The 2015 Annual General Meeting of the Irish Legal History Society took place at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland on 27 November 2015. Reports from the Secretaries and Treasurers were delivered, and auditors and office-holders were elected for the coming year.
Maggie Smith, the Director and Deputy Keeper of the Records welcomed members of the Society and explained the Public Record Office’s operation and collections.
The Gold Medal of the Society was awarded to the Hon Mr Justice Ronan Keane, former Chief Justice of Ireland.
Mr Robert Marshall’s term as President of the Society ended and the Hon. Sir Donnell Deeny now takes the reins.
On 27 November outgoing President of the Society, Mr Robert Marshall, delivered his presidential discourse. His paper, entitled ‘Lisnafanna: A Townland in Turmoil on the Cavan Headford Estate 1870-1900’, was based on a close study of the Headford estate papers. The paper provided some fascinating insights into the existence and operation of subversive or subaltern law on a Cavan estate in the late nineteenth century. It looked specifically at the National League’s boycotting campaign and how this operated at a local and personal level. Interestingly, even on an estate where the Plan was in place, roughly two thirds of rent was still paid.
Mr Marshall went on to consider the legal procedures and processes which followed the fatal shooting of one of the boycotters. The coroner’s inquest saw the apportionment of some blame to the constabulary. Although a verdict of murder was returned by the coroner’s jury, the grand jury, by contrast, found ‘no true bill’, and the case did not proceed to trial.
All of this illustrates the role of the community in policing and sanctioning certain behaviours, and it the paper also explored the complex relationship between the ‘official’ law and the subaltern code.
A full text of the paper will be published in one of the Society’s upcoming collections of essays.
Attendees at our autumn discourse and AGM in November were treated to a specially-curated exhibition and tour of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Archivist Des McCabe selected a number of significant and fascinating documents which were of interest to legal historians, and explained the workings of the Public Record Office.
PRONI is the official archive for Northern Ireland and contains millions of documents that relate chiefly, but not exclusively, to Northern Ireland. They date largely from c.1600 to the present day (with a few dating back as far as the early 13th century).