This exhibition showcases examples from the Documents Laid collection for each decade since the 1920s, and provides an insight into some of the significant events in Irish society over the past ninety years.

Kilmainham Prison closing order

Kilmainham Prison (Closing) Order 1929

1920s

Kilmainham Prison (Closing) Order 1929

Kilmainham Gaol, in operation since the late 18th century, was decommissioned as a prison following the Irish Civil War, and was formally closed in 1929. The gaol first opened in 1796 as the new county gaol for Dublin, with debtors, thieves, drunks, beggers and prostitutes confined within its walls and prisoners found guilty of murder and violent robbery publically executed by hanging.

Emergency Imposition of Duties (No. 1) Order 1932

Emergency Imposition of Duties (No. 1) Order 1932

1930s

Emergency Imposition of Duties (No. 1) Order 1932

The 1930s saw the Fianna Fáil party, under the leadership of Eamon De Valera, elected into government. From the outset, they were eager to dismantle parts of the 1921 treaty considered restrictive to Irish independence. To achieve this, De Valera amended the constitution to remove the Article requiring the taking of the Oath of Allegiance by newly elected members before they could claim their seats in the Dáil or Senate, while also downgrading the post of Governor General by appointing a close friend who never took up office or exercised any official function.

Air Raid Precautions Act 1939 (Grants under Section 58) Regulations

Air Raid Precautions Act 1939 (Grants under Section 58) Regulations

1940s

Air Raid Precautions Act 1939 (Grants under Section 58) Regulations

Throughout World War II, Ireland’s official policy was that of neutrality. However, as the United Kingdom was at war with Germany, Ireland needed to be prepared for the possibility of air-raids, and, indeed, the Republic was bombed by the German Luftwaffe a number of times between 1940 and 1941.

Proposals for improved and extended health services, July 1952

Proposals for improved and extended health services, July 1952

1950s

Proposals for improved and extended health services, July 1952

The 1940s and 1950s were a time of significant change for the healthcare system in the Republic of Ireland, with the establishment of the Department of Health to replace of the Department for Local Government and Public Health on healthcare-related issues and the development of sanatoria throughout Ireland in order to help eliminate tuberculosis. The Health Act of 1947 passed by Fianna Fáil introduced the topic of universal healthcare and made way for the Mother and Child Scheme controversy of the 1950s.

RTÉ Annual Report for the year ending 31 March 1965

RTÉ Annual Report for the year ending 31 March 1965

1960s

RTÉ Annual Report for the year ending 31 March 1965

Irish radio broadcasting began on the 1st of January 1926 when 2RN, the first radio station of the Irish Free State, began broadcasting from a studio in Dublin. 2RN succeeded by Radio Athlone in 1933, later becoming known as Radio Éireann in 1938. Radio Éireann operated as a section of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs up until 1960, when it was transferred to a new independent semi-state body set up under the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960.

Membership of the European Communities, Implications for Ireland, April 1970

Membership of the European Communities, Implications for Ireland, April 1970

1970s

Membership of the European Communities, Implications for Ireland, April 1970

In the aftermath of the Second World War, there was an effort by Western European nations to foster co-operation and unity throughout Europe. In order to achieve this ideal, a number of communities were set up in the years following the war. The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was founded in 1951, followed by the establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC) six years later.

Anglo-Irish agreement between the government of Ireland and the government of the United Kingdom, Hillsborough, 15 November 1985

Anglo-Irish agreement between the government of Ireland and the government of the United Kingdom, Hillsborough, 15 November 1985

1980s

Anglo-Irish agreement between the government of Ireland and the government of the United Kingdom, Hillsborough, 15 November 1985

The late 1960s saw the beginning of a thirty year period of violent conflict in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles, which resulted in the deaths of over 3,500 people and the injury of almost another 50,000.

The Right to Remarry, a Government Information Paper on the Divorce Referendum, September 1995

The Right to Remarry, a Government Information Paper on the Divorce Referendum, September 1995

1990s

The Right to Remarry, a Government Information Paper on the Divorce Referendum, September 1995

The late twentieth century saw the Irish electorate voting on two referenda relating to divorce. The first divorce referendum was held in 1986 by Garret Fitzgerald’s Fine Gael government, but was rejected by a significant margin, with nearly 65% of the electorate voting against it and only five constituencies voting in favour of divorce, all of which were in Dublin. Western Connacht and Munster constituencies strongly rejected the proposed amendment, in particular, in Cork North West, where 79% of constituents voted “No”.

Diseases of Animals Act 1966 (Foot and Mouth Disease) (Export and Movement Restrictions) Order 2001

Diseases of Animals Act 1966 (Foot and Mouth Disease) (Export and Movement Restrictions) Order 2001

2000s

Diseases of Animals Act 1966 (Foot and Mouth Disease) (Export and Movement Restrictions) Order 2001

March 2001 saw an outbreak in Ireland of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), a highly contagious viral disease that affects cattle, sheep, pig, goats and other cloven hooved animals, following earlier outbreaks in Britain and Northern Ireland. It was the first outbreak of this disease in Ireland since 1941. Strict government policies on the movement of livestock were put in place to deal with the outbreaks, including restrictions on the movement of live animals and animal products throughout the state, and the disinfection of vehicles used for animal transportation.

Third Report of the Convention on the Constitution, Amending the Constitution to provide for same-sex marriage, 2013

Third Report of the Convention on the Constitution, Amending the Constitution to provide for same-sex marriage, 2013

2010s

Third Report of the Convention on the Constitution, Amending the Constitution to provide for same-sex marriage, 2013

One of the most contentious legal and social issues of recent times has been the topic of marriage equality for same-sex couples. The past few years have seen increased awareness of this topic, with various groups within Irish society engaging in animated discussion and debate regarding the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.