The British Renunciation Act Acknowledges the Exclusive Right of the Irish Parliament and Courts to Make and Administer Laws for Ireland

  • April 17, 1783

The Irish Appeals Act 1783 (23 Geo. 3. c. 28), commonly known as the Renunciation Act, was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain. By it the British Parliament renounced all right to legislate for Ireland, and declared that no appeal from the decision of any court in Ireland could be heard in any court in Great Britain.

The Declaratory Act 1719 declared that the king and parliament of Great Britain had “full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient validity to bind the Kingdom and people of Ireland”, and that the Irish House of Lords had no power to hear appeals from Irish courts.

This was greatly resented by the Irish parliament. In the early 1780s, the combination of political pressure from individuals such as Henry Grattan and Henry Flood and the conventions of the Irish Volunteers, at a time when Britain was involved in the American Revolutionary War, led to the passing of the Repeal Act of 1782, which granted legislative independence to the Kingdom of Ireland.

A small number of Irish politicians believed that repeal of the act did not imply that the British parliament could not assume the right to legislate for Ireland. As W. E. H. Lecky put it, “the Declaratory Act had not made the right, and therefore its repeal could not destroy it.”

Flood became convinced that it was necessary that the British parliament pass an act specifically renouncing any right to legislate for Ireland. Initially, the majority of the Irish parliament, including Grattan, opposed such a move. Later that year, however, Lord Mansfield heard an appeal from an Irish court in the English King’s Bench.

This had the effect of strengthening Flood’s hand, and the result was the passage, on 17 April 1783, of the Renunciation Act.