CROWN CONTROL IN A ‘STATED REPUBLIC’
Mr. de Valera…handed Mr. Lloyd George a document in Irish, and then a translation in English. The Irish document was headed ‘Saorstat Eireann’ and Mr. Lloyd George began by asking modestly for a literal translation, saying that ‘Saorstat’ did not strike his ear as Irish. Mr. De Valera replied ‘Free State’. ‘Yes, retorted Mr. Lloyd George, ‘but what is the Irish word for Republic’. While Mr. De Valera and his colleague were pondering in English on what reply they should make Mr. Lloyd George conversed aloud in Welsh with one of his Secretaries (T.J.) to the discomfiture of the two Irishmen and as Mr. De Valera could get no further than Saorstat and Free State Mr. Lloyd George remarked ‘Must we not admit that the Celts were never Republicans and have no native word for such an idea’
Names of the Irish state
The front cover of an Irish passport showing the name of the state in its two official languages.
There have been various names for the state that is today officially known as Ireland. The state makes up almost five-sixths of the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, covers the rest of the island. When the state was created in 1922 it was named the Irish Free State. In 1937 it adopted a new constitution which claimed all of Ireland as its territory, becoming Ireland in English and Éire in Irish, although the latter was often used in English too. In 1949 it declared itself a republic and adopted the term Republic of Ireland as its official description while keeping the name Ireland.
The terms Republic of Ireland (ROI), the Republic or the South are often used when there is a need to distinguish the state from the island or when Northern Ireland (NI or the North) is being discussed. Some Irish republicans avoid calling the state Ireland because they view it as partitionist.
Article 4 of the Constitution of Ireland, adopted in 1937, provides that “[t]he name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland”. Hence, the Irish state has two official names, Éire (in Irish) and Ireland (in English). For official purposes, including in international treaties and other legal documents, and where the language of the documents is English, the Irish government uses the name Ireland. The same is true in respect of the name Éire for documents written in Irish. Similarly, the name of the state is reflected in its institutions and public offices. For example, there is a President of Ireland and a Constitution of Ireland. The name Ireland is also used in the state’s diplomatic relations with foreign nations and at meetings of the United Nations, European Union, Council of Europe, International Monetary Fund, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
An envelope from the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, stating “No Postage Stamp necessary if posted in Republic of Ireland”.
Since 1949 the Republic of Ireland Act has provided that the Republic of Ireland (or Poblacht na hÉireann in Irish) is the legal description for the state. However, Ireland remains the constitutional name of the state.
The constitutional name Ireland is normally used. However, the legal description Republic of Ireland is sometimes used when disambiguation is desired between the state and the island of Ireland. In colloquial use this is often shortened to ‘the Republic’.
This distinction between description and name was and remains important because the Act was not a constitutional amendment and did not change the name of the state. If it had purported to do so, it would have been unconstitutional. The distinction between a description and a name has sometimes caused confusion. The Taoiseach, John A. Costello introduced the legislation with an explanation of the difference in the following way:
If I say that my name is Costello and that my description is that of senior counsel, I think that will be clear to anybody who wants to know…[Similarly, the state’s] name in Irish is Éire and in the English language, Ireland. Its description in the English language is “the Republic of Ireland.”
Many countries include reference to “republic” in their names including the “French Republic” and the “Italian Republic”. In contrast, other republics, like Ireland and Hungary do not do so.
The state joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1973. Its accession treaty was drawn up in all of the EU’s then-official treaty languages (including English and Irish) and, as such, the Irish state joined under both of its names, Éire and Ireland. On 1 January 2007, Irish became an official working language of the EU. This did not change the name of the Irish state in EU law. However, it has meant for example that at official meetings of the EU Council of Ministers, nameplates for the Irish state now read as Éire – Ireland, whereas previously they would simply have read as Ireland.
The Inter Institutional Style Guide of The Office for Official Publications of the European Communities sets out how the names of the Member states of the European Union must always be written and abbreviated in EU publications. Concerning Ireland, it states that its official names are Éire and Ireland; its official name in English is Ireland; its country code is IE; and its former abbreviation was IRL. It also adds the following guidance: “NB: Do not use ‘Republic of Ireland’ nor ‘Irish Republic’.