Official Heraldry in Ireland

For an overview of the development and position of Heraldry in the Republic of Ireland please checkout the website of the National Library of Ireland where the Chief Herald of Ireland is based. The section dealing with the Office of the Chief Herald has a history of heraldry in Ireland and some fine examples of Grants made by that Office.

Arms GSI Letters Patent

(Pictured above: Letters Patent issued by the Chief Herald of Ireland granting Arms, Heraldic Badge and Heraldic Banner to the Genealogical Society of Ireland in 2001)

The present ‘Irish Heraldic Authority’ was only established (as a non-statutory body) on April 1st 1943 when the records of the Office of Arms in Dublin Castle were transferred from British control to the Irish government. But its predecessor, known as the Office of the Ulster King of Arms, was in existence since 1552 and on the transfer of the records to Irish control this title was attached by the British government to the English Norroy Herald of Arms in 1943. The assertion that the Office of the Chief Herald is “oldest Office of State” in Ireland is fanciful and completely without foundation as, in reality, the Office only dates from 1943 and legislatively, only from 2005.

Regarding the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland and its functions, this Society has always advocated the provision of a sound legal basis for the State’s delivery of heraldic services as the present legislation – National Cultural Institutions Act, 1997 – Section 13 – is fundamentally flawed.

There are very few publications dealing specifically with Irish heraldry and the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland, however, sections on the Irish situation do appear in several overseas publications. A number of these sections should be read with caution as certain unfounded assertions regarding the legal status and history of the ‘Irish heraldic authority’ have unfortunately appeared in a number of publications.

The Society successfully achieved circa 28 amendments to the National Cultural Institutions Bill when it was considered by Seanad Éireann in 1996 and three more before it finally passed all stages in Dáil Éireann in early 1997. This is the legislation that covers the delivery of heraldic services in Ireland, however, it was fundamentally flawed in a number of respects.

Ever since 2000 the Society advocated the introduction of specific heraldic legislation in Ireland and to deal with the various flaws in the National Cultural Institutions Act, 1997. Finally, the Society drafted and presented the full text of a Bill to Mr. Jimmy Deenihan, TD, and Mr. Jack Wall, TD, in late 2005. This draft was eventually introduced as the Genealogy & Heraldry Bill, 2006 and published by Senator Brendan Ryan (Cork) in 2006. For further information on this Bill and other legislative campaigns by the Society, please see the section on CAMPAIGNS on the Home Page of this website.

A number of authoritative articles on the legal status of the Irish heraldic service have been published by the Society, most notably, those by Prof. Noel Cox, LLB LLM(Hons) MTheol(Hons) PhD Auckland MA Lambeth LTh Lampeter GradDipTertTchg AUT FRHistS, Barrister of the High Court of New Zealand, and of the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria. Professor of Constitutional Law, AucklandUniversity of Technology, New Zealand. See the index to the articles published in the Journal 1992-2012 on the top of the home page here


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