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06 Sep 2019 / Brexit Print

Brexit brings troubling forces – archbishop

Brexit is a legitimate political reality, whether we like it or not, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said at a Law Society parchment ceremony on 10 July. “It’s also a cultural reality that brings starkly to our horizons new and troubling forces, which move away from a broad contemporary vision of unity and cooperation. Unity of purpose is challenged in many ways in our world,” Archbishop Martin commented.

The end of the Cold War and communism saw the hope that liberal democracy and free-market capitalism would eventually contribute to greater unity and equality among people, he said. “That hope was short-lived. Ideologies don’t die so quickly, and they have the curious ability to re-emerge in new forms and to re-shape history in new ways.” 

Brexit wasn’t the only challenge to the vision that originally inspired the European project of unity on our continent. The antagonistic culture of the Cold War had been replaced by an equally damaging neo-populism.

Cold War era

The bi-polarism of the Cold War era had been substituted for a system of multi-polarism, without a unifying system at its root, with the result that the world today was not much safer than it had been then, he said.

Post-Cold War, there was a need to re-examine the whole landscape of armament agreements, which were beginning to disintegrate, as a nuclear arms race became a real possibility, he said. He pointed to Saudi Arabia’s 192% increase in arms imports in the last ten years, becoming the largest arms importer in the world.

Despite extraordinary progress in communications, the world could seem less united than ever.

The role of law

The archbishop asked whether moral arguments and moral persuasion could ever be used to influence hard, pragmatic political interests: “What role can law play in such a process? The law in the broadest sense of that term is about fostering unity. The law is equal for all, and it’s called to ensure that its application fosters equality.

“However, this fostering of equality is not simply a question of techniques. Unity is not a mathematical project,” he said. “The law is more than a rulebook, or even more than the terms of the Constitution. The law always exists within a culture, and its mission is to foster a culture of unity.”

Hidden hardships

Young people, depending on their circumstances, could start out in life behind the starting line, he said, and never realise their potential. Judges and lawyers who were called to administer a system of justice very often encountered, face-to-face, the hidden hardships of exclusion.

“In a society marked by a serious lack of unity, we must look more closely at the meaning in law of social and economic rights,” Archbishop Martin concluded.

The role of bail

Addressing the new graduates, Mr Justice Bobby Eagar of the High Court commented that the legal profession, and in particular solicitors, had a duty to protect the individual from more powerful interests, including the State and the banks.

He also noted that one in four bail orders now concerns forms of domestic violence. The legislature had recently changed the Domestic Violence Act, he commented, but had never considered the role of bail where the offence was likely to be committed again.

The Bail Act

“Women’s groups and advocates of protection of persons in those situations did not ever consider the role of the Bail Act,” he stated. A judge could refuse bail if an offence were likely to be committed again. “Individuals who are at the wrong end of domestic violence are left in a situation where very little can be done.”

And Mr Justice Eagar had words of praise for the Gazette, urging the new solicitors to read it: “It’s a very professionally produced magazine, for information and for ongoing professional developments, which are very important, and which I urge you to follow.”

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland