Legal figures turn critical eye to 80 years of the Constitution

Pictured (l-r): Dr Laura Cahillane, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys, David Kenny of TCD, Emily Logan and Dr Des Fitzgerald

Pictured (l-r): Dr Laura Cahillane, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys, David Kenny of TCD, Emily Logan and Dr Des Fitzgerald

Senior judges turned a critical eye to the 80-year history of Bunreacht na hÉireann at a University of Limerick conference over the weekend.

The Constitution at 80 was opened by UL president Dr Des Fitzgerald and welcomed a keynote address from Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, who sounded a note of caution about thinking constitutions can do too much in the face of administration and reality of day-to-day governance.

Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell of the Supreme Court gave the closing address, a tour de force on constitutional interpretation throughout the years and advocating for a policy of judicial restraint.

Dr Laura Cahillane, who organised the conference alongside Dr David Kenny, told Irish Legal News: “The event sold out and the many practitioners and academics who couldn’t make it followed the updates on social media under the hashtag #Const80.”

In a paper for the conference, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan of the Court of Appeal said that 1963-1975 represented the “golden era of constitutional law” followed by thirty years of “missed opportunities”. He argued that the Constitution “has to be either radical or redundant”.

Papers were also presented by Mr Justice Richard Humphreys of the High Court and retired Supreme Court judge Hugh O’Flaherty, as well as established academics and up-and-coming researchers.

A collection of the papers presented will form the basis of a special anniversary edition of the Dublin University Law Journal.