The department formally known as ‘External Affairs’

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 1 (Spring 2002), News, News, Volume 10

At a meeting held on the 5 January, 1971, the government agreed thatthe title of the Minister for External Affairs in the English language,should be changed to ‘Minister for Foreign Affairs’ and the title ofhis department, in the English language, should be changed to‘Department of Foreign Affairs’. The meeting also authorised theMinister to have an order—the External Affairs (Alteration of Name ofDepartment and Title of Minister) order, 1971—drafted pursuant to theMinisters and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 1939, to give effect tothese changes. The order came into operation on the 3 March, 1971.
Dr Hillery and his department had been contemplating a change oftitle for some time and had carried out research into the position inother countries. It was felt that the use of the term ‘ExternalAffairs’ was ‘of British Commonwealth origin and had already beenchanged by a number of British Commonwealth countries’. The title‘Foreign Affairs’ was now the more usual and more apt term. In NewZealand and Australia, for example, the titles of the former ‘Ministersfor External Affairs’ had been changed to, respectively, ‘Minister ofForeign Affairs’ and ‘Minister for Foreign Affairs’ and the names ofthe former Departments of External Affairs had been changed to‘Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ and ‘Department of Foreign Affairs’. Itwas not proposed, however, that any change would be made in the titlein Irish of the minister, ‘An tAire Gnóthaí Eachtrachta’, or in thename in Irish of the department, ‘An Roinn Gnóthaí Eachtracha’. TheChief Translator in the Oireachtas Translation Branch had counselledthat no further changes in the area were necessary.


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