Opinion Comment

Monday 20 November 2017

Historic legal ruling could have chilling civil rights repercussions

There are alarming political implications to be drawn from Justice Hardiman's judgement on the overturning of the Kenny ruling, says Ronan Fanning

Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman
Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman

Ronan Fanning

Seismic shift as Supreme Court splits on key ruling," proclaimed the Irish Independent. "Landmark decision rewrites evidence rulebook," trumpeted the Irish Times. The headlines varied, but it was immediately apparent that the response of the media was unanimous: the decision of the Supreme Court by four votes to three to overturn its earlier ruling in the Kenny case in 1990 instantly acquired the status of the first great landmark case of the 21st century.

In the words of Mr Justice Hardiman, "this is as significant a case on criminal law and evidence as any that has come before the Court in the last 25 years. It affects in an important way the rights and liberties of every citizen".

Mr Justice Hardiman's magisterial denunciation of the majority verdict is lengthy and detailed: it runs to 166 pages. It is, perhaps, for that reason that there has so far been a strange silence about the political implications of his words.

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