Monday 20 November 2017

Why do they wear all those peculiar looking things?

Michael Brennan and Patricia McDonagh

THE wearing of horsehair wigs by Irish judges is a tradition inherited from their British predecessors.

The original purpose of the wigs was said to be to provide a form of anonymity and safety for judges passing unpopular sentences.

Although the law in Ireland was changed in 1995 to free barristers from the obligation to wear wigs, judges are still obliged to wear them in their courtrooms.

And there is also more to a judge's work outfit -- a gown, a waistcoat, a frockcoat and a band to be worn around the neck.

Louis Copeland is the main supplier of the current robes, but some wigs and cloaks are also ordered from abroad.

Order 119 rule 2 of the Rules of the Superior Courts, 1986, states:

"The judges of the superior courts shall on all occasions, during the sittings, including sittings of the Central Criminal Court, wear the following costume, namely, a black coat and vest of uniform make and material of the kind worn by senior counsel, a black Irish poplin gown of uniform make and material, white bands, and a wig of the kind known as the small or bobbed wig."

The last effort to change judicial attire occurred in the mid- 1920s when Hugh Kennedy -- the first Chief Justice of the Irish Free State -- sought to break from away from the English tradition by introducing an exclusive Irish range of robes.

According to his papers, there was correspondence on the planned design of judicial robes between Kennedy, William Butler Yeats and printmaker Charles Shannon. But the project did not attract political approval.

But now Irish designer Louise Kennedy is set to unveil an unprecedented new range of designer robes for the country's judges.

The famed designer has been given the go-ahead to place her own stamp on the traditional "Queen Anne Morning Suit".

And it is understood the new robes could be in place as fast as next year.

It marks the first time in over 300 years that judges will ditch their horsehair wigs for more modern attire.

Irish Independent

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