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Catherine McGuinness leaves the Supreme Court November 14, 2006

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Sinn Féin.

Catherine McGuinness, who I had the good fortune to meet on a number of occasions in the course of students union work in the late 1980s has resigned from the Supreme Court. I’m sure she has no recollection of me, but she made quite an impression. She was nationalist at a time, 1986-1989, when it was not entirely popular nor profitable, and made no bones about it. For the delicate flower I was in those days grown in the soil of the WP this was a bit of a revelation.

She was extremely pleasant on a personal basis, and an intriguing mix of nationalist/republican, socialist, Protestant and liberal. To my mind a sort of more charismatic, vastly more down to earth Mary Robinson… and a sad, but telling, day when the Labour Party lost her in the late 1960s (over the expulsion of Proinsias Mac Aonghusa her husband).

While one could regret that her resignation came at the time of a rather contentious decision on the part of the Supreme Court, it is impossible not to note the mark she has made on Irish public life in her office. Her work as chair of the Forum of Peace and Reconciliation was perhaps more significant than was thought at the time.

Her essentially liberal approach has been both positive and instructive, positive in that she has managed to reclaim certain ground – as regards being a doughty defender of social liberal values but not afraid to reformulate seemingly traditional values in a more modern context as with recognising the role of women working in the home. Instructive in that it has pointed up some of the contradictions implicit in our own Constitution, perhaps most pointedly in her last judgement.

It’s a great pity that she leaves the Supreme Court, but good to note that she remains as President of the Law Reform Commission.


While on the issue of McGuinness’s, it has to be said regarding the validity of reports of threats against the SF leadership, or the credibility of the threats themselves, I don’t know, and I suspect (and fervently hope) neither do most of you…


1. Diarmaid Mac Aonghusa - December 1, 2006

Some nice comments on someone I’m not entirely unfamiliar with(!) But, on a point of fact, you should understand that she did not resign from the Supreme Court, she retired upon reaching the age of 72. There is no choice in the matter and you can be sure she would have stayed on if she could. The confusion arose from an error in a headline in the Irish Times for which they printed a clarification the follwoing day.

She will, however, remaind President of the Law Reform Commission for the next few years.


2. WorldbyStorm - December 2, 2006

Fair point. Still, she is a remarkable person and I am fortunate to have met her in person. I think the broad vision she has had is a remarkable asset to this state. I hope she enjoys the challenge of the LRC as I’m sure she will.


3. steve white - August 13, 2011

why was he expelled?


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