Bigotry On The Bench, 1985-Style

I am indebted to CM for bringing this fascinating and important document to my attention. It was actually released by the Irish government in 2015 under the thirty-year rule, but appears to have gone largely unnoticed, despite its significance as an insight, admittedly not a neutral one, into the workings of the upper reaches of the Northern Ireland legal system on the eve of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

I could find only one reference to the document on the internet and that was a single paragraph in a preview of the Hillsborough Agreement written by John Bowman for The Irish Times. Otherwise it appears to have escaped the Irish media entirely, although I stand ready, and will be happy to be corrected. (A copy of this document can also be found on the CAIN archive.)

The document is an account of a four hour interview cum conversation featuring one of the North’s most distinguished Catholic QC’s, Charles Hill, better known by his colleagues as Charlie, that was conducted by Daithi O Ceallaigh, an official with the Department of Foreign Affairs. Journalists who were active in the 1980’s will remember the DFA man as one of the so-called ‘Travellers’, diplomats who had the task of venturing North to collect intelligence and gossip from as many sources as would talk to them.

The subject of this conversation/interview was twofold: the role Catholic QC’s would like to play in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland and the role played by then Lord Chief Justice, Robbie Lowry in frustrating them.

It is a fascinating insight into a world which then, as now, was too often closed to the world.

In Memoriam: Lord Lowry of Crossgar (1919-1999): A Tribute

2 responses to “Bigotry On The Bench, 1985-Style

  1. Ed

    Interesting insight to what was going on at the time. Eoin Higgins was a target for PIRA for years. As you might remember , he lived on the Antrim Road and refused to move despite a number of attacks on his home. He was eventually persuaded, I am told , on the basis that he was putting the police who guarded him, at considerable risk. He was appointed to the Court of Appeal in 1993 but died the day before he was to be sworn in. Judges , when promoted , even if then High Court judges , had to under go another medical, E passed his. I knew the physician who examined him – I spoke to him later and he said it’s a snapshot, not a guarantee….

    Hope you are well

    P

    >

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