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Ireland has one of the world's longest-lasting and best established democratic constitutional systems, dating back to the original Free State Constitution of 1922. The subsequent 1937 Constitution can be seen as one of world's first post-colonial constitutional instruments, and was a considerable influence on the framing of other post-colonial constitutions in Africa and Asia. In addition, the 1922 and 1937 Constitutions were among the first in Europe to contain a judicially enforceable set of rights guarantees.
As a result, Ireland has a long history of judicial activism and an extensive rights jurisprudence, which has generated a controversial case-law in areas such as abortion, reproductive rights, criminal evidence, freedom of expression, socio-economic rights and equality norms. The Irish constitutional system is also almost unique in its particular conception of the State and how it conceptualises the separation of powers.
Taken together, all these features make the Irish constitutional system highly distinctive and of great interest from a comparative perspective. However, to understand its workings, it is necessary to also examine the background political and legal context. The Irish constitutional order has been shaped by the desire since independence to differentiate the new state from the 'old' order of British rule.
An independent Ireland was to be a constitutional democracy rooted in respect for individual dignity. However, balancing the idealism of independence with the complex realities of constitutional governance has proved difficult. In addition, the ongoing Northern Irish peace process and European integration continue to throw up fresh challenges. This book adopts a contextual and comparative approach in exploring the ongoing evolution of this complex and influential constitutional system.