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Sunday, 11 December 2016

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11 December 1936: Eamon de Valera moved to abolish roll of  the Monarchy from internal Irish Law on this day. Following dramatic events across the water in Britain in which the British King Edward VIII had abdicated from the throne it was decided by Dev and his advisors to remove the role of the Monarchy from Irish Law as it pertained in the Irish Free State. It was a case of ‘England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity’ and the President jumped at the chance to make use of the Interregnum between one king and another one to get rid of their role in Irish affairs.

The role of the King in the Irish Free State was a result of the Anglo Irish Agreement of 1921 and had caused much division and strife since then. Further under the terms of the Statute of Westminster of 1931 all the Commonwealth States had agreed to act unison if there was to be ‘any alteration in the law touching the Succession to the Throne or the Royal Style and Titles shall hereafter require the assent as well of the Parliaments of all the Dominions as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom’. In effect the consent of the Irish Parliament was necessary to effect an Abdication of a British Monarch.

De Valera upon being consulted by the British was amenable to King Edward staying on as king and marrying his fiancé Mrs Simpson (a divorcee) if that was acceptable in Britain - but that was really an internal affair. The fact was there was now a golden opportunity for the Irish Free State to sidestep out of the Monarchy as Britain was engulfed in a Constitutional Crises and consumed in its internal affairs.

King Edward abdicated on 10 December. Dáil Éireann was summoned the following day. De Valera introduced legislation - The 'Executive Authority (External Relations) Act 1936'  to delete from the Constitution all mention of the King and the Governor General (the Representative of the Crown here) and to make provision by ordinary law for the exercise by the King of certain functions in external matters as and when so advised by the Executive Council. In effect in all but some arcane points of the signing of international treaties the role of the King was gone from the State’s affairs.

It was something of a Coup by De Valera and certainly his quick thinking and deft manoeuvring got rid of a thorny issue from the Irish Constitution that avoided a rift with the British. When the new Irish Constitution Bunreacht na hÉireann was put to the people of the State the following year there was no mention of any king in it.