The Irish parliament met for the first time on 18 June 1264 at Castledermott and for the last time in the Parliament House, Dublin, on 2 August 1800. It had lasted for over 500 years, and from 1707 it was the only parliament in the British Empire with the medieval structure of King (represented by the Lord Lieutenant), Lords and Commons. Like the English/British parliament it only met regularly from the end of the seventeenth century.
In 1692 Ireland had a minimal infrastructure; by 1800 it had become recognisable as the country in whose history and culture there is a continuing and irresistible tide of interest worldwide. The principal issues to emerge during the time of the Irish Parliament – the Penal Code, legislative independence, the 1798 Rebellion and the passing of the Act of Union of 1800 – were not only crucial in themselves but continue to influence our understanding of Irish history over the last three hundred years.
The Parliament played a vital role in developing the nature and character of eighteenth-century Irish society. Among the ‘firsts’ it can claim are the Newry Canal, the first commercial waterway (by some 20 years) in the British Isles, and the first maternity hospital, the Rotunda in Dublin, in 1745. Its development of the roads network, fairs and markets, education, banking and commerce and, most crucially perhaps, the linen industry, created by 1800 a vibrant and expanding economy and population.