A Franco-Irish discussion on marriage equality at NUI Galway

French Embassy Logo

The School of Law at NUI Galway, in association with the French embassy in Ireland, will host a Franco-Irish discussion on marriage equality on April 25th.

The keynote speaker is Erwann Binet, deputy of the French National Assembly. Deputy Binet was the rapporteur for the French “pour tous” (marriage equality) bill in 2013 and will speak on the political challenges faced in passing the bill through the French parliament.

Whereas marriage equality was legislated for in France without a referendum – despite significant political and public opposition – the Irish government has committed to holding a referendum to legalise same-sex marriage in 2015, as it believes that the Constitution in its current form would prevent this from being introduced through ordinary legislation. More than three quarters of the members of the Constitutional Convention recommended that the Constitution should be amended for provide for marriage equality for same-sex couples. Parallel to the debate on marriage rights, there has been move towards legislative reform concerning assisted reproduction and adoption rights in both countries.

In this light, this event will provide an insight on the shared experience of Ireland and France in undertaking legislative and constitutional reform in controversial areas of family law.

April 25th, 12pm

AM 150 (Martin O’Tuathail theatre)

The event is open to the public

For queries contact eoin.daly@nuigalway.ie ; 091 493362

Call for papers: judges, politics and the Irish Constitution

DCUOn September 4th 2014, the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, hosts its first annual Law and Government conference. The theme for the conference is Judges, Politics and the Irish Constitution. In the context of the recent Constitutional Convention, now is an apt time to reflect on the role of politics and law in Irish constitutionalism. The conference will bring together academics, including postgraduate students; practitioners; judges and politicians. It will combine academic papers with more reflective pieces. We welcome submissions from any discipline on issues relevant to the conference theme.


Papers should address aspects of the theme in at least one of the following categories:


  • Irish constitutional law in socio-legal perspective: law and disadvantage
  • Irish constitutionalism in historical and comparative perspective: constitutional transitions and institutional design
  • Socio-economic rights in Irish constitutional law: practice and reform
  • Irish constitutional law and the impact on politics and the political process
  • Legal theory and adjudication in Irish constitutional law


Abstracts for papers should be submitted to the conference conveners at the following email address: DCUlawgovconf@gmail.com. They should be submitted not later than May 19th 2014. Abstracts should be a maximum of 500 words and should fit within the conference theme. While practice-oriented papers are encouraged, they should engage with more general historical, socio-legal or theoretical dimensions. As well as considering the academic merit of the abstracts, the assessors will also consider whether the proposed paper fits with the general theme and specific categories. We aim to notify applicants of our decisions by May 30th 2014.


Manchester University Press will publish a peer-reviewed edited volume comprising the best papers. This volume will include a minimum of one postgraduate paper. We also intend to produce a dedicated edition of the Socio-Legal Studies Review comprising other relevant papers arising from the conference.


There will also be a prize for the best paper by a postgraduate student.


Those who are interested in having their paper considered for inclusion in the edited volume, the special edition or the best postgraduate paper prize – are asked to send full versions of their papers by 22nd August 2014.


Follow us on Twitter @LawGovDCU


Confirmed speakers


Catherine McGuinness, former justice of the Supreme and High Courts and Senator

Gerard Hogan, Judge of the High Court

Ivana Bacik, Professor of Law, Trinity College Dublin

Mary Hanafin, former minister and former government chief whip

Colm O Cinneide, Reader in Law, University College London

Gerry Whyte, Professor of Law, Trinity College Dublin


Further speakers to be confirmed.




Dr. Laura Cahillane, School of Law and Government, DCU

Dr. Eoin O’Malley, School of Law and Government, DCU

Ms. Claire-Michelle Smyth, School of Law and Government, DCU

Dr. James Gallen, School of Law and Government, DCU

Dr. Tom Hickey, School of Law and Government, DCU



Key dates


May 19th        Submit abstract

May 30th         Notification from assessors

August 22nd   Submit full paper*

September 4th Conference


*mandatory for those wishing to have papers considered for MUP edited volume and/or Socio Legal Studies special edition and for the best postgraduate paper prize.

The 'political' nature of judicial appointments is probably intractable

With the pending establishment of a new Court of Appeal and a predicted spate of senior judicial retirements in the coming year, the judicial appointments process is the subject of renewed debate. In recent years it has increasingly been accepted that the strongly political nature of Ireland’s judicial appointments system threatens to undermine public confidence in the integrity and the independence of the Courts.

Continue reading The 'political' nature of judicial appointments is probably intractable

The constitutional politics of the marriage-equality referendum

dailchamberThe government has finally committed to equalising marriage rights for same-sex couples by way of a referendum in 2015. The decision to hold a referendum – instead of using ordinary legislation – is not only unnecessary, I believe, but positively misguided. More to the point, the impulse to hold a referendum reflects many of the most unfortunate features of our legal and political culture: in particular, it reveals a good deal about the treatment and use of constitutional law (and constitutional discourse) in our politics. As I have argued previously, it is symptomatic in particular of the pervasive over-constitutionalisation of our politics.

Continue reading The constitutional politics of the marriage-equality referendum

Marriage equality: French Constitutional Court rejects mayors' conscience claim

Conseil Constitutionnel

The French Conseil Constitutionnel (constitutional court) has held that mayors and civil registrars who oppose same-sex marriage on grounds of conscience or religious belief  have no constitutional right to be exempted from the duty to officiate marriages between persons of the same sex. The decision (in French only) is available here.

The case was taken by six French mayors following the coming into force of France’s equal-marriage law earlier this year. This reform was a part of the Socialist Party manifesto but met with a broad campaign of resistance from the right wing; with large demonstrations having taken place earlier this year.

Continue reading Marriage equality: French Constitutional Court rejects mayors' conscience claim

Religious freedom arguments in the abortion debate

The political battle over the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act has given way to further dispute about the precise extent of the obligation it imposes on hospitals. An earlier draft of the Bill prohibited hospitals from refusing to perform legal abortions, although allowing conscientious objection for individual staff. While the individual right of objection remains in place, the Act is in fact silent on the question of hospital policies and institutional opt-out (the Minister for Health insisted such a provision was unnecessary). Instead, the legislation provides a schedule of “appropriate institutions” in which legal abortions may be carried out. Crucially, this includes two voluntary Catholic hospitals in Dublin, St Vincent’s and the Mater hospital.

Continue reading Religious freedom arguments in the abortion debate

Democracy, citizenship and the marriage referendum

weddingringsRecently a video circulated on YouTube featuring an earnest young man, besuited and bearing flowers, knocking on every door in Ireland requesting permission to marry his beloved. It neatly illustrated the absurdity of holding a referendum to decide whether same-sex couples may be allowed marry: “how would you feel”, it asks “if you had to ask 4 million people permission to get married?”

Continue reading Democracy, citizenship and the marriage referendum

New focus needed in Oireachtas inquiries amendment

The groundswell of public anger following the “Anglo tapes” episode has led to calls for a fresh referendum to give the Oireachtas fuller powers to inquire into the events leading to the September 2008 bank guarantee.

Although there is undoubtedly a public appetite for prosecutions, a public inquiry may play an important role in conclusively establishing important facts concerning a political decision which apparently contributed in a decisive way to the remarkable economic and social destruction of the post-boom era. In particular, the relationship between bankers and public representatives demands thorough and systematic public scrutiny. This process of public accountability – and indeed the settling of the historical narrative – would occur only in an ad hoc way, at best, through criminal trials.

Continue reading New focus needed in Oireachtas inquiries amendment

The Cabinet's "Council of Four" and the constitutional authority of Government

Colm Keaveney’s vote against the Social Welfare Bill this week inadvertently highlighted an interesting constitutional conundrum.

Part of the Labour chair’s complaint was that responsibility for the budget had, allegedly, been delegated to the four-man “Economic Management Council”. He claimed that this new body – which has already been coined a “Government within the Government” – effectively “sprung an odious budget” on the lower house. The EMC, created by the current government, consists of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste along with Ministers Noonan and Howlin. Keaveney’s complaint was echoed today by a minister of the Government itself: Simon Coveney was reportedly unhappy that the cabinet was not more involved in preparing the budget.

What Keaveney implied was essentially that this novel body had bypassed the Government as the formal constitutional organ, the “cabinet” of fifteen – in its most important policy-making function: that of negotiating and formulating the State’s budget.

Continue reading The Cabinet's "Council of Four" and the constitutional authority of Government

Shadow constitutional convention #18: the referendum in liberal and republican thought

Eoin Daly, UCD. This essay is a part of our shadow constitutional convention series.

“Direct democracy” has a bad press. While it has obvious practical limitations in mass democracies, plebiscitary government is sometimes also derided as inherently “populist” – and indeed, potentially dangerous for individual liberties. Its detractors claim that the referendum, as an instrument of direct government, lacks the safeguards and procedures built into “representative” parliamentary democracy – which, theoretically at least, safeguard against “majority tyranny”. Parliaments, for all their flaws, are seen as superior fora to legislate on complex policy issues. Additionally, it is claimed they embody certain deliberative and procedural virtues and therefore encourage compromise, moderation and reflection – unlike the simply binary choice presented to citizen-legislators in referendums. Representative institutions are also much better than plebiscitary instruments at holding executive power to account. Therefore, for defenders of the British model of “political constitutionalism” centred on representative democracy – scholars like Richard Bellamy and Adam Tomkins – the parliamentary tradition, with its virtues of deliberation and contestation, is quintessentially “republican”. It looks to parliamentary politics, not an activist judiciary, as the source of political freedom.

Continue reading Shadow constitutional convention #18: the referendum in liberal and republican thought