By Martha Brennan
Legal history was made at NUI Galway last week when the Supreme Court sat in Aula Maxima from 4-6 March.
It was the first time the Supreme Court sat outside a courthouse since 1932, and the first time Ireland’s highest court sat in the West of Ireland.
It was only the third time the court sat outside of Dublin.
The Court heard two cases while sitting in Galway. One was a highly reported appeal against the decision of An Bord Pleanála to approve the first phase of an €850 million Apple data centre in Athenry. The other case was an appeal by media mogul Denis O’Brien.
To mark the landmark occasion, NUI Galway’s School of Law organised a number of celebratory on-campus events.
On Monday 4 March, Chief Justice Frank Clarke delivered a speech on ‘The Common Law Post-Brexit’ to the legal community in conjunction with the Galway Solicitors’ Bar Association.
A free public event, entitled ‘Women on Supreme Courts’, took place on Tuesday 5 March, as part of the University’s programme of events for International Women’s Day.
At the event, current, former and international Supreme Court judges spoke about the contribution of women to adjudication in the superior courts.
Speakers included Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, former Supreme Court Judge and Chair of NUI Galway’s Governing Authority, Mrs Justice Matilda Twomey, Chief Justice of Seychelles and a graduate of NUI Galway’s School of Law, Mr Justice John MacMenamin and Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne.
NUI Galway’s School of Law also delivered a series of closed student seminars in conjunction with members of the Supreme Court over the course of the visit. Students were given a unique opportunity to interact with the judiciary and academic law staff to address current issues such as consent in relation to sexual offences, and other offences against the person, workplace bullying, the role of a Judge, tribunals of inquiry, disability in the courts, separations of powers, restriction and disqualification of company directors.
The School of Law was “honoured to host this landmark occasion” and said that the events provided students with a “unique opportunity to gain an insight into our legal system.”
Dr Charles O’Mahony, Head of the School of Law said: “I would like to thank the Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court for participating in these events and for giving their time so generously. We are particularly grateful for the Supreme Court’s willingness to engage with our students.”
“This visit is an exceptional learning opportunity for our law students and the Chief Justice Frank Clarke is to be commended for initiatives such as this, which promote greater understanding of the role of the Supreme Court and the important work it does.”
SIN spoke to Ruth Kelliher, a final year Civil Law student, who attended the events.
“It was such a good opportunity to see the judges. You learn off quotes and judgments for exams and you don’t really think about how it actually is applied in real life situations, you’re just thinking about your exam paper, so it’s cool to see a real court sitting.”
“I had a great day, it was definitely the best day of my law studies so far. It’s not like what you get from a lecture hall; you get too see the law actually being applied which is rare. It was so different from class and it was a great opportunity as a law student.”