Law Adviser to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland

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The Law Adviser to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was a Law Officer of the English Crown in nineteenth-century Ireland; the office lapsed in the 1880s, but was briefly revived in the early twentieth century. It was abolished after the establishment of the Irish Free State.

The office was created in 1831 to ease the heavy workload of the existing Irish Law Officers, the Attorney General for Ireland and the Solicitor General for Ireland.[1]

Duties of the Law Adviser[edit]

No specific duties were assigned to the Law Adviser when the office was created: he appears at first to have been simply a general assistant to the senior Law Officers. Later he was given the tasks of drafting Parliamentary Bills, and of advising lay magistrates on any legal problems which they referred to him.[2] Cases involving State security also fell under his remit: Denis Caulfield Heron in 1867 was heavily occupied in prosecuting the trials which followed the Fenian Rising.[3]

At first the Law Adviser was usually a Serjeant-at-law, but in time the position was opened up to rising junior. barristers who hoped in due course to be appointed to the Bench; later it seems to have been thought that the offices of Serjeant and Law Adviser should be separate. There may also have been a feeling that some of the work of the Law Adviser was beneath the dignity of a holder of the ancient office of Serjeant. The Attorney General generally had the final word in the appointment of the Law Adviser: certainly this was so in 1841 when Francis Blackburne insisted on the appointment of Abraham Brewster, despite strong opposition from Daniel O'Connell, who disliked Brewster.[4]

The Law Adviser's duty to advise magistrates on points of law was open to criticism as an interference by the Crown with the independence of the judiciary. In particular John Naish, the last nineteenth-century Law Adviser, was attacked by political opponents for openly assisting magistrates in their ongoing struggle with the Irish National Land League. He was also criticised for suggesting that they rely on an obscure medieval statute, 34 Edward III c.1, to imprison those who could not find surety for their good behaviour. Since the statute had clearly been intended only to deal with cases of riot, this was a serious misreading of the law.

Abolition of the Office[edit]

Perhaps because of the controversy over Naish's advice on the Land League, the office was left vacant after his promotion to the office of Solicitor General in 1883. It was briefly revived in 1919, but lapsed a year later, and was finally abolished by the Irish Free State in 1924.[5]

Sketch of Charles Robert Barry, Law Adviser 1865-1866

List of Law Advisers 1831-1883,1919-1920[edit]


The office was vacant 1883-1919

  • 1919 William Wylie

The office lapsed in 1920 and was abolished in 1924


  1. ^ Casey, James The Irish Law Officers Round Hall Sweet and Maxwell 1996 p.47
  2. ^ Casey p.48
  3. ^ Obituary for Denis Caulfield Heron in the Downside Review (1881)
  4. ^ Delaney, V.T.H Christopher Palles Allen Figgis and Co Dublin 1960 p.60
  5. ^ Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924 s.6
  6. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol.ii p.359
  7. ^ Hart, A. R. History of the King's Serjeants at law in Ireland Dublin Four Courts Press 2000 p.179