The Brehon Archive

‘Gaelicising’ the 1922 Constitution: Origins of Terminology

6 December 2022 marks the centenary of the coming into effect of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) Act, 1922 [1] ('the 1922 Constitution'). This was a pivotal moment in the constitutional history of an independent Irish State. The contentious process of drafting the Saorstát Éireann Constitution has been well treated elsewhere… Continue reading ‘Gaelicising’ the 1922 Constitution: Origins of Terminology

Legal Advocates in Early Ireland

It is understandable that aspiring lawyers today might, at some point, find their education daunting and/or be apprehensive about entering a congested and stratified profession. Similar to other professional callings, qualifying as a lawyer is very much a marathon rather than a sprint and building up a successful practice can take some time to achieve.… Continue reading Legal Advocates in Early Ireland

Of Swine and Samain: Aspects of Early Irish Samain Lore and Law

In this short piece marking the ancient feast of Samhain (1 November), older spelling Samain, I share some examples of early Irish Samain folklore and also outline the legal framing of Samain under the Brehon Laws. Aspects of Samain in Mythology Samain, 1 November, traditionally marked the start of Winter. It has been suggested that… Continue reading Of Swine and Samain: Aspects of Early Irish Samain Lore and Law

The True Meaning of Friends: ‘Cairde’ and Cross-Border Law in Early Ireland

Ireland is an active participant in multilateral institutions, such as the United Nations, established to uphold international law, as well as having contributed to a number of (often dangerous) international peacekeeping missions. Ireland also adheres to various multinational frameworks for handling cross-border legal proceedings. This basic notion of vindicating shared legal interests across borders can,… Continue reading The True Meaning of Friends: ‘Cairde’ and Cross-Border Law in Early Ireland

Dáil Courts and the ‘Brehon Magistrate’ Enigma

This centenary period marking the foundation of the Irish State provides an opportunity to reflect on a nascent indigenous Courts system which operated between 1919 and 1922, known as the 'Dáil' or 'Republican' Courts. At once revolutionary and conservative, these Courts would not survive the transition to statehood. A particular focus here is the extent… Continue reading Dáil Courts and the ‘Brehon Magistrate’ Enigma

Early Irish ‘Influencers’? Poets, Speech and Accountability under the Brehon Laws

Bunreacht na hÉireann (the Constitution of Ireland 1937) guarantees a number of important civil liberties, including '[t]he right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions'. This right is not, however, absolute. Freedom of expression may be limited in some circumstances. For example, 'defamation' law provides a cause of action where legally unjustified… Continue reading Early Irish ‘Influencers’? Poets, Speech and Accountability under the Brehon Laws

‘Bee-ing’ Neighbours: Bees and Neighbourhood in the Brehon Laws

20th May, 'World Bee Day', is no better a time to reflect on the importance of honeybees in early Irish society and the meticulous regulation of bees under the Brehon Laws. Early Irish bees even had their own law tract, Bechbretha ('Bee Judgments'). While the basic motivations for regulating bees under the Brehon Laws were… Continue reading ‘Bee-ing’ Neighbours: Bees and Neighbourhood in the Brehon Laws

The Lesser Known Patrick

Ireland's annual cultural and religious celebrations on 17 March, 'Saint Patrick's Day' (Lá Fhéila Pádraig), have been curtailed for a second year. This has been disappointing both for people at home and diaspora abroad, along with other stakeholders for whom this one day every year gives Ireland a political and commercial platform unheard of for… Continue reading The Lesser Known Patrick

Lending and Depositing under the Brehon Laws

The risks involved when taking out or granting a loan, or placing a deposit, are not unique to our modern time. Here I highlight some earlier attitudes towards risk under the Brehon Laws, long before banking and when the motivations for lending and depositing differed somewhat from today. Nonetheless, some of the narratives in the… Continue reading Lending and Depositing under the Brehon Laws

Deputy or Heir? Origins of ‘An Tánaiste’

The titles of certain roles and institutions in Bunreacht na hÉireann (the Constitution of Ireland 1937) [1] have their roots in Early Ireland. One of the more interesting of these from a historical standpoint is the position of 'Tánaiste'. In this article I firstly provide an overview of the formal role envisaged for the Tánaiste… Continue reading Deputy or Heir? Origins of ‘An Tánaiste’

Medics and Pandemics in Early Ireland

The competent care and personal sacrifices of those working in our healthcare system have been brought home to us during this time of pandemic. And not just the valiant medical profession itself. It is often overlooked that the complex and delicate ecosystem within modern healthcare also depends on the everyday courage and professionalism of countless… Continue reading Medics and Pandemics in Early Ireland

Intro to the Brehon Laws

Image credit: Extract from an early Irish law tract in 'Ancient Laws of Ireland' (Vol. III) (Dublin, 1873) (link) Welcome to The Brehon Lawyer! See the 'About' section for general background on the motivations for this blog. In this first article I provide a brief introduction to the Brehon Laws, a lot of which will… Continue reading Intro to the Brehon Laws

Early Irish Sports Law and the Tailteann Games

In memory of my mother The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is just around the corner, providing a good opportunity to reflect on the regulation of sports, plus the broader role of 'funeral games', in early Ireland. It is not generally known that Ireland once held its own version(s) of the Olympics and that… Continue reading Early Irish Sports Law and the Tailteann Games