Prof. Elaine Farrell & Dr Leanne McCormick gave the Winter Discourse discussing the Bad Bridget project

Prof. Elaine Farrell & Dr Leanne McCormick gave the Winter Discourse discussing the Bad Bridget project

On a cold December evening in Belfast, members of the Society assembled in the beautiful Harbour Commissioners building near Belfast’s docklands to hear about Irish women and girls who arrived in the ports of New York and Toronto in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Professor Elaine Farrell from Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Leanne McCormick from Ulster University provided a lively and engaging lecture on their Bad Bridget project, which considers the criminalisation of Irish women and girls in North America. Unusually among migration patterns at the time, these women and girls tended to travel unaccompanied, and many of them were in their teens or even younger. They found themselves before the courts and populating the prisons in staggering numbers, for everything from drunkenness to sex work to murder, and at one stage represented over 80% of the population of women prisoners in these cities. The lecture addressed how these women were portrayed in court and in the press, examining issues of gender, Irishness and the performative nature of court proceedings.

Attendees included the two patrons of the Society, Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell and Lady Chief Justice Siobhan Keegan. There was a lively discussion after the discourse, and Dr Coleman Dennehy proposed a vote of thanks on behalf of the Society.


(L to R: Prof. Elaine Farrell, Mr John Gordon, DL, Dr Leanne McCormick, Dr Coleman Dennehy)

Annual General Meeting & Winter Discourse – 1 December 2023

Annual General Meeting & Winter Discourse – 1 December 2023

The Irish Legal History Society Winter Discourse & Annual General Meeting will take place in the Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office from 5.30 on Friday, 1 December 2023

The Discourse will be given by Prof. Elaine Farrell (Queen’s, Belfast) & Dr Leanne McCormick (University of Ulster)
The title of the lecture is ‘The trials of Bad Bridget’

Attendance is, as always, free, but advance registration is necessary.
Those wishing to attend should sign up, via Eventbrite, HERE


Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office
Corporation Square
Belfast BT1 3AL


5.30 Coffee and walk-around the building
6.00 Annual General Meeting
6.45 Winter Discourse


Dr Donal Coffey gave the 2022 Winter Discourse

Dr Donal Coffey gave the 2022 Winter Discourse

The 2022 Winter Discourse was given by Dr Donal Coffey (Maynooth University) in late November 2022 at the Law Society of Ireland in Dublin.

The title of his Discourse was ‘Constitutional Theory and Irish Legal Education, 1900-1950’.

The Discourse was attended by one of our patrons, The Hon. Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell, Chief Justice of Ireland, as well as many members of the judiciary, academics, and lawyers in practice.
A response was given by Dr Niamh Howlin (UCD). The talk stimulated considerable commentary and questions immediately afterwards and discussion was carried on over dinner.

The talk was preceded by a welcome to the Law Society by its President, Maura Derivan. It was preceded by a talk on aspects of Law Society recognition of long service in the profession by former President, Mr James Cahill.

Picture Credit: (C) Robert D Marshall 2022

Winter Discourse, 25 November 2022

Winter Discourse, 25 November 2022


The Winter Discourse will follow the Annual General Meeting of the Irish Legal History Society.
It will be given by Dr Donal Coffey (Maynooth University) and will be held in the Education Centre of the Law Society of Ireland, Blackhall Place, Dublin 7 on Friday 25th November, 2022.


The title of Dr Coffey’s discourse will be ‘Constitutional Theory and Irish Legal Education, 1900-1950’.

Refreshments will be served from 4.30, followed by the Annual General Meetings. Dr Coffey’s lecture will commence at 6.15.



Spring Discourse, 2022 – Dr Eamon Phoenix

Spring Discourse, 2022 – Dr Eamon Phoenix


The Irish Legal History Society is proud to announce that Dr Eamon Phoenix will deliver the Spring Discourse for 2022.

Dr Phoenix will address the career of Sir Denis Henry (1864-1925): Barrister, Catholic Unionist Politician & First Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland

The address will take place at 6pm on Friday 11 March 2022. It will be held ‘in person’ at Clifton House, Belfast.


Members and non-members are most welcome, but registration is essential. Register by click on this link




The Spring 2022 Discourse was given by Dr Eamon Phoenix. He gave a fascinating lecture on Sir Denis Henry, the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. On behalf of the society, Dr David Capper gave thanks to Dr Phoenix.




The spring meeting of the Irish Legal History Society (ILHS) was held in Clifton House, Belfast, on 11 March. Clifton House is the home of the Belfast Charitable Society (founded 1752). To mark the occasion, ILHS Council member Felix Larkin presented a copy of the official history of Dublin’s Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers Society to Sir Ronnie Weatherup, President of the Belfast Charitable Society. Felix is a former chair of the Roomkeepers Society (founded 1790). In return, Sir Ronnie presented Felix with a copy of the official history of the Belfast Charitable Society. The two societies are the oldest charities in Belfast and Dublin respectively. This photo shows Sir Ronnie Weatherup (left) and Felix Larkin (right) with John Gordon, ILHS President.




Irish Constitutional Change, 1920-1922


A video of the event can be watched here


Spring Discourse (via webinar) 2021

During the period 1920-1922, the Government of Northern Ireland was established, ‘’Articles of agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland’ were signed, and the constitution of the Irish Free State was adopted.

When the dust of the War of Independence had settled, the Irish constitutional landscape had changed dramatically. Under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 a devolved administration with a Home Rule Parliament had been established in Belfast for six of the Ulster counties. The act had been a failure in the remaining 26 counties where, following partition, a solution was found in dominion status, so that the Irish Free State bore a relationship to the United Kingdom similar to that of Canada.

In this Webinar, John Larkin, Bláthna Ruane and Thomas Mohr will examine the legal steps during that period by which Northern ireland and the Irish Free State were established and the constitution arrangements which then emerged and what irish people thought of their new consitutional arrangements.

John Larkin QC is a practising barrister at the Bar of Northern Ireland and a former Attorney General for that jurisdiction. He will speak to the topic:-

One Irish Constitution, two Irish Parliaments: the Government of Ireland Act, 1920

Dr Bláthna Ruane SC is a Senior Counsel, who has written widely on the constitution, law and government. She is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Sutherland School of Law at University College, Dublin and was a member of the Constitution Review Group 1995-6. She will speak to the topic:-

The ‘so-called Treaty’: the implications of legal form for achieving settlement

Dr Thomas Mohr is an associate professor in the Sutherland School of Law at UCD and the author of Guardian of the Treaty published by Four Courts Press in association with the Society in 2016. He will speak to the topic;-

What did Irish people think of the Free State Constitution in 1922.”



© Parliamentary Archives





Researching and Writing Irish Legal History in the 21st Century

Instead of the usual format of an AGM followed by a distinguished lecture, this year the ILHS is holding a virtual AGM, followed by a zoom webinar. All members and non-members are welcome to attend the webinar, which takes place on Thursday 10 December at 7.30 pm.

Please click here to join our panel to discuss

‘Researching and Writing Irish Legal History in the 21st Century’

Dr. Lynsey Black (Maynooth University)
Dr. Sparky Booker (Queen’s University Belfast)
Dr. Coleman Dennehy (University College Dublin)
Dr. Niamh Howlin (University College Dublin)


A video of the event can be watched HERE.


Dr Lynsey Black is an assistant professor at Maynooth Unniversity. She researches in the areas of gender and punishment, the death penalty, historical criminology, and postcolonial criminology. Lynsey is currently PI on the IRC New Foundations project, ‘Living Borders: Cattle Smuggling on the Ireland/Northern Ireland Border’. This research is being done in collaboration with the National Museum of Ireland and explores border criminality through the 20th century. Lynsey was a Visiting Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in 2019. She has published in Punishment and SocietyLaw and History Review, and the Social History of Medicine, and is co-editor of the collection, Law and Gender in Modern Ireland, with Hart Publishing. She is currently working on her first monograph, Women, Murder and the Death Penalty in Ireland, 1922-64, with Manchester University Press.

Dr Sparky Booker  is a lecturer in medieval Irish history at Queen’s University Belfast. Before she took this post in 2016, she was a postdoctoral research associate at Swansea University, on the AHRC-funded project ‘Women negotiating the boundaries of Justice, Britain and Ireland, c. 1100-1750’ ( Her current research examines female plaintiffs in the secular and ecclesiastical courts of Ireland from c. 1350- c.1530, and focuses particularly on litigant strategies, overlapping jurisdictions, and the influence of wealth, status, ethnicity, and gender on women’s legal activities. Her doctoral research explored interactions between the English of Ireland and Irish in the later middle ages. She is the co-editor of Tales of Medieval Dublin Dublin, (Four Courts Press, 2014).

Dr Coleman Dennehy has previously taught at Maynooth, Limerick, UCD and University College London, and was a visiting scientific researcher at  the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt and a visiting professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Vienna. Coleman He received an IRC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow for his project, ‘Competing jurisdictions: appellate justice in the Dublin and Westminster parliaments, 1603 – c.1730’. He has published many articles and chapters, as well as Restoration Ireland: Always Settling and Never Settled (Routledge); The Irish Parliament, 1613-89 (Manchester University Press); Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington, and his World: Restoration Court, Politics and Diplomacy (Routledge; with Robin Eagles). Coleman has also edited The Evolution of a Colonial Institution; Law and Revolution in Seventeenth-Century Ireland (Four Courts Press).

Dr Niamh Howlin  is an Associate Professor at UCD and her publications include Juries in Ireland: Laypersons and Law in the Long Nineteenth Century (Four Courts Press) as well as articles in the Journal of Legal History, the Law and History Review, Comparative Legal History, and the American Journal of Legal History. She has also edited, with Dr Kevin Costello, Law and the Family in Ireland 1800-1950 (Palgrave Macmillan) and Law and Religion in Ireland (Palgrave Macmillan; forthcoming 2021). Niamh also works on contemporary legal issues and in 2020 published an empirical study on judge-jury relations with colleagues from UCD and Sheffield Hallam. She is currently working on a history of the Irish Bar.

Winter Discourse 2019

Our 2019 Winter Discourse takes place this Friday 6 December. Professor Richard English will deliver a paper entitled Legacies of the Irish Revolution: Ernie O’Malley and the IRA.

The Discourse begins at 6 pm in the Upper Bar Library, Royal Courts of Justice. All welcome.

The Speaker

Richard English is Professor of Politics at Queen’s University Belfast, where he is also Distinguished Professorial Fellow in the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. Professor English’s research focuses on the politics and history of nationalism, political violence, and terrorism, with a particular focus on Ireland and Britain.  His books include Does Terrorism Work? A History (OUP, 2016), Modern War: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2013), Terrorism: How to Respond (OUP, 2009), Irish Freedom: The History of Nationalism in Ireland (Pan Macmillan, 2006), Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA (Pan Macmillan, 2003), Ernie O’Malley: IRA Intellectual (OUP, 1998), and Radicals and the Republic: Socialist Republicanism in the Irish Free State 1925-1937 (OUP, 1994).    He is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, an Honorary Fellow of Keble College Oxford, and an Honorary Professor at the University of St Andrews.  Professor English has given invited Lectures on his research in more than twenty countries.  In 2018 he was awarded a CBE for services to the understanding of modern day terrorism and political history.

The Venue

Spring Discourse 2019

Judge Liz Goldthorpe delivered the 2019 Spring Discourse on the subject of Averil Deverell BL, the second woman called to the Bar of Ireland and the first to practice in the South. Deverell went down to the Law Library to practise in January 1922, and remained in practice until her retirement in 1969. She was among the first group of women graduates from Trinity College, University of Dublin, obtaining her law degree in 1915. She died in 1979 and in her will left a bequest setting up a lectureship in the Law School of Trinity College.

The Honourable Society of the King’s Inns holds an archive of Averil Deverill’s papers, details of which can be found here.

The Spring Discourse took place on Friday 22 February at the Law Society of Ireland, and was well-attended.