Senators mark 750th anniversary of 'first Irish parliament'

Wednesday 18 June 2014 20.36
Labour Senator Ivana Bacik  proposed the debate
Labour Senator Ivana Bacik proposed the debate

Senators have been marking the 750th anniversary of the "first Irish parliament", which is understood to have met in Castledermot in Kildare on 18 June, 1264.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, who proposed the debate, paid tribute to members of the Castledermot Historical Society and Assistant Prof Paul Horan from Trinity College who brought the historical date to her attention.

She said manuscript records survive marking the date in the Diocesan register. 

The manuscript, which was in Latin, explained the inquisition had 32 persons present, key officials and land owning knights.

She said the inquisition was about Archbishop Fulke, adjudicating on a matter involving Prince Henry the third and his son.  She said it was a classic Church-State struggle.

Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan told the Seanad that it was important to mark the day. 

He said Ireland has ancient shared assemblies in the Gaelic and Viking traditions.

The first meeting of parliament preceded the English parliament by several months. He said these were chaotic times in Ireland and this first meeting was of Anglo Irish nobles and bishops, not representative of Irish people. 

He said later, in the 1400s, parliaments became more representative of the people.

Mr Deenihan raised the legacy of Henry Grattan who led the cause for real power for Irish parliamentarians and Daniel O'Connell who espoused non violent means for Catholic emancipation. 

He also paid tribute to John Redmond, the leader of the Irish parliamentary party, who will be commemorated for his work on the Home Rule Act. 

The leader of the house Maurcie Cummins said he was criticised for placing this item on the Order of Business but he was glad to have done so.

He said this first sitting pre-dates the de Montforts in England by seven months.

He said he was glad to see John Redmond commented.

Sinn Féin's Trevor O’Clochartaigh criticised the debate, saying it was commemorating English people who were imposing the Statutes of Kilkenny, anti-Gaelic laws, on local people.

He also questioned the historical accuracy of the event. 

The Statutes of Kilkenny were a series of 35 acts passed at Kilkenny in 1366.

He said there were other items deserving of attention.  He said there had been no statements on the Lockout and the founding of Cumann na mBán.

He said we owe our freedom to the plain people of Ireland and not land-grabbing aristocrats.