The Hon Mr Justice Brian Walsh, barrister and judge, was born in Dublin in 1918. His sharp intellect and extensive contribution to the field of human rights, both as a judge of the Irish Supreme Court, and later as a judge of the European Court of Human Rights, mark him out as one of the most significant members of the Irish judiciary in any century.
Brian Walsh had a distinguished career as a barrister practising before the Irish courts. He was called to the Bar in 1941 and quickly built a reputation as a skilled advocate on the Cavan-Monaghan circuit, before being called to the Inner Bar in 1954. He served as a High Court judge for only two years (1959-1961) before being appointed to the Supreme Court where he served as a judge from 1961. He served as Irish judge on the European Court of Human Rights from 1980 until his death in 1998.
As one of the longest serving Irish judges, Brian Walsh naturally had a very large judicial impact. During his time as judge on the Irish Supreme Court, he was involved in many landmark decisions, including McNamara v Electricity Supply Board (on the circumstances in which a duty of care is owed in tort law to a child trespasser), The People (Attorney General) v O’Brien (where his minority judgment on the admissibility of unconstitutionally obtained evidence has now become the prevailing view of the Supreme Court), and McDonald v Bord na gCon (which established the principle of constitutional justice which must govern administrative procedures), to name but a few.
Brian Walsh also played a large role in the broader elaboration of the constitutional structures of the State, expanding the scope and protection of the Constitution (and the Courts). He authored among the most famous constitutional law judgments ever issued by the Irish courts, such as Byrne v Ireland, Meskell v CIÉ, and Crotty v An Taoiseach. He sometimes displayed a greater willingness than some of his colleagues to discuss fundamental questions such as the nature of the relationship between the Irish Constitution and European Communities. He also contributed significantly to the development of particular constitutional rights, including property rights and the freedom of association.
The most distinctive feature of his contribution manifests itself in areas related to religious freedom and family protection. In particular, as an Irish judge, his dissents or separate concurring opinions reflect his particular approach to human rights. These individual contributions also demonstrated his belief in stringent protections of the individual citizen in terms of access to the courts and a fair and public hearing and personal liberty.
Judge Walsh held many prominent legal positions during his career, including: member of the World Association of Judges (1966-98); leader of the Irish delegation on the Anglo-Irish Law Enforcement Commission (1974); and President of the Irish Law Reform Commission (1975-85); and, founding President of the Irish Society for European Law (1973-1998).
Brian Walsh was to the forefront of many of the key legal developments of the 20th century. His long service in the legal profession, both as advocate and judge, earned him a well-deserved reputation as one of the most brilliant legal minds this State has seen. It was thus fitting to dedicate a lecture series commemorating him on an annual basis.
Details of previous lectures are set out below. Where provided by speakers, material from these events is available for ISEL members to download.
|Date||Topic||Chair & Speakers||Venue||Download|
|14 November 2019||17th Annual Brian Walsh Memorial Lecture||The Hon. Mr. Justice Frank Clarke, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (chair), Dr. Síofra O'Leary, Judge, European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg||The Ormond Buildings|
|22 November 2018||16th Annual Brian Walsh Memorial Lecture||The Honourable Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (chair), Mr Justice Anthony Collins, General Court, Court of Justice of the European Union||Ormond Buildings|
|16 November 2017||15th Annual Brian Walsh Memorial Lecture - The Farthest - December 1972||The Honourable MrJustice Nial Fennelly, Retired Judge of the Supreme Court and former Advocate General (chair), Opening Address: The Honourable Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Chief Justice of the Supreme CourtMain Address: The Honourable Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, Judge of the Court of Appeal||Dublin Dispute Resolution Centre|
|2 February 2017||ISEL 14th Annual Brian Walsh Memorial Lecture: “The Development of the Law from Crotty to Pringle: Lions Under the Throne, Mice Under the Chair, or Enemies of the People?”||The Honourable Mr. Justice Frank Clarke (chair), The Honourable Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell (Speaker)||The Distillery Building|