The University of Galway Law Review hosted Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell at an interview organised by the Law Review and the University of Galway School of Law.
Mayor of Galway, Eddie Hoare, led the delegation that welcomed the Honourable Mr Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell to the O’Donoghue Centre in Galway.
The interview comprised of two segments, where the Chief Justice spoke about his life and his experience with the law.
During the first event of its kind during his tenure, the Chief Justice spoke with Co-Editor-in-Chief of the University of Galway Law Review, Tom O’Connor, about his background, the position of the European Convention on Human Rights and the impact of artificial intelligence on the law.
Chief Justice O’Donnell went on to discuss accessibility of justice in Ireland, judicial training and the Constitutional Equality Provision with Senior Lecturer at the School of Law, Dr Shivaun Quinlivan.
Reflecting on his upbringing in Northern Ireland, he spoke about how his father was a high-ranking Catholic judge and therefore was under constant fear of assassination.
Chief Justice O’Donnell felt that for “people who lived through it, I think it leaves a permanent mark”.
When questioned by O’Connor about the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the judiciary, the Chief Justice referenced how “the French courts, the Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice have actually made significant strides in strides in the use of AI in their work.
“There are obvious areas, and there are areas in the legal profession, principally in discovery analysis, in which AI has a has a role.”
However, he also spoke about the flaws of the use of AI, and referred to the lawyers who were fined in New York for relying on a ChatGPT submission which had created fake cases.
Whilst discussing the length of Supreme Court judgements, which Professor Martin Hogg, Dean of the School of Law, later joked were the bugbear of law students, Chief Justice O’Donnell quoted Einstein and said “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not more so.”
He then joked that the reason he had agreed to the interview was that he had been asked a number of times, but confessed that he did it as he likes universities and he likes talking to students.
Dr Shivaun Quinlivan then took over from Tom O’Connor as interviewer and focused more on access to justice in the legal system.
Quinlivan questioned the work which Chief Justice O’Donnell does for access to justice and legal aid, which he took over from his predecessor.
“We have privatised the system. Civil justice isn’t really made available.
“More litigation isn’t always a good thing, but people who can’t get their claims into court, who believe that something has that they have suffered, are wrong. That’s a real area of injustice and I think you’re starting to see some signs of that development having impacts in other areas.”
Speaking on the ten years since the establishment of the current Supreme Court and his aspirations for its future, the Chief Justice stated “let’s do tomorrow’s case as well as we can. Let’s produce a judgement that is as good as it can be in terms of analysis and intellectual rigour.”
When questioned about a survey in which 45% of people stated they had confidence in the criminal justice system, Chief Justice O’Donnell stated that he didn’t feel those figures accurately represented the true confidence in the system, and felt it” wouldn’t reflect the experience of people who go into court and see the care with which the process is carried out, and the way that judges living struggle with the with the system and to do their job”.
The Chief Justice discussed the training given to the judiciary, and stated that “there’s a great appetite for training, for knowledge, for learning and it’s a great appetite for saying are there ways in which we can find to do this better.”
Co-Editor-in-Chief of the University of Galway Law Review, Emma Halpin, described the interview as “an insightful and valuable event for the students, academics and practitioners in attendance.” Also present were judge of the Circuit Court, Brian O’Callaghan, and judge of the District Court in Galway, Mary Fahy.
Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell was appointed the 13th Chief Justice of Ireland on the 11th of October 2021.
Dean of the School of Law, Professor Martin Hogg, urged guests to contribute to Volume III of the University of Galway Law Review for which articles of 5,000 words or more are invited until the 29th of February. Those interested in submitting or learning more can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caoimhe Looney is the Editor-in-Chief of Student Independent News for the year 2023/24. She is a Final Year Journalism and Law student in the University of Galway. Caoimhe has been writing for SIN for two years and was previously Health and Lifestyle Editor.