Constitutions describe the fundamental rules according to which states are
governed, be they embodied in the law, customs or conventions. They set out how
decisions are made, how power is distributed among the institutions of
government, the limits of governmental authority and the methods of election
and appointment of those who exercise power. Constitutions also define the
relationship between the state and the individual and usually include a listing of
the rights of the citizen.
There are wide variations
This book is about what steps should be taken to ensure that the United Kingdom does not fragment. It examines the state of play concerning the devolution of powers in the UK and considers the impact which the Brexit process could have on devolution in the future. It contributes to the debate about what a post-Brexit UK should look like and whether now, at long last, the nation needs a comprehensive written Constitution. After looking at the present situation concerning the protection of human rights in the UK, and by drawing lessons from the experiences of four other common law countries in operating written Constitutions – the USA, Canada, Australia and Ireland, it concludes that the UK should not seek to acquire a single written Constitution and that a much more useful advance would be to turn the nation into a federation. Far from endangering the Union, which is already fragile, a formalised federal structure could strengthen the bonds between the four constituent parts of the UK and encourage all of its people to strive towards upholding a value-based set of national goals articulated in legislation. The book argues that a Constitutional Reform Act should be enacted to create the federation, while retaining the country’s name as ‘the United Kingdom’. The same Act should make related reforms such as reconstructing the House of Lords, adopting a UK Bill of Rights and creating a fairer method for deciding how funds should be allocated by central government to the three devolved regions.
A constitution is the body of laws, rules and customs that establishes the organs of a state (executive, legislature, judiciary), how those organs relate to one another, and the relations between those organs and the citizen. Most, but not all, nations embody the key provisions in a single codified document. There is thus a document with the designation of ‘the constitution’. However, the provisions extend beyond the document to encompass judicial decisions (interpreting the words of the document), laws that supplement the document, as well as rules of
Relatively few Americans have an
accurate knowledge of the US Constitution and its provisions. A study
conducted in August 2017 by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the
University of Pennsylvania revealed that only about a quarter (26 per
cent) of respondents could identify all three branches of the federal
government. More than a third (37 per cent) could not point to a single
specific right guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Meanwhile, 15 per cent asserted to pollsters that
The people’s Constitution
This Constitution should be prized by the people. It was won in toil, in danger, and
in stress. It was negotiated on the cliff’s edge, and it gives to Ireland the care of her
own household. It puts into the hands of the Irish people the making and moulding,
and the amending or repealing of their own laws. It gives them full fiscal control;
it gives them power to develop in peace and reconstruction towards the fullness of
While it may not be known for it, one of the principal aims of the 1922 Constitution
The Land constitutions
For almost forty years after the federal Constitution went into effect,
little attention was paid to state (Land) constitutions in Germany.
Amendments were made on numerous occasions, but these were almost
always rather minor changes or technical corrections and did not arouse
much controversy. At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s,
this changed dramatically for two major reasons. A scandal in SchleswigHolstein in 1987 involving allegations that the prime minister
Constitutions provide the ‘rules of the game’ for states, determining how their political systems are allowed to operate – how often there will be elections and what kind of voting system is to be used, what constitutes a majority in the legislature, what powers the head of the executive has, and so forth. If they know nothing else about the constitution, most British people know that their country has no written document upon which it is inscribed. But, like many other well known ‘truths’, this is not quite correct. Much of the constitution is
Recent years have witnessed a revived interest in civic republicanism in Ireland, in tandem with a growing consciousness of republican ideas across the English-speaking world. Yet while republicanism is posited as a catch-all public philosophy and as a framework for political reform in Ireland and elsewhere, its content remains highly ambiguous and contested. Its implications for constitutional structure and constitutional theory are the subject of wide debate in both legal and political thought. In this book, Eoin Daly and Tom Hickey consider republican themes in the Irish constitutional tradition. While the Irish Constitution has been understood as oscillating between a liberal concern for individual freedoms against the state and a communitarian concern for promoting a shared identity, the authors argue that many of its central features and devices can be interpreted in a distinctively republican light – and specifically, as providing a framework for participation in self-government. They consider how institutions and concepts such as popular sovereignty, constitutional rights, parliamentary government and judicial review might be re-interpreted in light of the republican themes of civic virtue and freedom as non-domination.
This book challenges the myths surrounding the Irish Free Constitution by analysing the document in its context, by looking at how the Constitution was drafted and elucidating the true nature of the document. It examines the reasons why the Constitution did not function as anticipated and investigates whether the failures of the document can be attributed to errors of judgment in the drafting process or to subsequent events and treatment of the document. As well as giving a comprehensive account of the drafting stages and an analysis of the three alternative drafts for the first time, the book considers the intellectual influences behind the Constitution and the central themes of the document. This work constitutes a new look at this historic document through a legal lens and the analysis benefits from the advantage of hindsight as well as the archival material now available. Given the fact that the current Constitution substantially reproduces much of the 1922 text, the work will be of interest to modern constitutional scholars as well as legal historians and anyone with an interest in the period surrounding the creation of the Irish State.
The picture since the 1990s
The history of proposals for a
written Constitution in the United Kingdom is a long but not
particularly glorious one. The only document to achieve anything like
the status of a written Constitution is the 1653 Instrument of
Government, the document which confirmed Oliver Cromwell as the Lord
Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland and
created a Council of State. The Instrument was supplemented by two
‘Humble Petition and Advice’ documents in 1657