Friday 30 September 2016

Hardiman: a good talker and listener, who loved banter

Hard-working Justice Adrian Hardiman didn't much mind the media glare, or a glass of fine wine, writes Liam Collins

Published 13/03/2016 | 02:30

RACONTEUR: Justice Adrian Hardiman, who died suddenly on Monday, as a young barrister debating in the Shelbourne Hotel. Photo: RollingNews.ie
RACONTEUR: Justice Adrian Hardiman, who died suddenly on Monday, as a young barrister debating in the Shelbourne Hotel. Photo: RollingNews.ie

There is a photograph of a youthful-looking Adrian Hardiman standing in front of what was then the "new" bar in the Shelbourne Hotel, extolling the merits of this drinking establishment, as opposed to the traditional Horseshoe Bar on the other side of the lobby, where he was a well-known habitué.

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It was something that "seemed like a good idea at the time", but some wigs down in the Law Library were seriously discommoded at what they considered a louche public display by one of its brightest young stars. It was all right to drink fine wines, old port and a postprandial brandy in the sanctity of one of the many dinners hosted by the Honourable Society of King Inns, but such trivial japes in the glare of the media in a hotel bar was frowned upon in some lofty circles. At the time, Adrian Hardiman didn't much mind either the glare of the media, or indeed a glass of fine wine. He neither shunned nor feared such encounters.

On one occasion, it being Christmas and pleasantly filled with the joys of life, myself and a drinking companion ended up in the ivy-clad offices of Ivor Fitzpatrick across from the Shelbourne. Spying Hardiman temporarily without company, we sprang at the opportunity to engage the best known senior counsel of his generation in a bit of banter.

Undaunted, he ordered drinks, free ,of course, and for an hour, we traded stories and occasional insults, smoked cigarettes and gossiped while more worthy figures looked on wondering 'why is he wasting his time with those hacks?'

Adrian Hardiman wasn't only a good talker, he was also a good listener, as someone who sat beside him at a dinner party recently testified. He enjoyed the company of interesting people from all walks of life and outside the courtroom, he didn't believe he should be treated as anything other than himself.

He moved in a social milieu where lawyers, politicians, writers and some of the more engaging members of the media mixed easily from the Shelbourne to the Unicorn (Saturday lunch) to Doheny & Nesbitt's, to Joy's Nightclub.

It was a peculiar form of Irish "café society", with different groups vying for attention in a small city. A time that has now largely disappeared. The spotlight of publicity (much of it deserved) and possibly age, drove most of its proponents underground to the world of the "gentleman's club" (his being the Stephen's Green) and the dinner party, where they could quaff their wines and engage in banter without finding themselves featured in the gossip columns.

Hardiman was involved in what has been described as "a peculiar incident" with his friend, Gerry Danaher, a member of the State's legal team at the Beef Tribunal in 1992. Hardiman believed he had been threatened by Danaher, a family friend of then Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, and although he subsequently played down the incident, suggesting that whatever comments had passed between them had been made "in drink", Danaher resigned from the State legal team.

Hardiman went on to cross-examine Reynolds for five days, but after getting him to describe the evidence of his coalition partner Dessie O'Malley as "reckless, irresponsible and dishonest", he then tried, unsuccessfully, to get Reynolds to modify this to "incorrect"… and the Government fell.

It would be a disservice to portray Adrian Hardiman as the sort of roistering barrister, a figure once so commonplace in Dublin legal circles. He worked extremely hard and took great care, whether he was writing a judgment or the obituary of one of his colleagues, but he also enjoyed convivial company, did not stand on ceremony and enjoyed his wines, brandies, and the occasional pint of stout.

Apart from his legal legacy, it could be said that he added to the gaiety of the nation.

Sunday Independent

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