First Irish Parliaments

Justin McCarthy
Chapter III | Start of Chapter
The famous Parliament of Kilkenny in 1367 passed laws which proclaimed the heaviest penalties against any English in Ireland who adopted Irish names, customs, or even costume.

It should be explained that the Parliament of Kilkenny was one of a series of assemblies instituted by the English Government after the fashion of the Parliament then existing in England. These Parliaments constituted the first rude attempts at a system of constitutional government, and were, after their imperfect fashion, the predecessors of the Parliamentary system prevailing in Great Britain at the present day. The King summoned an Upper House, consisting of lay peers and the higher clergy, and a Lower House made up of the Knights of the Shires and burgesses. These chambers were called together with the object of enabling the Sovereign to receive trustworthy advice from the chosen and loyal representatives of the different orders in the country. But when this system was set up in Ireland it was fenced around by so many limitations that it became merely a convocation of those who were openly hostile to the claims of the native population. Those parts of the country which were wholly in the hands of the native Irish or of the Anglo-Irish were not invited to send representatives to either House. This curious anomaly, the Parliament of Ireland, was summoned at irregular intervals by the King, and met, now in Dublin, now in Drogheda, now in Kilkenny. The whole attempt at the creation of a Parliament in Ireland under such conditions must seem to modern readers to have very little to do even with the earliest and rudest growth of the representative principle. But it is certain that if the English Sovereigns who successively endeavoured to maintain the conquest of Ireland had allowed the Irish people to express their views through any form of representation, that expression would have embodied itself in the demand for Ireland's absolute independence.