King's Inns

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The Honorable Society of King's Inns
Óstaí an Rí
Kings Inns, Dublin.jpg
MottoNolumus Mutari
Established1541 by Henry VIII
DeanDr Eimear Brown         
CEO and Under TreasurerMary Griffin
Henrietta Street
Dublin 1
, ,

The Honorable Society of King's Inns[n 1] is the "Inn of Court" for the Irish bar: the Benchers of King's Inns award the degree of barrister-at-law necessary to be called to the bar by the Chief Justice of Ireland. Besides training future barristers, it provides courses and events for practising lawyers and non-specialist professionals.


The society was granted a Royal Charter by King Henry VIII in 1541, 51 years before Trinity College, Dublin was founded, making it one of Ireland's oldest professional and educational institutions. The founders named their society in honour of King Henry VIII of England and his newly established Kingdom of Ireland. It secured a lease of lands at Inns Quay on the north bank of the River Liffey in Dublin. It was reconstituted in 1607, having been inactive for some time. In 1790 the Inns Quays site was acquired for the purposes of the Four Courts; the foundation stone at the present building at the top of Henrietta Street was laid on 1 August 1800, with James Gandon being commissioned as the architect. The building was completed by his pupil Henry Aaron Baker.[2] Turn Again Lane, adjacent to the grounds, was renamed King's Inns Street.

From almost the moment that King's Inns was founded, London[vague] required Irishmen who wished to practise as barristers to attend the English Inns of Court in London, and that requirement stayed in place until the late nineteenth century. Only from the middle of the eighteenth century onwards were courses of legal education provided at King's Inns.[3]

King's Inns initially hoped the 1920–1922 partition of Ireland would not end its all-island remit, and it set up a "Committee of Fifteen" Northern Ireland Benchers in 1922.[4] These sought more independence and separatism was fuelled by King's Inns' 1925 admission as barrister of Kevin O'Higgins, who had not sat the exams but was Minister for Justice in the Irish Free State.[4] In 1926 a separate inn of court in Northern Ireland catered for the Bar Council of Northern Ireland.[4] In 1929 Hugh Kennedy succeeded in make knowledge of Irish compulsory for admission to King's Inns.[4]

Academic life[edit]

Candidates need either an approved law degree or King's Inns' own Diploma in Legal Studies in order to "apply" for the Degree of Barrister-at-Law (Latin: ad Gradum Advocatum Apud Judices). Applicants are required to attend courses, take exams, and eat in the Dining Hall a minimum number of times. In 2006, King's Inns had an enrollment of approximately 300 students, whilst there are approximately 2,000 practicing barristers.


King's Inns courtyard on Henrietta Street

The society has generally kept a low profile in current affairs in Ireland, though it did come to prominence in 1972, when financial difficulties led to it selling a considerable stock of non-legal books it had in its library. The library collection dates from the end of the 18th century (when it also adopted its motto 'Nolumus mutari'[7]), and was based on part of that of Christopher Robinson, senior puisne judge of the Court of King's Bench (Ireland), who died in 1787. Books were sold at auction at Sotheby's, London, and a considerable stock of them were sold to clients outside Ireland. This was seen at the time as a major cultural outflow, as many of the books were of historical and cultural significance.[8] In addition, its library had received an annual grant since 1945 for the upkeep of the books from the Irish Exchequer.

A King's Inns team or individual has often won the Irish Times National Debating Championship, and in 2010 won the European Universities Debating Championships. In 2006 the Inns' hurling team competed in and won the Fergal Maher Cup (3rd Level Division 3) in their inaugural year and have subsequently reached the final and semi-final.

The Hungry Tree, a London Plane that is encapsulating a park bench lies in the grounds of the King's Inns, near to the south gate.[9]

Notable alumni and academics[edit]

See also Category:Alumni of King's Inns



  1. ^ The society uses the spelling "Honorable", although "Honourable" is now standard in Ireland and Britain.[1]


  1. ^ Kitt, Tom (22 June 2000). "Copyright and Related Rights Bill, 1999 [Seanad]: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage". Dáil Éireann (28th Dáil) debates. Oireachtas. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  2. ^ [Colum Kenny, King's Inns and the Kingdom of Ireland: The Irish 'inn of court' 1541–1800 (Irish Academic Press & Irish Legal History Society, 1992), pp. 261–5]
  3. ^ Colum Kenny. Tristram Kennedy and the Revival of Irish Legal Training, 1835–1885, Irish Academic Press & Irish Legal History Society, 1996.
  4. ^ a b c d Osborough, W. N. (Spring 1972). "Law in Ireland 1916–26". Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly. 23 (1): 53–54.
  5. ^ *Source: The Honorable Society of King's Inns: Library
    • Source: The Longman Handbook of Modern Irish History Since 1800 by N. C. Fleming and Alan O'Day, Pages 481–485 ISBN 0-582-08102-5
  6. ^ *Notes on List:
    • LCJ: Lord Chief Justice
    • MR: Master of the Rolls
    • KC: King's Counsel
    • QC: Queen's Counsel
    • SC: Senior Counsel
  7. ^ Colum Kenny. 2005. Nolumus mutari: time for change at King's Inns?. Irish Jurist, 40, 1, 321–346.
  8. ^ Colum Kenny, King's Inns and the Battle of the Books, 1972: Cultural Controversy at a Dublin Library (Four Courts Press & Irish Legal History Society, 2002), passim
  9. ^ O Conghaile, Pol (10 November 2013). "Secret Dublin". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 September 2018.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°21′10.4″N 6°16′18″W / 53.352889°N 6.27167°W / 53.352889; -6.27167