UPDATE: Guide to Irish Law
By Dr. Darius Whelan
Dr. Darius Whelan
is a lecturer in law at
University College, Cork, Ireland. He established the Irish Law discussion list
and the Irish Law web site in 1994. He
has written articles on electronic access to Irish law for the Irish Law Times,
the Bar Review, and the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers and the Irish Times.
Published October 2010
Read the Archive
Table of Contents
Development of the Irish Legal
The Irish Constitution of 1937
Primary Legislation: Acts of the
Secondary Legislation: Statutory
Courts and Case Law
Solicitors and Barristers
University Law Departments and Faculties
Irish Law Websites
Discussion Lists and Electronic
of the Irish Legal System
Brehon Law was one of the earliest forms
of law in Ireland and there have recently been attempts by the Brehon Law Project
to revive interest in the subject. From the late twelfth century, Ireland was
increasingly governed by English common law and by 1800 Ireland was fully
integrated into the United Kingdom by the Act of Union passed in that year. A new Constitution in 1922
meant that twenty-six counties became the independent ‘Irish Free State.’ Six
other counties in Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom, and
this has, of course, been the subject of great controversy since then. (See Sarah
to the UK Legal System for information on Northern Irish law.)
73 of the 1922 Constitution
carried all previous UK law forward into Irish law, which explains why some
pre-1922 UK statutes are still in force in Ireland. A similar provision is
found in Article 50 of the 1937 Constitution.
Irish Constitution of 1937
The full text of the Constitution
of 1937 is available at various sites, for example the Department of the
Taoiseach (Prime Minister.)
Constitution, which remains in force today, renamed the State Ireland (Article
4) and established four main institutions – the President, the Oireachtas
(Parliament), the Government and the Courts.
The President is the directly elected
Head of State but his/her powers are largely ceremonial. The President normally
acts on the advice (instructions) of the Government. The Oireachtas
(Parliament) consists of two Houses – the directly elected Dáil and indirectly
elected Seanad. The Government is the Executive and consists of the Taoiseach
(Prime Minister) and Ministers. The most significant courts are the High Court
and the Supreme Court. Descriptions of the powers of each of the institutions
are available at the following sites:
The Constitution also contains
a strong set of fundamental rights at Articles 40-44, e.g. rights to equality
before the law, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, education, etc. The
courts may issue binding decisions that legislation is unconstitutional if it
breaches these fundamental rights.
The Constitution has been
amended on numerous occasions, and each amendment requires a referendum. In 1972,
the Constitution was amended to recognise Ireland’s membership of the EEC (now
the EU) and there have been similar amendments to recognise major new European
Treaties such as the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997. The Belfast Agreement led to major
amendments in 1998. Divorce was introduced by constitutional amendment in 1995,
and abortion has been the subject of controversial amendments in 1983 and 1992.
Legislation: Acts of the Oireachtas
Approximately forty Acts of the Oireachtas are passed each year. These
are available in print from the Government Supplies Agency, which is part of
the Office of Public Works - see contact details on the Irish Legal Publishers page.
In electronic form, there are various sources:
- The British and
Irish Legal Information Institute (Bailii)
Currently this site offers Acts as enacted from 1922 to date. Amendments
are not incorporated into legislation, so great care must be taken in
using this site to search for subsequent amendments of the Acts. Some sections
of pre-1922 legislation which continues to apply in Ireland may be found
by going to the Northern Ireland part of the Bailii site . An example is
the Partnership Act 1890.
- The Irish Legal Information
This site, managed by Dr John Mee of University College Cork Law Faculty,
complements UCC's contribution to the Bailii project by providing recent
- The Attorney General’s
This site provides access to the Acts from 1922 to date and crucially also
the Legislation Directory, which lists amendments to date. It is also
possible to a certain extent to see whether a particular section of an Act
is actually in force by checking the Commencement Orders section of the Legislation
- The Houses of the Oireachtas
Here you will find all Acts passed from 1922 to date, as well as all Bills
published from 1997 to date. The site lists legislative history of Bills
to date, including links to all relevant Parliamentary debates.
Legislation: Statutory Instruments
Most subordinate legislation is made by Government Ministers under
powers conferred on them by Acts. Approximately 500 pieces of subordinate
legislation are passed per year. Electronic access is provided at the following
Courts and Case
The main courts website contains a
particularly useful Frequently Asked Questions section (under ‘About Us’).
The principal printed series of reports are the Irish Reports and
Irish Law Reports Monthly, cited as ‘IR’ and ‘ILRM’ respectively. Many cases
remain unreported and are kept in the libraries of the main Universities or
professional bodies. For electronic access to reported and unreported cases,
see the following:
- British and
Irish Legal Information Institute (Bailii)
The most significant data here are in the Supreme Court (‘IESC’) and High
Court (‘IEHC’) directories. The database is not comprehensive so it is
important to consult other sources. The majority of cases date from
1997 (High Court) and 1998 (Supreme Court.)
Bailii also provides access to decisions of the Competition Authority
(‘IECA’) and Information Commissioner (‘IEIC’).
In addition, Bailii also introduced vendor-neutral citations for the first
time in Irish case-law, e.g. a Supreme Court case on Bailii may be cited
as  IESC 12.
- Irish Legal Information Initiative
This site provides a database of 'leading Irish cases' classified by
subject, e.g. constitutional law cases include Attorney General V X
(1992). These cases are also available on the Bailii site.
Note also the Irlii index of cases.
Service Judgments Database
Recent cases from the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeal
Fee-paying service, which offers access to judgments on an ongoing basis.
A ten-day trial is available.
The ‘Ireland’ library contains a large number of reported and unreported
Covers Irish Law Reports Monthly, Employment Law Reports, Irish Current
Law Statutes Annotated, and various other materials.
- European case law is available in various formats - see for
example the European links.
The main Irish government website contains
information from every Government department and most state bodies. The parts
of most legal relevance, which have not been mentioned above, include:
Note also the following portal sites, which include
summaries of relevant laws:
Solicitors are educated and regulated by the Law Society. Many solicitors’ firms have websites,
which are listed here.
Barristers are educated by the King’s Inns and regulated by the Bar Council / Law Library. Only a few
barristers have websites - see for example Kieron Wood’s at welcome.to/barrister
Law Departments and Faculties
The main University Law Departments and Faculties have websites
listing staff interests, courses available, etc. Here they are in alphabetical
The major portal site, managed by the author, is the Irish Law Site hosted by University College
Cork Law Faculty. This site has been in existence since 1994 and contains links
to all the major resources concerning Irish law, many of which have been
mentioned above. It also includes a link to the searchable archive of Irish Law
discussion-list messages and the facility to join a low-traffic ‘Updates’ list
by filling in one’s name and e-mail address on the home page. The site
can be accessed here.
The site includes a list of subject pages on areas
such as Commercial Law, Family Law, Property Law and Tort.
Other important Irish law websites include the following:
Another Online Guide to Irish Law:
Lists and Electronic Newsletters
See also the list of blogs and twitter feeds here.
It is difficult to select the most important books on Irish law, and
those with a specific interest in a particular area would be well advised to
search the online catalogues of major Irish universities (e.g. Trinity College Dublin’s catalogue) for
comprehensive listings. What follows is a list of some of the more significant
titles in recent years. See also the subject law pages on the Irish law site, e.g. Commercial Law,
- Raymond Byrne and Paul McCutcheon, The Irish Legal System, 5th
ed., Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2009.
- Brian Hunt, Murdoch’s Dictionary of Irish Law, 5th ed., Bloomsbury
Professional, Haywards Heath, 2009.
- Thomas O’Malley, Sources of Law: An Introduction to Legal
Research and Writing, 2nd ed., Round Hall, Dublin, 2001.
- Raymond Byrne and William Binchy, Annual Reviews of Irish Law,
Round Hall, Dublin, 1987 to date.
- Brian Doolan, Principles of Irish Law, 7th ed., Gill and
Macmillan, Dublin, 2007.
- Gerard Hogan and David Gwynn Morgan, Administrative Law in
Ireland, 4th ed., Round Hall, Dublin, 2010.
- Mary Donnelly, The Law of Banks and Credit Institutions, Round
Hall, Dublin, 1999.
- William Johnston et al, Arthur Cox Banking Law Handbook, Banking
and Security Law in Ireland, Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2007.
- Fidelma White, Commercial Law, Thomson Round Hall, Dublin, 2003.
- Michael Forde, Commercial Law, 3rd Edition, Tottel, Haywards
- Thomas Courtney, Law of Private Companies, 2nd ed., Butterworths,
Dublin, 2002, with contribution from Brian Hutchinson.
- Michael Forde & Hugh Kennedy, Company Law, 4th ed., Round
Hall, Dublin, 2007.
- Ronan Keane, Company Law, 4th ed., Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2007.
- Gerard Hogan & Gerry Whyte, Kelly's Irish Constitution, 4th
ed., Butterworths, Dublin, 2003.
- Michael Forde, Constitutional Law, 2nd ed., FirstLaw, Dublin,
- James P. Casey, Constitutional Law in Ireland, 3rd ed., Round
Hall, Dublin, 2000.
- Robert Clark, Contract Law, 6th ed., Thomson Round Hall, Dublin,
- Raymond Friel, Law of Contract, 2nd ed., Round Hall, Dublin,
- Liz Campbell, Shane Kilcommins & Catherine O'Sullivan,
Criminal Law in Ireland: Cases and Commentary, Clarus Press, Dublin, 2010
- Peter Charleton, Paul McDermott and Marguerite Bolger, Criminal
Law, Butterworths, Dublin, 1999.
- Conor Hanly, An Introduction to Irish Criminal Law, 2nd
ed., Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 2006.
Employment Law / Labour Law
- Neville Cox, Val Corbett & Des Ryan, Employment Law in
Ireland (Dublin: Clarus Press, 2009)
- Maeve Regan (ed.), Employment Law (Sussex: Tottel, 2009)
- Michael Forde & Anthony Paul Byrne, Employment Law, 3rd ed.
(Dublin: Round Hall, 2009)
- Yvonne Scannell, Environmental and Land Use Law, Round Hall,
Equity and Trusts
- Hilary Delany, Equity and the Law of Trusts in Ireland, 4th ed.,
Round Hall, Dublin, 2007.
- Aileen Keogan, John Mee & J.C.W. Wylie, Law and Taxation of
Trusts, Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2007.
- Caroline Fennell, Law of Evidence in Ireland, 3rd ed., Bloomsbury
Professional, Haywards Heath, 2009.
Family and Child Law
- Ursula Kilkelly, Children’s Rights in Ireland: Law, Policy and
Practice, Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2008
- Alan Shatter, Shatter's Family Law, 4th ed., Butterworths,
- Jim Nestor, An Introduction to Irish Family Law, 3rd
ed., Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 2007.
- Ursula Kilkelly (ed.), The ECHR and Irish Law, 2nd
ed., Jordan Publishing, Bristol, 2009.
- Fiona de Londras & Cliona Kelly, European Convention on Human
Rights Act: Operation, Impact and Analysis, Round Hall, Dublin, 2010.
Information Technology Law
- Denis Kelleher and Karen Murray, Information Technology Law in
Ireland, 2nd ed., Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2007.
- Steve Hedley, Law of Electronic Commerce and the Internet in the
UK and Ireland, Cavendish, London, 2006.
Intellectual Property Law
- Robert Clark, Irish Copyright and Design Law, Butterworths,
- Robert Clark and Shane Smyth, Intellectual Property law in
Ireland, 2nd ed., Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2005.
Medical and Mental Health Law
- Deirdre Madden, Medicine, Law and Ethics in Ireland,
Butterworths, Dublin, 2002.
- Simon Mills, Clinical Practice and the Law, 2nd ed.,
Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2007
- Darius Whelan, Mental Health Law and Practice: Civil and Criminal
Aspects, Round Hall, Dublin, 2009
- Anne Marie O’Neill, Irish Mental Health Law, FirstLaw, Dublin,
- Garrett Simons, Planning and Development Law, 2nd ed.,
Thomson Round Hall, Dublin, 2007.
- Philip O'Sullivan & Katharine Shepherd, Irish Planning Law
and Practice (Butterworths, 1991 with updates ) (loose-leaf)
- Fiona de Londras, Principles of Irish Property Law, Clarus Press,
- Paul Coughlan, Property Law, 2nd ed., Gill and Macmillan, Dublin,
- Andrew Lyall, Land Law in Ireland, 2nd ed., Round Hall, Dublin,
- Robert Pearce and John Mee, Land Law, 2nd ed., Round Hall,
- J.C.W. Wylie, Irish Land Law, 3rd ed., Butterworths, Dublin,
- James C. Brady, Succession Law in Ireland, 2nd ed., Butterworths,
- Albert Keating, Succession Law, Round Hall, Dublin, 2007.
- Bryan McMahon & William Binchy, Irish Law of Torts, 3rd
Edition, Butterworths, Dublin, 2000.
- Eoin Quill, Torts in Ireland, 3rd ed., Gill and Macmillan,
Most Journals are published by Round
Hall and in the list below, this is indicated by ‘RH’ in brackets. Full
text of Round Hall journals is available in the fee-paying Westlaw.IE database.
Journal articles up to 1983 are indexed in the following:
- O'Higgins, Paul, A Bibliography of Periodical Literature Relating
to Irish Law. Belfast: Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, 1966.
- O'Higgins, Paul, First Supplement to A Bibliography of Periodical
Literature Relating to Irish Law. Belfast: Northern Ireland Legal
- O'Higgins, Paul, Second Supplement to A Bibliography of
Periodical Literature Relating to Irish Law. Belfast: SLS Publications,
From 1983 to 1997, there is no
comprehensive index available although a few journals are indexed in the Index
to Legal Periodicals and online at sites such as Ingenta or OCLC.
From 1997 on, many journals are
indexed in the excellent IRLII Periodicals Index, hosted by UCC Law Faculty at Legal Periodicals