrickBoroughLeitrim1613 (30 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
CarrickfergusCounty boroughAntrim[lower-alpha 3]1326Freeholder and householderOne seat
CashelBoroughTipperaryBy 1585[4]CorporationOne seat
CastlebarBoroughMayo1613 (26 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
Cavan BoroughBoroughCavan1610 (15 November)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
Cavan CountyCountyCavan1579[7] or 1584[8] or 1585[6]FreeholdersTwo seats
CharlemontBoroughArmagh1613 (29 April)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
ClareCountyClareBy 1560FreeholdersTwo seats
ClogherBoroughTyroneBetween 1614 and 1692EcclesiasticalDisfranchised
ClonakiltyBoroughCork1613 (5 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
ClonmelBoroughTipperaryBy 1560[4]CorporationOne seat
ClonminesBoroughWexfordBetween 1614 and 1692CorporationDisfranchised
ColeraineBoroughLondonderry1613 (25 March)[5]CorporationOne seat
ConnachtCountyMultiple[lower-alpha 4]1297Previously disfranchised[lower-alpha 4]
Cork CityCounty boroughCork[lower-alpha 3]1299Freeholder and FreemenTwo seats
Cork CountyCountyCork1297FreeholdersTwo seats
Coleraine CountyCountyLondonderry1585 (September)[6]FreeholdersPreviously disfranchised
DingleBoroughKerryBy 1585[4][lower-alpha 5]CorporationDisfranchised
Donegal BoroughBoroughDonegal1613 (27 February)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
Donegal CountyCountyDonegal1585 (September)[6]FreeholdersTwo seats
DownCountyDown1570[3]FreeholdersTwo seats
DownpatrickBoroughDown1586PotwalloperOne seat
DroghedaCounty boroughLouth[lower-alpha 3]1299Freeholders and freemenOne seat
Dublin CityCounty boroughDublin[lower-alpha 3]1299Freeholders and freemenTwo seats
Dublin CountyCountyDublin1297FreeholdersTwo seats
Dublin UniversityUniversityDublin[lower-alpha 6]1603GraduatesOne seat
DuleekBoroughMeathBetween 1614 and 1692CorporationDisfranchised
DundalkBoroughLouthBy 1560[4]CorporationOne seat
DungannonBoroughTyrone1612 (27 November)[5]CorporationOne seat
DungarvanBoroughWaterfordBy 1560[4]PotwalloperOne seat
EnnisBoroughClare1613 (27 February)[5]CorporationOne seat
EnniscorthyBoroughWexford1613 (25 May)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
EnniskillenBoroughFermanagh1613 (27 February)[5]CorporationOne seat
FermanaghCountyFermanagh1585 (September)[6]FreeholdersTwo seats
FernsCountyWexfordBy 1579[9]FreeholdersPreviously disfranchised[lower-alpha 7]
FethardBoroughTipperary1613 (15 April)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
FethardBoroughWexford1613 (15 April)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
ForeBoroughWestmeathBetween 1614 and 1692CorporationDisfranchised
Galway BoroughCounty boroughGalway[lower-alpha 3]By 1560[4]FreemenOne seat
Galway CountyCountyGalwayBy 1579 [10]FreeholdersTwo seats
Gorey (also Newburgh)BoroughWexford1620CorporationDisfranchised
GowranBoroughKilkenny1608 (15 September)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
InistiogeBoroughKilkennyBy 1585[4]CorporationDisfranchised
KellsBoroughMeathBy 1560[4]CorporationDisfranchised
KerryCountyKerry1297FreeholdersTwo seats
KilbegganBoroughWestmeath1613 (27 February)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
Kildare BoroughBoroughKildareBy 1560[4]CorporationDisfranchised
Kildare CountyCountyKildare1297FreeholdersTwo seats
Kilkenny CityCounty boroughKilkenny[lower-alpha 3]1299?Freeholders and FreemenOne seat
Kilkenny CountyCountyKilkenny1297FreeholdersTwo seats
KillyleaghBoroughDown1613 (10 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
KilmallockBoroughLimerickBy 1560[4]CorporationDisfranchised
King's CountyCountyKing's County1556[11][12]FreeholdersTwo seats
KinsaleBoroughCork1334?Corporation and FreemenOne seat
LeitrimCountyLeitrim1583FreeholdersTwo seats
LiffordBoroughDonegal1613 (27 February)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
Limerick CityCounty boroughLimerick[lower-alpha 3]1299Freeholders and FreemenOne seat
Limerick CountyCountyLimerick1297FreeholdersTwo seats
LisburnBoroughAntrim1661PotwalloperOne seat
LismoreBoroughWaterford1613 (6 May)[5]ManorDisfranchised
Londonderry CityBoroughLondonderry1613 (29 March)[5][lower-alpha 8]CorporationOne seat
Londonderry CountyCountyLondonderry1613FreeholdersTwo seats
Longford BoroughBoroughLongford1669CorporationDisfranchised
Longford CountyCountyLongford1571[13][14]FreeholdersTwo seats
LouthCountyLouth1297FreeholdersTwo seats
MallowBoroughCork1613 (27 February)[5]ManorOne seat
MaryboroughBoroughQueen's County1571CorporationDisfranchised
MayoCountyMayoBy 1579[10]FreeholdersTwo seats
MeathCountyMeath1297FreeholdersTwo seats
Monaghan BoroughBoroughMonaghan1613 (26 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
Monaghan CountyCountyMonaghan1585 (September)[6]FreeholdersTwo seats
MullingarBoroughWestmeathBy 1560[4]ManorDisfranchised
NaasBoroughKildareBy 1560[4]CorporationDisfranchised
New RossBoroughWexfordBy 1560[4]CorporationOne seat
NewcastleBoroughDublin1613 (30 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
NewryBoroughDown1613 (27 February)[5]PotwalloperOne seat
Newtown LimavadyBoroughLondonderry1613 (30 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
NewtownardsBoroughDown1613 (25 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
Old LeighlinBoroughCarlowBetween 1614 and 1692Ecclesiastical corporationDisfranchised
PhilipstownBoroughKing's County1571CorporationDisfranchised
PortarlingtonBoroughQueen's County1668CorporationOne seat
Queen's CountyCountyQueen's County1556 [11][12]FreeholdersTwo seats
RandalstownBoroughAntrim1683Freeman / PotwalloperDisfranchised
RathcormackBoroughCorkBetween 1614 and 1692Potwalloper / ManorDisfranchised
RatoathBoroughMeathBetween 1614 and 1692ManorDisfranchised
Roscommon BoroughBoroughRoscommon1613 (27 February)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
Roscommon CountyCountyRoscommon1297FreeholdersTwo seats
St CaniceBoroughKilkenny[lower-alpha 9]Between 1614 and 1692CorporationDisfranchised
St JohnstownBoroughDonegal1618CorporationDisfranchised
St JohnstownBoroughLongford1628CorporationDisfranchised
Sligo BoroughBoroughSligo1613 (30 March)[5]CorporationOne seat
Sligo CountyCountySligoBy 1579[10]FreeholdersTwo seats
StrabaneBoroughTyrone1613 (18 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
SwordsBoroughDublinBy 1585[4]PotwalloperDisfranchised
TaghmonBoroughWexfordbef. 1642CorporationDisfranchised
TallowBoroughWaterford1613 (1 May)[5]Manor / PotwalloperDisfranchised
TipperaryCountyTipperary1297FreeholdersTwo seats
Cross TipperaryCountyTipperaryby 1585FreeholdersPreviously disfranchised[lower-alpha 10]
TraleeBoroughKerry1613 (31 March)[5]CorporationOne seat
TrimBoroughMeathBy 1560[4]CorporationDisfranchised
TuamBoroughGalway1613 (30 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
TyroneCountyTyrone1585 (September)[6]FreeholdersTwo seats
Liberty of UlsterCountyMultiple[lower-alpha 11]1297Previously disfranchised[lower-alpha 11]
Waterford CityCounty boroughWaterford[lower-alpha 3]1299Freemen and freeholdersOne seat
Waterford CountyCountyWaterford1297FreeholdersTwo seats
WestmeathCountyWestmeath1543[15][16]FreeholdersTwo seats
Wexford BoroughBoroughWexfordBy 1560[4]FreemenOne seat
Wexford CountyCountyWexford1297FreeholdersTwo seats
Wicklow BoroughBoroughWicklow1613 (30 March)[5]CorporationDisfranchised
Wicklow CountyCountyWicklow1577[17][lower-alpha 12]; 1606[19]FreeholdersTwo seats
YoughalBoroughCork1374Corporation and FreemenOne seat
  1. The date of either: the earliest Parliament at which it is known to have received a writ of election or sent representatives; or else: the earliest charter or statute granting representation. Outside the Pale, places enfranchised after the Norman conquest often had long periods unrepresented prior to the Tudor reconquest.
  2. The territory of Ards, one of the medieval sheriffdoms of the Earldom of Ulster, was included in the reconstituted County Down in 1570.
  3. A separate county corporate.
  4. The medieval county of Connacht was subdivided in 1570 into the modern counties of Galway and Mayo.
  5. Then called Dengenechoyshe.
  6. The University was in the county of the city of Dublin. The electorate was its Fellows and Scholars.
  7. The area of Ferns, corresponding to the northern part of County Wexford, was briefly made a separate shire between the 1570s before merging back into Wexford in the 1600s.
  8. Previously incorporated as Derry, 11 July 1604.
  9. In the county of the city of Kilkenny rather than county Kilkenny.
  10. Cross Tipperary last returned MPs in 1634, and was definitively merged with Tipperary in 1716.
  11. The medieval liberty of Ulster was subdivided in 1570 into the modern counties of Antrim and Down.
  12. The county of Wicklow created in 1577 seems not to have functioned and ceased to exist some time after 1586[18]
Henry Boyle, speaker between 1733 and 1756
John Ponsonby, speaker between 1756 and 1771
Edmund Perry, speaker between 1771 and 1785
John Foster, last speaker of the Irish House of Commons (1785–1800)

Means of resignation

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

In 1793 a methodology for resignation was created, equivalent to the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds or the Manor of Northstead as a means of resignation from the British House of Commons. From that date, Irish members could be appointed to the Escheatorship of Munster, the Escheatorship of Leinster, the Escheatorship of Connaught or the Escheatorship of Ulster. Possession of one of these Crown offices, "office of profit under the Crown" with a 30-shilling salary, terminated one's membership of the House of Commons.

Notable members

See also


  1. Porritt, Edward (1963). The Unreformed House of Commons. Parliamentary Representation Before 1832. CUP Archive. pp. 185–187. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  2. Johnston-Liik 2006, p. 222.
  3. Fiants Ire. Eliz. No 1530
  4. Hardiman, James (1842). "Appendix III: The lordes spirituall and temporall, counties, cytties, and borough-townes, as are answerable to the Parlyament in this realme of Ireland ; and souche as weare sommoned unto the Parlyament holden before the right honorable Sir John Perrot, knyght, Lord Deputie Generall of the realme of Ireland, xxvi. die Aprilis, anno regni Regine nostre Elizabeth, vicesimo septimo. A. D. 1585.". A Statute of the fortieth Year of Edward III., enacted in a Parliament held in Kilkenny, A. D. 1367, before Lionel Duke of Clarence, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Now first printed from a the Library of his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth. With a Translation and Notes. Tracts relating to Ireland. Vol.II. Dublin: Irish Archaeological Society. |volume= has extra text (help)
  5. Moody, T.W.; The Irish Parliament under Elizabeth and James I, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol 45 (1939) No 6, PP 72-76
  6. Moody, T.W.; Martin, F.X.; Byrne, F.J. (1991). Early Modern Ireland, 1534-1691. Oxford University Press. p. 166. ISBN 9780198202424.Inquisitionum in Officio Rotulorum Cancellariae Hiberniae Asservatarum Repertorium (Repertory of the Inquisitions of the Chancery of Ireland) Volume II, page xix 'An Order for the division, setting out and appoyntinge of the boundes, lymytts and circuits of sixe severall sheires or countyes within the pvince of Ulster within this realme of Ireland, viz. the countye of Tyron, the countye of Donnyngall, the countye of Fermanaghe, the countye of Colrane, the countye of Armaghe and the countye of Monohon ... the firste of September anno dei 1585, annoque d[omi]n[a]e Regin[a]e Elizabeth', 27mo'
  7. "Turlough Lynagh (O'Neill)'s pretence to harm ... the new made county of Cavan" Proceedings and orders of the Chancellor, Council and Gentlemen of Meath and Dublin, August 21 1579, Calendar of the State Papers relating to Ireland, of the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth, Volume 2, 1574-1585 page 184
  8. "O'Reilly's country erected into the County of Cavan" Lord Deputy Perrot to Walsyngham, 16 November 1584, Calendar of the State Papers relating to Ireland, of the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth, Volume 2, 1574-1585 page 537
  9. Moody, T.W.; Martin, F.X.; Byrne, F.J. (1984). A New History of Ireland, Vol IX, Maps, Genealogies, Lists. Oxford University Press. p. 108.
  10. "Orders to be observed by Sir Nicholas Malby, Knight, for the better government of the Province of Connaght" Printed in O'Flaherty's Chorographical Description of West Or H-Iar Connaught: Written A.D. 1684 ed. Hardiman, P. 304
  11. An Act "whereby the King and Queen's Majesties, and the Heires and Successors of the Queen, be entituled to the Counties of Leix, Slewmarge, Irry, Glinmaliry, and Offaily, and for making the same Countries Shire Grounds." 3 & 4 Phil & Mar, c.2 (1556). The Act was repealed in 1962.
  12. Falkiner, Caesar Litton (1904). Illustrations of Irish history and topography, mainly of the seventeenth century. London: Longmans, Green, & Co. pp. 118–9. ISBN 1-144-76601-X.
  13. Maginn, Christopher (2012). William Cecil, Ireland, and the Tudor State. Oxford. p. 194.
  14. "The Annaley, formerly governed by O’Farrale Bane and O’Farrale Boy, is erected into a shire called Longford." Lord Chancellor and Council to the Queen, March 23, 1571,Calendar of the State Papers relating to Ireland, of the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth, Volume 1, 1509-1573, page 440
  15. Counties of Meath and Westmeath Act 1543 34 Henry VIII cap 1 (Ire) An Act for the division of Methe into two shires.
  16. Falkiner, Caesar Litton (1904). Illustrations of Irish history and topography, mainly of the seventeenth century. London: Longmans, Green, & Co. p. 117. ISBN 1-144-76601-X.
  17. Fiants Ire. Eliz. No 3003, 22 March 1577
  18. Moody, T. W.; Martin, F. X.; Byrne, F. J. (1984). A New History of Ireland, Vol IX, Maps, Genealogies, Lists. Oxford University Press. p. 108.
  19. Moody, T.W.; Martin, F.X.; Byrne, F.J. (1991). Early Modern Ireland, 1534-1691. Oxford University Press. p. 166. ISBN 9780198202424.


  • Mary Frances Cusack, Illustrated History of Ireland, Project Gutenberg
  • Johnston-Liik, Edith Mary, ed. (2002). History of the Irish parliament, 1692–1800. Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation.
  • Johnston-Liik, Edith Mary (2006). MPs in Dublin: Companion to the History of the Irish Parliament 1692-1800. Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation. ISBN 1903688604.
  • McGrath, Charles Ivar (2000). The making of the 18th century Irish Constitution: Government, Parliament and the Revenue, 1692-1714. Dublin: Four Courts Press. ISBN 1-85182-554-1.
  • Magennis, Eoin (2000). The Irish Political System 1740-1765. Dublin: Four Courts Press. 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
  • Return of the name of every member of the lower house of parliament of England, Scotland, and Ireland, with name of constituency represented, and date of return, from 1213 to 1874. C. 69-I. HMSO. 1878.