the Irish for rights

What is the Preamble to a Constitution for?

preamble.jpgFor various reasons, the question in the title has come up several times today. As a first thought, it seems to me that the Preamble to a Constitution sets out some general aspirational sentiments about the nature of the polity being created by that Constitution. It is a general statement which introduces the document and its purposes, ambitions, principles, and commitments, and thereby serves to explain its raison d’etre. In modern American parlance, it’s where the polity puts ‘the vision thing‘ for its members and others to find. Such broad brush strokes are inappropriate for binding text, but, because it is an expression of the polity’s vision, it is a useful aid for guiding the interpretation of the text which follows. Famously, the Preamble to the US Constitution does this in a single sentence. That to the Irish Constitution is a little longer.

So, my question is this: is the above paragraph a fair summary of what constitutional preambles do, or not?

3 Responses to “What is the Preamble to a Constitution for?”

  1. David Malone says:

    You probably should have included a execuative summary to your paragraph.

    I guess there is also a possibility that it it a place to put stuff that you didn’t want to put in the constitution itself. As they say in Yes Minister (the one on open government), “you always dispose of. the difficult bit in the title”.

  2. […] its internal affairs. In the restatement of TCD’s Statutes which come into force today, the Preamble sets out some values and aspirations to inform and underpin their interpretation and application. […]

  3. […] posed the question in title in an earlier post on this blog. In an article published in the current issue of the International Journal of Constitutional Law, […]

Leave a Reply



Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights.

"Cearta" really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

Academic links


  • RSS Feed
  • RSS Feed
  • Subscribe via Email
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Archives by month

Categories by topic

My recent tweets

Blogroll (or, really, a non-blogroll)

What I'd like for here is a simple widget that takes the list of feeds from my existing RSS reader and displays it here as a blogroll. Nothing fancy. I'd love a recommendation, if you have one.

I had built a blogroll here on my Google Reader RSS subscriptions. Google Reader produced a line of html for each RSS subscription category, each of which I pasted here. So I had a list of my subscriptions as my blogroll, organised by category, which updated whenever I edited Google Reader. Easy peasy. However, with the sad and unnecessary demise of that product, so also went this blogroll. Please take a moment to mourn Google Reader. If there's an RSS reader which provides a line of html for the list of subscriptions, or for each RSS subscription category as Google Reader did, I'd happily use that. So, as I've already begged, I'd love a recommendation, if you have one.

Meanwhile, please bear with me until I find a new RSS+Blogroll solution




Creative Commons License

This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. I am happy for you to reuse and adapt my content, provided that you attribute it to me, and do not use it commercially. Thanks. Eoin

Credit where it’s due

The image in the banner above is a detail from a photograph of the front of Trinity College Dublin night taken by Melanie May.

Others whose technical advice and help have proven invaluable in keeping this show on the road include Dermot Frost, Karlin Lillington, Daithí Mac Síthigh, and Antoin Ó Lachtnáin.

Thanks to Blacknight for hosting.