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, the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers and the Irish Times.
Published May 2016
(Previously updated in Oct. 2010)
1. Development 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 Carter and Hester Swift’s Guide to the UK Legal System for information on Northern Irish law.).
Article 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.
The full text of the Constitution of 1937 is available at various sites, for example the Office of the Attorney General. This 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:
- Government in Ireland (Citizens’ Information site)
- President of Ireland
- Houses of the Oireachtas
- Department of the Taoiseach
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.
Ireland is also a member of the Council of Europe and has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The provisions of the ECHR may be relied upon in domestic courts as a result of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003.
3. Primary Legislation: Acts of the Oireachtas
Approximately forty Acts of the Oireachtas are passed each year. These are available in print from the Government Publications Office - see contact details on the Irish Legal Publishers page.
In electronic form, there are various sources:
- The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (Bailii) 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 Initiative (Irlii), originally managed by Professor John Mee of University College Cork Law School, complements UCC's contribution to the Bailii project by providing recent Irish Acts.
- The Attorney General’s Office 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 Directory.
- The Law Reform Commission site provides over 230 Revised Acts, which are administrative consolidations of Acts. It concentrates on frequently used legislation and is a very valuable resource for checking amendments to legislation.
- The Houses of the Oireachtas offers access to 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.
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 sites:
- The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (Bailii) contains subordinate legislation passed from 1922 to date. There is no list of amendments.
- The Attorney General’s Office offers Subordinate Legislation from 1922 to date. The site now contains lists of amendments to subordinate legislation from 1999 onwards – choose Legislation Directory à Secondary Legislation. Some assistance regarding older SIs is provided in print form by Richard F. Humphreys’ Index to Irish Statutory Instruments (3 volumes, 1988).
- Selected Statutory Instruments 2002 to date are available on the Irish Legal Information Initiative (Irlii) website.
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) offers 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 (Irlii) 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.
- Courts Service Judgments Database offers access to recent cases from the High Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
- Justis is a fee-paying service, which offers access to judgments on an ongoing basis. A ten-day trial is available.
- LexisNexis is the ‘Ireland’ library contains a large number of reported and unreported cases.
- Westlaw.IE 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 i.e. 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:
- Department of Justice and Equality (I.e. Publications Section)
- Garda Síochána (Police)
- Department of Foreign Affairs (includes International Law)
- Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation includes Company and Corporate Law Law Reform Commission
- Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
- Human Rights and Equality Commission
- Workplace Relations Commission Companies Registration Office
- Revenue Commissioners (Tax)
Note also the Citizens’ Information portal site, which includes summaries of relevant laws.
8. University Law Departments and Schools
The main University Law Departments and Faculties have websites listing staff interests, courses available, etc. Here they are in alphabetical order:
- NUI Galway
- NUI Maynooth
- Trinity College Dublin
- University College Cork
- University College Dublin
- University of Limerick
- Law lecturing staff are also found at other third level institutes such as Institutes of Technology - see the list here.
The major portal site, managed by the author, is the Irish Law Site hosted by University College Cork Law School. 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:
- The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (Bailii)
- The Law Society
- Kieron Wood’s Site
- Delia Venables’ Site
- Stare Decisis Hibernia
- www.IrishLaw.eu (Sean Quinn)
Another Online Guide to Irish Law:
- Hester Swift’s Guide to Irish Law at the Library of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (London)
- Irish Law List has been in existence since 1994 and has an extensive archive of previous messages, which may be searched online. Messages have been moderated since 1997.
- Irish Law Updates
- Brehon Law Discussion List
- Eoin O’Dell
- Human Rights- IE
- Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights
- Rossa McMahon
- IT Law in Ireland (TJ McIntyre)
- Irish Law Updates
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, Criminal Law, etc.
- Raymond Byrne and Paul McCutcheon, The Irish Legal System, 6th ed., Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2014.
- 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.
- Fiona Donson & Darren O'Donovan, Law and Public Administration in Ireland, Clarus Press, Dublin, 2015
- Mary Donnelly, The Law of Credit and Security, 2nd ed., Round Hall, Dublin, 2015.
- William Johnston et al, Arthur Cox Banking Law Handbook, Banking and Security Law in Ireland, Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2007.
Commercial and Consumer Law
- Fidelma White, Commercial Law, 2nd ed., Thomson Round Hall, Dublin, 2012.
- Mary Donnelly & Fidelma White, Consumer Law: Rights and Regulation, Round Hall, Dublin, 2014.
- Michael Forde, Commercial Law, 3rd Edition, Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2005.
- Thomas Courtney, Law of Companies, 3rd ed., Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2012, 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.
- Irene Lynch Fannon & Gerard Murphy, Corporate Insolvency and Rescue. Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2012.
- Gerard Hogan & Gerry Whyte, Kelly's Irish Constitution, 4th ed., Butterworths, Dublin, 2003.
- Michael Forde & David Leonard, Constitutional Law of Ireland, 3rd ed., Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2013.
- James P. Casey, Constitutional Law in Ireland, 3rd ed., Round Hall, Dublin, 2000.
- Robert Clark, Contract Law, 7th ed., Thomson Round Hall, Dublin, 2013.
- Raymond Friel, Law of Contract, 2nd ed., Round Hall, Dublin, 2000.
- 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, 2d ed., Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 2006.
Employment Law / Labour Law
- Neville Cox, Val Corbett & Des Ryan, Employment Law in Ireland (Dublin: Clarus Press, 2009)
- Frances Meenan, Employment Law, Round Hall, Dublin, 2014
- Maeve Regan (ed.), Employment Law (Sussex: Tottel, 2009)
- Brenda Daly & Michael Doherty, Principles of Irish Employment Law, Clarus Press, Dublin, 2010.
- Michael Forde & Anthony Paul Byrne, Employment Law, 3rd ed. (Dublin: Round Hall, 2009)
- John Gore-Grimes, Planning and Environmental Law in Ireland, Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2011.
- Yvonne Scannell, Environmental and Land Use Law, Round Hall, Dublin, 2006.
- Áine Ryall, Effective judicial protection and the environmental impact assessment directive in Ireland, Hart, Oxford, 2009.
Equity and Trusts
- Hilary Biehler, Equity and the Law of Trusts in Ireland, 6th ed., Round Hall, Dublin, 2016.
- 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.
- Liz Heffernan & Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, Evidence in Criminal Trials, Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2014
Family and Child Law
- Louise Crowley, Family Law, Round Hall, Dublin, 2013.
- Ursula Kilkelly, Children’s Rights in Ireland: Law, Policy and Practice, Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2008
- Alan Shatter, Shatter's Family Law, 4th ed., Butterworths, Dublin, 1997.
- Jim Nestor, An Introduction to Irish Family Law, 4th ed., Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 2011.
- 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.
- Suzanne Egan, Liam Thornton, Judy Walsh (eds), Ireland and the European Convention on Human Rights: 60 years and beyond, Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2014.
Information Technology Law
- Denis Kelleher and Karen Murray, Information Technology Law in Ireland, 2nd ed., Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2007.
- Maeve McDonagh & Mícheál O’Dowd, Cyber Law in Ireland, Kluwer, Alphen aan den Rijn, 2015.
- Steve Hedley, Law of Electronic Commerce and the Internet in the UK and Ireland, Cavendish, London, 2006.
Intellectual Property Law
- Robert Clark, Shane Smyth & Niamh Hall, Intellectual Property law in Ireland, 3rd ed., Tottel, Haywards Heath, 2010.
- Eva Nagle, Intellectual Property Law, Round Hall, Dublin, 2012
- Glen Gibbons, Trade Marks Law, Oak Tree Press, Dublin, 2009.
Medical and Mental Health Law
- Deirdre Madden, Medicine, Ethics and the Law, 2d ed., Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2011.
- 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, 2005.
- Mary Donnelly & Claire Murray (eds.). Ethical and Legal Debates in Irish Healthcare: Confronting Complexities, Manchester University Press, 2016.
- Garrett Simons, Planning and Development Law, 2nd ed., Thomson Round Hall, Dublin, 2007.
- John Gore-Grimes, Planning and Environmental Law in Ireland, Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2011.
- Philip O'Sullivan & Katharine Shepherd, Irish Planning Law and Practice (Butterworths, 1991 with updates) (loose-leaf).
- Fiona de Londras, Principles of Irish Property Law, 2d ed., Clarus Press, Dublin, 2011
- Paul Coughlan, Property Law, 2nd ed., Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 1998.
- Andrew Lyall with Albert Power, Land Law in Ireland, 3rd ed., Round Hall, Dublin, 2010.
- Robert Pearce and John Mee, Land Law, 3rd ed., Round Hall, Dublin, 2011.
- J.C.W. Wylie, Irish Land Law, 5th ed., Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2013.
Succession and Probate Law
- Albert Keating, Keating on Probate, Round Hall, Dublin, 2015.
- Albert Keating, Succession Law in Ireland, Clarus Press, Dublin, 2015.
- Bryan McMahon & William Binchy, Irish Law of Torts, 4th Edition, Bloomsbury Professional, Haywards Heath, 2012.
- Eoin Quill, Torts in Ireland, 4th ed., Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 2014.
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 Quarterly, 1973.
- O'Higgins, Paul, Second Supplement to A Bibliography of Periodical Literature Relating to Irish Law. Belfast: SLS Publications, 1983.
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 OCLC.
From 1997 on, many journals are indexed in the excellent IRLII Periodicals Index, hosted by UCC Law Faculty at Legal Periodicals
- Irish Jurist (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Dublin University Law Journal (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Irish Journal of Legal Studies [Full Text and Table of Contents]
- Irish Law Times (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Bar Review – published by Bar Council [Table of Contents]
- Contemporary Issues in Irish Law and Politics, 1998-2000 (RH)
- Gazette [of Law Society of Ireland] - published by Law Society [Table of Contents] + [Full Text]
- Irish Current Law Monthly Digest (RH)
- Irish Current Law Statutes Annotated (RH)
- Judicial Studies Institute Journal [Full Text and Table of Contents]
- Hibernian Law Journal [Table of Contents]
- Irish Law Review [Table of Contents] (formerly Independent Law Review)
- Dlí - The Western Law Gazette
- Cork Online Law Review [Full Text and Table of Contents]
- King’s Inns Student Law Review (formerly Irish Student Law Review)Irish Student Law Review [King's Inns]
- Trinity College Law Review
- University College Dublin Law Review [Table of Contents]
- Commercial Law Practitioner (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Construction, Engineering and Energy Law Journal (RH)
- Conveyancing and Property Law Journal (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Irish Employment Law Journal (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Irish Employment Law Review
- Arbitration and ADR Review
- Irish Business Law Quarterly [Table of Contents]
- Irish Criminal Law Journal (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Irish Yearbook of International Law [Table of Contents]
- Irish Human Rights Law Review
- Quarterly Review of Tort Law
- Irish Financial Services Law Journal, 2000-2001 (RH)
- Irish Insurance Law Review, 1997-1999 (RH)
- Irish Community Development Law Journal
- Irish Intellectual Property Law Review, 1997-1999 (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Irish Intellectual Property Law Quarterly
- Irish Journal of European Law (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Irish Journal of Family Law (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Irish Planning and Environmental Law Journal (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Irish Probate Law Journal (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Irish Journal of Practice and Procedure (RH)
- Civil Practice and Procedure
- Irish Road Traffic Law
- Medico-Legal Journal of Ireland (RH) [Table of Contents] + [Journal Information]
- Local Government Review
- Journal of Civil Practice and Procedure, 2005-2007 (RH) [Table of Contents]
- Technology and Entertainment Law Journal, 2000-2001 (RH) [Table of Contents]
- The Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly [Table of Contents].