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Brief History of The Irish Legal System

Irish Supreme Court

Legal practitioners or lawyers can be variously described as solicitors, lawyers, attorneys, barristers, or judges etc. depending on their exact legal job roles. Law can be divided into civil and criminal law. Civil law includes family law, wills, property law, business disputes, arbitration, and contracts, including contracts of employment, while criminal law includes offences such as theft, bodily injury, assault, or murder. The Irish legal system is based on so called English ‘common law’ although its early origins were created from great political and social turmoil. Oliver Cromwell’s military campaigns forced many Irish landowners resettle and William of Orange’s victory over King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1691 led to laws that discriminated against Catholics, which were designed reduce the political and economic power of the Catholic majority in Ireland. Laws were passed that excluded Catholics from education and land ownership. The 1800 Act of Union abolished the Irish Parliament and established Westminster in London as the sole law making body of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. In 1921 the Anglo Irish Treaty established the Irish State and a new court system was created with, in 1924, The Courts of Justice Act creating District Courts to replace the old court of petty sessions and the old Justices of the Peace with the Circuit Courts for more serious civil and criminal matters. The county courts were also replaced as were the Courts of Assizes. A High Court was created and a Court of Criminal Appeal, with the Supreme Court as the final court of appeal, presided over by the Chief Justice. Recently,  Ireland's membership of the European Union has required some transfer of powers of national law to European law and as part of The Good Friday Agreement Ireland removed its claims to Northern Ireland and replaced it with the principle of unity by consent.

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