Poynings' Law and the making of law in Ireland, 1660–1800

Monitoring the constitution

James Kelly

Hardback €49.50
Catalogue Price: €55.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-078-6
July 2007. 320pp; ills.

[James Kelly] takes up the story of Poynings’ Law from the Restoration of the monarchy to the Act of Union. I will not attempt to summarise this work. On the density index, which spans the spectrum of consommé to Bovril, this comprehensive and detailed work is right at the Bovril end of the spectrum....The application and operation of Poynings’ law to the crucial century of legislative endeavour that started with the Penal Laws and ended in the Grattan Parliament was a complex and intricate tale. And James Kelly has added greatly to the written corpus of Irish legal history by completing the work started by a number of authors – Quinn, Dudley Edwards Moody and Clarke - which had chronicled the earlier history of Poynings’ Law in Tudor and early Stuart times', Michael McDowell SC at the launch.

'This impressively scholarly book ... is not easy reading but is, perhaps for that very reason, rewarding reading and opens up a lost world to the reader in 2008', J. Ardle McArdle, Books Ireland (February 2008).

'Dr Kelly, if not altering the fundamentals of the usage, adds enormously to the detail of how [Poynings' Law] evolved and operated. His entirely innovative analysis of the privy council registers allows him to follow the fate of the many proposals ... His mastery of the contexts means that this account is effectively a study of parliamentary politics and Anglo-Irish relations over more than a century. As such, it will prove invaluable … thanks to Dr Kelly’s meticulous and systematic researches it is possible, as never before, to appreciate what the Irish legislature achieved, in terms both of bills reaching the statute book and of pragmatic politics', T.C. Barnard, Law and History Review.

‘… This book provides a new, revealing perspective on the working of the Irish parliament, its relationship with the Irish executive and on the nature of the Anglo-Irish connection,‘ Patrick Sarsfield, Irish Family Press.

‘Poynings’s Law, passed in 1494, was designed to restrict significantly the legislative independence of the Dublin Parliament, providing the main framework for the legislative history of Ireland until it was significantly amended in 1782 … James Kelly’s very valuable and richly researched book explores the operation of Poynings’s Law in this era … Kelly has undertaken a huge amount of original research in preparing this book, especially amongst the papers of the main individuals caught up in the system under Poyning’s Law … [L]ike the best of books, this one not only establishes many matters definitively, it also opens up many other questions. Kelly has enlightened and challenged us’, Julian Hoppit, American Historical Review (June 2009).

‘Dr Kelly, undeterred by the scale of the task or the source difficulties, has described the operation of the Irish legislature in all its complexity between the Restoration and the Act of Union … Dr Kelly has mined the extensive records accumulated by the English Privy Council as it reviewed Irish legislation according to the provisions of Poynings’ Law … the book is above all grounded in close study on a massive scale of the practical workings of the legislative machine. The book demonstrates the almost infinite variety of subject matter in legislation, both enacted and failed', John Bergin, Irish Historical Studies (November 2009).