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The Chief Secretary for Ireland was a key office-holder of state in the Britishmarker administration in Irelandmarker. Towards the end of Crown rule in Ireland, he operated in a manner similar to that of the Prime Minister in the UK Parliament. He was in theory the number two in the Lord Lieutenant's administration but from the late 18th century and early 19th century onwards, in parallel with the Prime Ministry in Great Britain, the office frequently eclipsed the nominally superior office, with the Chief Secretary, not the Lord Lieutenant, sitting in the British cabinet. With the partition of Ireland in 1921, the Lord Lieutenant was to remain, as was the Chief Secretary. The Lord Lieutenant would represent the Crown in both parliaments while the Chief Secretary would represent the remaining constituencies still sending representatives to Westminster.

However, following the Irish Civil War, the new Irish government abrogated the deal and established the Irish Free State in 1922. With the end of direct Crown rule in 1922, and the establishment of two separate Irish Parliaments, one at Stormont for the Northern Ireland constituencies, and a separate Parliament for the Irish Free State, the constitutional arrangement no longer existed. Thus, along with the Lord Lieutenant, the office of the Chief Secretary was abolished. Its governmental role was instead incorporated into the Department of the President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State (now the Department of the Taoiseach) and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

The office before 1800

The dominant position of the Lord Lieutenant in the Irish governmental system had been central to the British administration for much of the history of the Kingdom of Ireland. With a separation of branches in Ireland between the legislative Parliament, an executive Royal administration, and a court system appointed by the crown, the monarchy had substantial power in Ireland while the appointment of the Chief Secretary on the advice of the British government gave considerable oversight to Westminster.

However, the post of Chief Secretary however gradually increased in importance given his role as a manager of legislative business for the Government in the Irish House of Commons, in which he sat as an MP. While the Irish administration was not responsible to the parliament, it nevertheless needed to manage and influence parliament, both in insuring the passage of some key legislative measures and in the prevention of the enactment of others.

In this interplay between sectarian, royal, parliamentarian, and all Irish interests, the Chief Secretaryship steadily grew in importance while that of the Lord Lieutenant shrank. Feeling sufficiently powerful to submerge direct royal authority in Ireland under Parliamentary control, the British government voted to unite the Irish Parliament with the British Parliament. The Chief Secretaryship was of particular importance in the run-up to the eventual enactment, on the second attempt, of the Act of Union, 1800, when Viscount Castlereagh held the post. The Chief Secretary's exercise of patronage and bribery central to delivering the majority for the Union. Henceforth, the Chief Secretary became firmly under the control of British governmental interests.

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