Legal Cases that Changed Ireland
To be Published: December 2016
Publisher: Clarus Press
Country of Publication: Ireland
Legal Cases that Changed Ireland examines key legal cases which have brought about significant social change in Ireland.
The book is based on the 2015 project, entitled ‘Changing Ireland, Changing Law’ (CICL), which involved a series of seminars under four themes exploring the relationship between legal action and social change.
These four themes are discussed, with contributions from those directly involved in strategic litigation: those individuals who took the cases; practitioners; non-governmental organisations; and academics.
- Under the theme Women Changing Law, Changing Society, Máirín de Búrca, (litigant in de Búrca and Anderson v Attorney General  IR 1) and Dr Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington (who won a case before the Equality Tribunal, which found that her employer had discriminated against her for promotion because of her gender) share their experiences of personally initiating legal action to enforce their rights. Professor Yvonne Scannell discusses her involvement in the Murphy v Attorney General  IR 241 litigation on equal tax treatment for married women, while experienced senior counsel Mary O’Toole provides a practitioner’s perspective, and Professor Aileen McColgan of King’s College London gives an international view on the importance of strategic cases in advancing women’s rights;
- Under the theme Sexual Identity, Law and Social Change Senator David Norris (litigant in the key case leading to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland (Norris v Ireland  IR 36 and ECHR 10581/83)) Katherine Zappone TD and her wife Dr Ann Louise Gilligan (whose High Court litigation seeking recognition for the right to marry pre-dated the referendum establishing the right to marriage equality (Zappone & Gilligan v Revenue Commissioners  IEHC 404)); and Professor Mark Bell of Trinity College Dublin, discuss the impact that litigation has had for advancing LBGT rights;
- The Immigration, Asylum and Legal Change theme explores the important Supreme Court case on citizenship rights, Mallak v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  IESC 59, from the perspective of Gandhi Mallak. Dr Patricia Brazil from Trinity College Dublin and Professor Cathryn Costello from Oxford University, discuss the national and international legal issues involved in this area;
- Public Interest Litigation: Does it Work? The final theme includes a contribution from Dr Lydia Foy (who challenged the State’s failure to provide for transgender rights in Foy v An t-Ard Chláraitheoir  IEHC 470). Kevin Brophy of Brophy Solicitors discusses the legal practitioner’s view; Professor Gerry Whyte of Trinity College Dublin provides an academic overview of public interest litigation and identifies some key themes that have emerged from such cases;
- Under each theme, a perspective is also provided by key non-governmental organisations that supported or initiated strategic legal cases, namely the Public Interest Law Alliance, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, and the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
While the changing nature of society is evident every day in our courtrooms it is only in exceptional cases that we hear the stories behind moments of legal change. This book is aimed to document not only the stories of the legal cases themselves, but also the experiences of individuals who have taken cases of social importance. Recognising that it is not only cases heard in the superior courts, resulting in judgments pored over by constitutional lawyers than can shape people’s lives in profound ways, Legal Cases that Changed Ireland also supports the sharing of experiences of cases in other legal venues, such as the Equality Tribunal.
Those engaged in any kind of effort to seek legal change, but particularly through the courts, face intimidating hurdles. Their stories assist us to understand more about the nature of legal processes. Legal Cases that Changed Ireland provides a rare opportunity for litigants, lawyers, academics, policy makers and members of the public to share those stories.