Speaker of the Irish House of Commons
In the absence of a government chosen from and answerable to the Commons, the Speaker was the dominant political figure in the Parliament of Ireland. Unlike in modern British and Irish parliamentary practice, the Speaker was not expected to be politically impartial and several Speakers held government or Crown-appointed positions while also presiding over the Commons. Even so, the conduct of everyday business in the House was generally overseen with impartiality and fairness by all holders of the Speakership. The position was one of considerable power and prestige in Ireland, and the holder enjoyed high precedence as the first gentleman in Ireland.
Speakers of the Commons were elected on the first day of the session of a new parliament, unless the sitting Speaker resigned his post. Before the reign of Queen Anne elections to the chair were uncontested. However, the House increasingly reflected the virulent political divisions between Whig and Tory factions, and Alan Brodrick's second candidacy was contested in 1713. Further contested elections occurred in 1771, 1776 and 1790.
From 1771 the Speaker had a considerable degree of independence from the government of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, although the Speaker was regularly consulted on the executive's business. Speakers needed to have considerable wealth to carry out their conventional roles as sources of patronage in Ireland, and the Speaker was expected to host all Members of Parliament several times year. The Speaker held the casting vote when the House divided as primus inter pares..
The position was abolished when the Parliament of Ireland was merged with that of Great Britain to form the Parliament of the United Kingdom following the Acts of Union 1800. The last Speaker was John Foster, who had been a vehement opponent of the Union while in the chair.
List of Speakers
|Speaker||Term of office||Portrait||Date(s) of election||Constituency||Notes||Peerage|
|James Stanihurst||1557||1568|| 1557
|Nathaniel Catelyn||1634||1635||Dublin City|
|John Temple||1661||1662||Carlow Borough|
|Sir Richard Nagle||1689||1692||Cork County|
|Sir Richard Levinge, 1st Baronet||1692||1695||5 October 1692||Blessington|
|Robert Rochfort||1695||1703||27 August 1695||Westmeath|
|Alan Brodrick (first term)||1703||1710||21 September 1703||Westmeath||Resigned after his appointment as Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench in 1710.||Viscount Midleton|
|John Forster||1710||1713||19 May 1710||Dublin City|
|Alan Brodrick (second term)||1713||1714||15 November 1713||Westmeath||Viscount Midleton|
|William Conolly||1715||1729|| 12 November 1715
28 November 1727
|Londonderry County|| Also First Commissioner of the Revenue (Ireland).
Resigned on the grounds of ill health on 13 October 1729.
|Sir Ralph Gore, 4th Baronet||1729||1733||13 October 1729||Clogher|
|Henry Boyle||1733||1756||4 October 1733||Cork County|| Also Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland.
Resigned having been granted an Irish peerage on 17 April 1756.
|Earl of Shannon|
|Hon. John Ponsonby||1756||1771|| 26 April 1756
22 October 1761
17 October 1769
|Newtownards|| Also First Commissioner of the Revenue (Ireland).
Resigned following a political disagreement with Lord Townshend on 4 March 1771.
|Edmund Pery||1771||1785|| 7 March 1771
18 June 1776
14 October 1783
|Limerick City||Resigned on the grounds of ill health on 5 September 1785.||Viscount Pery|
|John Foster||1785||1800|| 5 September 1785
2 July 1790
9 January 1798
|Louth||Last Speaker; position abolished under the Acts of Union 1800.||Baron Oriel|
- E. M. Johnston-Liik, MPs in Dublin: Companion to History of the Irish Parliament, 1692-1800 (Ulster Historical Foundation, 2006), p.389-398 (Retrieved 24 October 2016).
- E. M. Johnston-Liik, MPs in Dublin: Companion to History of the Irish Parliament, 1692-1800 (Ulster Historical Foundation, 2006), p.398 (Retrieved 24 October 2016).
- E. M. Johnston-Liik, MPs in Dublin: Companion to History of the Irish Parliament, 1692-1800 (Ulster Historical Foundation, 2006), p.395 (Retrieved 24 October 2016).