The Oxford Companion to Irish History

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D

dáil (O.Ir. dál, originally a meeting, tryst, or encounter of any kind, sometimes amatory or hostile, was used by extension in the *brehon law tracts for a lawsuit, or legal sentence, and in medieval Irish annals for a political assembly or church synod. The comhdháil at Athboy under Rory O'Connor (Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair) in 1167, attended by lay and ecclesiastical leaders of the northern half of Ireland with 13,000 horsemen, which 'reached many good decisions about . . . churches and . . . territories', approximates most closely to an embryonic *parliament rather than a simple church synod, and the *Four Masters' record of this meeting probably inspired the 20th-century use of the term. Later we find the word used in 1433 of a peace conference between hostile territories. KS

Dáil courts ( 1919-22), set up by the first and second *Dála to replace the courts of the British administration in Ireland. In 1919 the Dáil established arbitration courts, a Supreme Court, district courts, and parish courts. The impetus for these moves was the escalation of land agitation in the west of Ireland and the threat it posed to the Did's authority.

Parish courts dealt with petty criminal offences and civil claim under £10; district courts heard civil appeals from the parish courts and civil claims under £100; the Supreme Court functioned as a final court of appeal from both the district courts and the Land Settlement Commission, which dealt with land cases. More serious criminal cases, theoretically reserved for special sittings of the higher courts, were in practice dealt with summarily by local *IRA units.

The law to be applied by the courts was that existing on 21 January 1919, the first meeting of the Dáil, and citations could be made to the courts, as far as practicable, from early Irish law-codes, Roman law, and the Code Napoléon, but not from any legal textbook published in Britain. Despite the difficulties of *martial law, the courts gradually became established (except in parts of Ulster) and replaced the existing British structures. Their greatest popularity came after the truce of July 1921. After the *Anglo-Irish treaty the situation became confusing, with the crown courts operating side by side with those of the Dáil. In July 1922, following the outbreak of *civil war, the *Provisional Govertunent rescinded the decree establishing the Dáil Supreme Court, which had granted an application of *habeas corpus on behalf of a republican prisoner. The authority of the other Did courts was likewise rescinded in October 1922. These steps caused considerable resentment and controversy. The Dáil Éireann Courts (Winding Up) Act 1923 gave statutory recognition to the judgments issued during the courts' period of operation. New courts, incorporating many features from the Difl courts, were set up under the 1924 Courts of Justice Act. DMCM

Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament. Members are teachtaí dála, abbreviated as TD. The term Dáil (plural Dála), derived from the name of a council of elders in Gaelic Ireland, has been applied to three separate assemblies.


1919-1922

The first Dáil ( Jan. 1919-May 1921) consisted of 73 *Sinn Féin candidates elected in 1918. They abstained from Wesuninster and set up their own assembly in Dublin. No Unionist or Nationalist members attended and the Difl was proscribed in 1919.

The first Dáil constitution provided for a unicameral assembly and a ministry (cabinet) headed by a prime minister or president. De *Valera was elected president in April 1919; when he went to America, Arthur *Griffith became acting president. As the *Anglo-Irish War intensified, the work of the ministry became increasingly difficult although some departments, notably finance, local government, and agriculture, were successful. (See DÁIL COURTS.)

In May 1921 Sinn Féin took part in the elections held under the *Government of Ireland Act and a

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