It is not widely known that Ireland once had its own indigenous legal system and laws – Fénechas, colloquially known as ‘the Brehon Laws’.
This heritage is now more accessible than ever thanks to arduous translation and analytical work undertaken by philologists, historians and others over many years.
Having always had a general interest in history, my curiosity with the Brehon Laws stirred while casting around for a university thesis subject over a decade ago. Once settled on the Brehon Laws, I opened a (dusty!) window into Ireland’s ancient past, a window which remained open in my mind ever since.
My motivations for dedicating a blog to the Brehon Laws are twofold. The first is that I would like to see Ireland’s native legal heritage better remembered, understood and appreciated, including in mainstream legal education and practice. This is especially important in the centenary period marking the foundation of the Irish State. The second is more straightforward – I want to embark on a personal trek of rediscovery after all these years and I hope you’ll join me!
The Brehon Laws are of course bound up with other elements of Irish cultural history, such as the legends and sagas. So, while this blog uses the Brehon Laws as its compass, there are also occasional detours into these connected strands of Irish history. There is room made too for parallels and comparisons to be drawn with aspects of the modern law – we will sometimes hear echoes of the Brehon Laws in the present!
I do not pretend to be schooled in Old and Middle Irish myself (and, like most Irish people, my Modern Irish is very much a work in progress!).
The sources used in this blog are mostly ‘secondary’, drawing on reputable books, journal articles etc. No incentives have been offered to me to use any particular resources for this blog. The Brehon Lawyer is independent of, and not financially dependent on, any other person or body.
Any opinions expressed on this site are personal and intended to be non-partisan. Nothing on this site should be construed as legal advice or an advertisement for legal services.