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Law and the Idea of Liberty in Ireland: From Magna Carta to the Present

The Irish Legal History Society marked the 800th anniversary of the transmission of Magna Carta to Ireland with a two-day conference in Christ Church Cathedral in November 2016.

Magna Carta is one of the most famous documents in the history of the world, credited with being the first effective check in writing on arbitrary, oppressive and unjust rule — in a word, on tyranny. The fame of Magna Carta spread across the world as England, and later Britain, came to girdle the globe in its power.

What is the place of Ireland in the story of Magna Carta’s global dissemination? Four centuries before the Great Charter crossed the Atlantic, it was already implanted across the Irish Sea. A version of the charter issued in November 1216 in the name of the boy-king Henry III was sent to Ireland, where it became fundamental to the English common law tradition in Ireland that survives to the present.

The conference explored the legal-historical background to Magna Carta in Ireland, the reception of the charter into English law in Ireland, the political and polemical uses to which the charter was put, and its twentieth and twentieth-first century invocations as a living presence in contemporary Irish law. Professor Paul Brand (All Souls, Oxford) delivered a keynote address on the impact of Magna Carta on the development of English law in medieval Ireland.

Speakers included: Claire Breay, Sean Duffy, Ian Campbell, Coleman Dennehy, Sparky Booker, Colum Kenny, Adrian Empey, James Kelly, Patrick Geoghegan, John Larkin, Bláthna Ruane.

The conference was recorded for podcasting by Real Smart Media. Podcasts can be streamed from Soundcloud or downloaded from iTunes.

The Irish Legal History Society acknowledges the support so generously given by the sponsors of this conference and without which it could not have taken place.

  • Christ Church Cathedral Library and Archives Committee
  • The Grace Lawless Lee Fund, Trinity College Dublin
  • The Medieval History Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin
  • The Humanities Institute, University College Dublin.
  • Sir Anthony Hart
  • The Law Society of Ireland