The First Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was effected by the First Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1939, and signed into law on 2 September 1939. Its purpose was to extend the constitutional definition of "time of war" to include a period during which a war is occurring in which the state is not a direct participant. Its intention was to allow the government to exercise emergency powers during World War II (known in Ireland as The Emergency), despite the fact that the state was neutral. The amendment means that the state may exercise these powers provided the Oireachtas (parliament) declares a "national emergency".

Changes to the textEdit

  • Addition to Article 28.3.3 (added text in bold)
Nothing in this Constitution shall be invoked to invalidate any law enacted by the Oireachtas which is expressed to be for the purpose of securing the public safety and the preservation of the State in time of war or armed rebellion, or to nullify any act done or purporting to be done in time of war or armed rebellion in pursuance of any such law. In this sub-section ‘time of war’ includes a time when there is taking place an armed conflict in which the State is not a participant but in respect of which each of the Houses of the Oireachtas shall have resolved that, arising out of such armed conflict, a national emergency exists affecting the vital interests of the State.


Article 28 of the Constitution grants the state sweeping powers during a time of emergency but, in the form in which the article was adopted in 1937, these could only be invoked during a "time of war or armed rebellion". The First Amendment served to clarify that "time of war" need not mean a war in which the state is actually taking part.

The amendment was introduced by the Fianna Fáil government of Éamon de Valera. Unlike later amendments the First and Second Amendments were not submitted to a referendum because, under the terms of the constitution's Transitory Provisions, during the initial period of 1937–1941 constitutional amendments could be effected by a simple act of the Oireachtas.

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