Poynings' Law

Justin McCarthy
Chapter III | Start of Chapter

We now come to an event of the greatest importance in Irish history, the mission of Sir Edward Poynings to Ireland as Lord Deputy. Henry sent him over to establish a change in the system of Ireland's government which should, to begin with, make the authority of the Irish Parliament wholly and avowedly subservient to that of the Sovereign and Parliament of England. Poynings went to Ireland with a powerful army, and convened in the name of the King such a Parliament at Drogheda as best suited his master's purpose. He succeeded in passing through that Parliament the measure ever since famous as Poynings' Law. We shall hear of this measure again and again during the present narrative. It was passed on September 13, 1494. It declared and established two principles: the first, that all laws existing in England should apply with equal validity to Ireland; the second, that no measures, even though applying to Ireland alone, should be initiated by an Irish Parliament without the preliminary consent of the English Sovereign and Council. The Irish Parliament was thus to be prevented from even discussing any proposal which the King of England did not wish to have passed into law. The English statesmanship of the time seemed now satisfied that the whole question was settled for ever. Did Ireland want a Parliament? Behold she had a Parliament, although that Parliament could not even listen to a proposal for any measure without the previous consent of the English King; and what more could any loyal and reasonable country desire?

King Henry seemed to believe that the main difficulties were now removed from the way of English government in Ireland, and that there was nothing more to be done so far as he was concerned.