Wednesday 21 February 2018

Obituary: Hardiman will be remembered as a staunch defender of Constitutional rights and freedoms

Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman was not afraid to offer a dissenting voice
Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman was not afraid to offer a dissenting voice Newsdesk Newsdesk

Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman will be remembered as one of the foremost legal minds of his generation.

Erudite, forthright and sometimes outspoken, he was considered a passionate defender of constitutional rights and individual freedoms.

During his 16 years on the Supreme Court, Mr Justice Hardiman was involved in a many high-profile rulings.

His opinions were trenchant, clearly written and quite often marked him out as a protector of the rights of citizens who were oppressed by the State.

Frank Shortt, the publican jailed on the basis of evidence concocted by gardaí, did not receive an official apology until after Mr Justice Hardiman's excoriating criticism of the State's failure to say sorry.

Other opinions, such as those in cases relating to immigration and gender equality cases, proved more divisive.

For example, he ruled that illegal immigrants were not entitled to stay in Ireland by virtue of being parents of an Irish-born child.

He also sat on the Supreme Court which controversially ruled that Portmarnock Golf Club was not in breach of equal status legislation by failing to allow female members.

His views did not always carry sway, but he was not afraid to be a dissenting voice in cases where the court was divided.

This was seen in a case where the Supreme Court removed a bar on the use of evidence gathered in breach of a person's Constitutional rights, a decision he was deeply uneasy with. He felt it gave gardaí "effective immunity from judicial oversight".


Away from the court, he was also known as a fluent Irish speaker, a historian and a debater. He had a keen interest in Irish political and cultural figures and wrote extensively on legal history. He was particularly interested in James Joyce, whom he had written about.

Last month he delivered a lecture about the trial of Robert Emmet in Green Street Court House in 1803.

Born in Dublin in 1951, Mr Hardiman was educated at Belvedere College and UCD and at Kings Inn. At UCD he was the auditor of the Literary and Historical Society and president of the Student Union.

He was married to the former Circuit Court judge Yvonne Murphy, who chaired the Commission of Investigation into clerical sex abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese. The couple had three sons, Eoin, Hugh and Daniel.

Mr Hardiman was called to the Bar in 1974 and became a senior counsel in 1989.

While a barrister, he was active politically, joining Fianna Fáil and ran for local elections.

In 1983 he was one of main spokesmen for the campaign against the anti-abortion amendment.

Two years later, he helped found the Progressive Democrats and remained a member of the party until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 2000.

He enjoyed the distinction of being appointed to the Supreme Court without first serving on a lower court.

As a barrister he successfully represented the Well Woman Centre in the 1990s. He also represented Pat Rabbitte and Des O'Malley during the Beef Tribunal, during which his cross-examination of then Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, drew much praise.

Irish Independent

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