Early Irish Bar Strike, c.1790

From the Irish Industrial Journal, 4 September 1850:

“REBELLION OF THE IRISH BAR – Lord Clonmel, upon occasion, in the Court of King’s Bench, used rough language to Mr Hacket, a gentleman of the Bar, the members of which profession considered themselves as all assailed in the the person of a brother barrister.  A general meeting was, therefore, called by the father of the Bar; a severe condemnation of his Lordship’s conduct voted with only one dissentient voice; and an unprecedented resolution entered into, that ‘until his Lordship publicly apologised, no barrister would either take a brief, appear in the King’s Bench, or sign any pleadings for that Court.

This experiment was actually tried.  The judges sat, but no counsel appeared, no cause was prepared, the attorneys all vanished, and their Lordships had the Court to themselves.  There was no alternative, and next day Lord Clonmel published a very ample apology, by advertisement, in the newspapers and, with excellent address, made it appear as if written on the evening of the offence, and therefore voluntary.”

Though unacknowledged, the piece in question seems to be a word-for-word extract from the memoirs of Sir Jonah Barrington, ‘Personal Sketches of His Own Times, Volume 1 (available here).  The Hacket incident is also detailed in Richard Lalor Sheil’s ‘Sketches of the Irish Bar’, though unfortunately no copy of the apology is available.

Possibly the first – though not the last – successful barristers’ strike against harsh language by members of the judiciary!

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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