The end of the Cold War and communism saw the hope that liberal democracies and free-market capitalism would eventually contribute to greater unity and equality among people.
“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,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Martin said that 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The antagonistic culture of the Cold War had been replaced by an equally damaging neo-populism, he said.
The bi-polarism of the Cold War era had been substituted for a system of multi-polarism, without a unifying system at its root, he said, with the result that the world today was not much safer than it had been then.
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 to become the largest importer in the world.
Despite extraordinary progress in communications, the world can seem less united than ever, Archbishop Martin commented.
Technical agreements would never survive in the absence of a moral consensus, he said.
He asked whether moral arguments and moral persuasion can 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,” he commented. “The law always exists within a culture and its mission is to foster a culture of unity.”
'Behind the starting line'
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, he observed.
And lawyers could contribute to democracy, by policy reflection, to a language in which the anxieties of the marginalised were more truly understood and widely recognised, the archbishop said.
“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.”
Mr Justice Bobby Eagar of the High Court in his speech welcomed the new judges recently appointed to the Court of Appeal.
Protecting the individual
He said that the legal profession, and in particular solicitors, stand to protect the individual, from the State and from the banks.
He commented that bail orders presented a question of liberty or otherwise. He had noticed that one in four cases now concerned forms of domestic violence.
The legislature recently changed the Domestic Violence Act, he commented, but they never considered the role of bail where the offence was likely to be committed again.
“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,” he commented.
Mr Justice Eagar also urged the new solicitors to read the Law Society Gazette.
“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,” he said.
During the presentation of prizes, new solicitor Conor Maginn (A& L Goodbody) enjoyed a remarkable sweep, winning four prizes. These included the Findlater Scholarship, the Arthur Cox Foundation Prize, the Arthur Cox Foundation Prize in banking law, and the Arthur Cox Foundation Prize in insolvency law.