Sunday 21 January 2018

Anthony Hederman

Former Supreme Court justice was a compassionate advocate, says Aindrias O Caoimh

Anthony Hederman
Anthony Hederman

Anthony Hederman loved to tell stories from his schooldays. From age 10, he attended Castleknock College in Dublin as a boarder.

In those days, a student required a letter from his parents to have a "day out".

Liam Cosgrave had such a letter to go to the Phoenix Park Races and surreptitiously took Anthony along with him. The following week Anthony, armed with his own letter for his day out, went to obtain permission from Fr O'Donovan, the president of the college, who asked him if he had been out recently. With all the signs of a future career in law, he replied: "I have not asked your permission to go out recently."

The president said he wanted to finish writing a letter and handed him the newspaper to read. As was Anthony's custom, he turned immediately to the sports pages and there found a photograph of Liam Cosgrave and himself at the races. When he had finished writing, the president looked up and said "enjoy your day out".

Anthony J Hederman was born on August 11, 1921, and died on January 10 last. He was a native of Naas, Co Kildare, where his father was a draper. He was sent at the tender age of five to a residential primary school in Co Kildare at his insistence due to his attachment to his elder brother William (Billy) who was sent to the same school.

He later attended the Vincentian Castleknock College to which he maintained a close attachment throughout his life. Having been recently made an associate member of the community, Anthony Hederman was laid to rest in the college grounds on January 14. His brother had been ordained a priest in the Vincentian Order and, much to Anthony's grief, had died at the age of 38.

Called to the Bar of Ireland in 1944, Anthony became a senior counsel in 1965 and was nominated Attorney General by Jack Lynch in 1977, in which capacity he served for four years before being elevated to the Supreme Court in 1981 where he served until his retirement in 1993.

Anthony had many passions in life including the law, politics and sport. He was a passionate defender of human rights and was very attached to the Constitution and fundamental rights.

He demonstrated his commitment to defending these rights in many cases which he fought as a barrister and in his judgments as a member of the Supreme Court.

As a lawyer, Anthony excelled at advocacy and criminal trials.

At the age of 72 most people would be happy to retire. This was not, however, the way of Anthony J Hederman.

Appointed president of the Law Reform Commission in his last year as a Supreme Court judge, he continued in that office until July 1998. Following the Good Friday Agreement, he was nominated in 1999 to chair a committee of review of the Offences Against the State Acts.

His own views did not entirely prevail and he co-authored a minority opinion in the report that was furnished to the Government.

Thereafter, Hederman gave some time to chairing the Catholic Church's National Board for Child Protection, during its set-up, from 2006 to 2007.

During this time he fought to change many aspects of the church's child-protection policies, which led his successor as chairman of the board to state that "the church in Ireland is very much in his debt for his advice in providing a sure footing to underpin the board's structure and the authority for its activities".

He was instrumental in the establishment of the National Association for the Deaf as well as the MS Care Centre in Dublin in 1989. To quote Paul: "I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith."

Irish Independent

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