Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Code IRIS330
Coordinator Prof DL Urquhart
Institute of Irish Studies
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2021-22 Level 3 FHEQ Second Semester 15


To introduce students to Irish legal history and Irish law as well as the impact of Irish legal rulings. It also introduces students to gender history and law.

Learning Outcomes

(LO1) Build skills of textual analysis by considering a range of texts from pre-1170 vernacular texts to legislation and legal rulings.  

(LO2) Gain an understanding of the problems and ambiguities of having two legal systems (English and Irish) in operation and assess the English inheritance in Irish law.

(LO3) Have the ability to compare how access to different legal systems impacted on the position and status of women and men in Ireland.

(LO4) Understand the complex relationship between law and gender

(LO5) Build knowledge of the significance of gender/sexuality in Irish law both in a historical and contemporary setting.

(LO6) Understand the use of evidence-based research in challenging law and in law making.

(LO7) Assess the impact of Ireland’s membership of the EEC/European Union from 1973 and subsequent European court rulings.

(S1) Problem solving skills

(S2) Organisational skills

(S3) Communication skills

(S4) Ethical awareness

(S5) International awareness



The module will begin with early Irish law, or Brehon law, comprised statutes, that governed life in Early Medieval Ireland. Existing in some form up until the 17 th century and including a mix of Gaelic and Christian influence and juristic innovation. These were in the main secular and civil rather than criminal code based which operated largely through the payment of compensation, forms of restorative justice and the regulation of property, social status, inheritance and contracts. These laws were relatively progressive (compared to other European societies) in their treatment of women, with some basic laws of equality of treatment. Divorce was provided for on a number of grounds with property divided according to the agreement of both and the contribution of each spouse to the household.

The advent of more formalised English law in Ireland created laws of divorce tied to Victorian era anachronisms and the erosion of previous entitlements. The advent of independence and the 1937 constitution (in Southern Ireland) advanced a politically-systematised Catholic Church in the public and private guardianship of marriage as both a religious sacrament and a contractual obligation carrying legal rights and duties. A significant philosophical influence of the 1937 constitution, linked the social teachings of Catholic church that framed the family as the social and moral foundation upon which the Irish Constitution was premised. In covering both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland this module will examine recent legislative change including the enactment of same-sex marriage, divorce and contraception in the Republic of Ireland. It will also explore the denial of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, the ban upon abortion (in limited circumstances) in both jurisdictions and the recent criminalisation for the payment of sex in Northern Ireland*. A central theme of the module will be to examine how religious influence and ‘morality’ framed the shift from relative equality to laws of censure and ban. This will be followed by understanding struggle against laws of control that banned rights of divorce, sexual reproduction, gay and lesbian equality and freedom of sexual acts. This was undertaken through test cases and the growing influence of European human rights law.

The module will explore prominent challenges to the legal ban on divorce, that will include;

Johnston v. Ireland (ECHR)·        
O.B. v. R., [1999] 1998/62 M (Transcript) (Ir. H. Ct).

Other legal contexts that will be explored will include comparisons with referenda on divorce, gay marriage and abortion in other EU societies and the role of the EU Convention of Human Rights (i.e. (de)criminalisation of gay sexual acts Norris v Ireland and Dudgeon v UK ).

Laws of abortion and relevant cases (in both parts of Ireland) will be examined via;

Attorney General v X [1992] IESC 1, [1992] 1 IR 1;&#x A0;
A, B and C v Ireland [2010] ECHR 2032
Ewart v UK 2015.

The module will also examine the themes of clerical abuse (Ferns Report 2005 and Irish Child Abuse Commission both Republic of Ireland and the on-going Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, Northern Ireland ).

*This will be based upon the commissioned research led by Shirlow and funded by Department of Justice NI.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Teaching Method 1 - Lecture
Description: The lecture will provide an overview of core knowledge and methods
Attendance Recorded: Yes
Unscheduled Directed Student Hours (time spent away from the timetabled sessions but directed by the teaching staff): None

Teaching Method 2 - Tutorial
Description: Tutorials will be primary source and legal case based
Attendance Recorded: Yes
Unscheduled Directed Student Hours (time spent away from the timetabled sessions but directed by the teaching staff): None

Self-Directed Learning Description: Reading historical and legal material as well as preparation for the assessed elements of the module

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours 11


Timetable (if known)              
Private Study 128


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Presentation There is a resit opportunity. This is not an anonymous assessment. Assessment Schedule (When) :Semester 2  10 minutes    10       
An extended essay on a topic selected from a range of titles There is a resit opportunity. Standard UoL penalty applies for late submission. This is an anonymous assessment. Assessment Schedule  4,000 words    90       

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.