From Academic Kids

The Third Dáil, also known as the Provisional Parliament or the Constituent Assembly, was the parliament of the post-partition twenty-six county Irish state which met from 9th September, 1922 until 9th August 1923. Depending on whether one relied on British or Irish political theory it was either

Both however were agreed that it was a "Constituent Assembly". After 6th December, 1922 it served as the lower house of the Oireachtas (parliament) of the newly established Irish Free State.

The Third Dáil was elected under the terms of the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, 1922 which was, in turn, enacted to give effect to the provisions of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and pave the way for the establishment of the Irish Free State. The Constitution of the Irish Free State provided, within its own articles, that it would not come into effect until it had been adopted by both the British Parliament and the Third Dáil, which it referred to as the "constituent assembly".


Confusion over status

Ireland since 1919 had been governed under two rival political theories. To most nationalists and republicans, an assembly of Irish MPs (who adopted the equivalent Irish language term TDs) had formed in Dublin in 1919 and was the valid parliament of the UDI Irish Republic. Each successive Dála (plural of Dáil) was the successor of the earlier one and the legitimate parliament of the Irish Republic. The Second Dáil was chosen through an election in 1921 called by the British administration in Ireland, the elected republican members forming themselves into the Second Dáil rather than the parliament of Southern Ireland they were elected to.

However according to British political theory the assembly of Irish MPs in Dublin did not constitute a valid parliament and was subsequently declared illegal. Under British theory, legal government remained vested in His Majesty's Government in Westminister, and its Irish executive, under the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland based in Dublin Castle. In 1920 the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 was enacted, which created two Irish parliaments; one for Northern Ireland in Belfast and one for Southern Ireland, which was called to assemble in Royal College of Science in Dublin. The uncontested elections in Southern Ireland produced the House of Commons of Southern Ireland, though when the new house was called to assemble, only four MPs turned up. The rest assembled as the illegal Second Dáil.

Two governments, two parliaments, one objective

Under the Treaty, procedures were set in place to merge the republican and British systems. Initially both remained separate to validate the Treaty from their own perspectives. So the Second Dáil and the House of Commons of Southern Ireland both voted separately to ratify the Treaty. Each house chose their own governments, with a government of the Irish Republic being chosen under President Arthur Griffith, while a Provisional Government under Michael Collins was chosen by the House of Commons of Southern Ireland. In reality both governments effectively worked as a team. Then both governments dissolved both houses and called elections to a body that could be seen, depending on the political theory followed, as the successor of either or both houses.

Election of the Third Dáil/Provisional Parliament

The elections to the Third Dáil took place on 16th June, 1922. They occurred under the system of proportional representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote. Unlike the Second Dáil, which was notionally elected by the whole island of Ireland, the Third Dáil would not include members elected in Northern Ireland. Since the election of the Second Dáil in 1921, Sinn Féin, the only political party represented in the Dáil, had split into pro and anti-treaty factions and these two factions became the major contestants of the 1922 elections. The elections were therefore effectively a referendum on the Anglo-Irish Treaty. In the event the pro-treaty side won a majority of seats and the anti-treaty faction boycotted the assembly, refusing to recognise the body as the legitimate heir to the Second Dáil. The Civil War broke out shortly afterwards.

Crown assembly or republican Dáil?

The issue of whether the new house, the Third Dáil/Provisional Parliament, was a republican or crown assembly became an issue for some Anti-Treaty Irish republicans. Laurence Ginnell turned up in the assembly to demand an answer as to which category, crown or republic, it belonged to. Even the Ceann Comhairle (the speaker) and the Lord Lieutenant seemed confused. At one stage the Ceann Comhairle read out a message from the Lord Lieutenant to the assembly, even though, in theory, the assembly, if the lineal successor of the earlier Dála, should not have been accepting a message from the representative of the British king, while the Lord Lieutenant equally should not have been sending a message to the body if it was really still the parliament of the Irish Republic.

The ambiguities and constitutional puzzles regarding the two governments previously chosen by the different parent assemblies of the current constituent assembly, was solved when the separate governments themselves were merged through the sudden death of President Griffith and the assassination of Chairman Collins within one week of each other. The two chief governmental offices, the President of the Republic1 and the Chairman of the Provisional Government (who was constitutionally a Minister of the Crown), came to be held by the one man, William T. Cosgrave, producing a unique constitutional hybrid; a crown-empowered prime minister who was also president of a republic. Amid all the confusion of the status of parliaments and prime ministerial titles, the ambiguous combination of monarchism and republicanism in Cosgrave's office was accepted by both political theories.

Enactment of the Constitution - two systems become one

The Third Dáil adopted the Constitution of the Irish Free State on October 25, 1922. The document was then enacted by the British Parliament and came into force on the December 6. The new constitution used the name Dáil Éireann for the lower house of a new parliament called the "Oireachtas". However it provided that until the first elections to this new lower house the "constituent assembly" would exercise "all the powers and authorities" conferred on the 'new' Dáil Éireann. The Third Dáil therefore functioned as a legislative lower house from December, 1922 until it was dissolved on August 9, 1923.

The Fourth Dáil, the first Dáil Éireann of the Irish Free State, was convened one month later in September. In spite of the nomenclature preferred by nationalists, under British constitutional theory it was this first Free State Dáil that was the first legitimate Irish political institution to bear the name "Dáil Éireann".

The official website of Dáil Éireann implicitly recognises the status of the Third Dáil as the first effective independent Irish assembly because, starting on September 9 1922 when the Third Dáil met it counts its debates in volumes starting at 1, with all subsequent parliamentary debates to the present day counted from that point. Debates from earlier First and Second Dála in contrast are given the letters F (First Dáil), S, T and S2 (Second Dáil).


  1. To add to the confusion, Cosgrave like Griffith called himself President of Dáil Éireann. In fact that title had been superseded by the title President of the Republic in August 1921 following a constitutional amendment. Though they used the earlier title the Dáil Constitution was never actually amended to replace the post-August 1921 title by the earlier version preferred by them.

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