Prior to the State gaining independence the principal law officers in Ireland were the Attorney General and the Solicitor General. Other officers included the Serjeant and the Law Adviser.
The Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924 provided for the vesting of the powers and functions of the Solicitor General and the Law Adviser in the Attorney General of Saorstát Éireann, as well as those of the Parliamentary Draftsman, the Chief State Solicitor and local State Solicitors.
On the coming into operation of the 1937 Constitution, Article 30 of the Constitution established the constitutional office of the Attorney General. Under Article 30, the principal role of the Attorney General is as the adviser of the Government in matters of law and legal opinion and the Attorney General attends cabinet meetings in that capacity.
Article 30.3 provides that the prosecution of offences (other than summary offences) is a function of the Attorney General, or of some other person authorised in accordance with law to do so. Following the enactment of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1974 responsibility for the great majority of such prosecutions has been transferred to the Director of Public Prosecutions which was created by the 1974 Act.
Since 1922 there have been 30 Attorneys General, some of whom have been appointed for more than one term.