Talk:Early Irish law

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Requested merge[edit]

The Celtic law article covers exactly the same ground as this article. I suggest that the contents of that article should be merged here provided the information there is reliable. There may be room for an article with a title like "Celtic law" comparing the Brehon Laws with the Welsh laws and adding what little information might be available about pre-Roman law in Gaul etc. Rhion 21:23, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

That sounds reasonable, and I agree with that. Having Brehon Law references as representative of all Celtic laws at the time is inaccurate, and the relevant bits should be moved here. There's a lot of ground that this article doesn't cover, also. I'll try to make time to round it out. Damask Rose 06:11, 28 February 2006 (UTC)
Also agree, given the current nature of that article. The Jade Knight 02:02, 25 March 2006 (UTC)
I think it would be better to improve the Celtic law article as User:Rhion suggested - are there any sources on Gaulish laws ? I assume not, but you never know - rather than doing a merge. Even if it's very short, there must be something useful that could be combined from Brehon and Welsh law articles into a Celtic law piece. And what of Medieval Scots law ? It has Gaelic features too. Angus McLellan (Talk) 23:37, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

I would strongly disagree with merging Celtic and Brehon law - link them maybe but - the term Celtic is too probelematic for me to merge the two as if they were one and the same thing.

A decent "Celtic law" article would be a good idea, but the existing one isn't a good article. It's lifted almost verbatim from the website of a music group, is otherwise unreferenced, contains a fair amount of romantic nonsense (no concept of land ownership? queens?), and presents this romantic view of Irish law as representative of all Celtic law in all periods. There's an extensive article on Welsh law which should be the model for expanding this article and creating articles on Gaulish, Breton, Cornish, Scottish etc laws. The Celtic law article should have its content removed, with anything that can be referenced moved here, and converted into a disambiguation page until a general introduction linked to the detailed pages can be written.--Nicknack009 18:48, 17 April 2006 (UTC)
Agreed. The Jade Knight 06:44, 19 April 2006 (UTC)
I just tried to do that, but the edit was instantly reverted by Tawkerbot2. Rhion 18:20, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
Now been done and the merge tag removed. I've started a paragraph or two in the Celtic law article. Rhion 19:30, 7 May 2006 (UTC)

Compurgation ?[edit]

Does this mean that the Brehon Law didn't, e.g., have compurgation? Etaonsh 17:35, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

Yes, more or less. The number and value (in terms of honour price, which is not exactly the same as wergild but close enough to serve as an analogy) of oaths needed varied from code to code and offence to offence. In most circumstances, oaths could be oversworn by a king or bishop. Equally, the procedure for swearing out an oath varied. For an injury it need be sworn at three cemetaries, for a contract case but one. Another difference from compurgation is that oath helpers are (possibly) supposed to swear to the evidence of their own eyes (although this may be a canon law addition and not necessarily the way things were). And there are cases where an unsupported witness is taken to be unassailable, notably deathbed evidence. Equally, some people's oaths will not stand, previously criminals and those of very low status in some cases. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Angusmclellan (talkcontribs).

Cáin Adamnáin[edit]

Weren't the Brehon Laws likely composed after the Cáin Adomnáin? The Jade Knight 02:25, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Well, probably not, but the actual documents are probably considerably younger than 700 AD. The Brehon laws (Early Irish law) seem to be quite old in many respects, and things heptads and triads could be rather old indeed. Certainly if the ecclesiastics had had their way, and they would have done had the laws all been post-Christian, there wouldn't be provisions for first wives beating second wives, or for almost every offence being open to fines and damages. Nor would there be the distinction between "secret murder" and the ordinary sort: Thou shalt not kill. Angus McLellan (Talk) 23:42, 29 March 2006 (UTC)
On what basis are you making these presumptions about the limitations of Celtic Christian ecclesiatics? POV paganism? Etaonsh 08:23, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
If you have reliable references which disagree with the article, or think that it does not correspond with what the cited references have to say, go ahead and change it. Kelly's is the standard introductory work on Irish law as law, but Ó Cróinín (pp. 110ff.) is more useful for background. Angus McLellan (Talk) 12:08, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
There are Klingons on the starboard bow. If you have reliable references which disagree with that, say so.
That isn't how Wikipedia works, Angus. Etaonsh 16:31, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
The solution lies in your own hands: edit the article. If someone doesn't like your edits, they'll surely edit them to fit their views. That's how Wikipedia works. Whether this will result in any improvement, as the Wikigods fondly imagine, only time will tell. Angus McLellan (Talk) 17:06, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
Look - I never claimed to be Superbrehon - I just wanted to establish whether the presumption that Brehon law is fundamentally pagan is just that - a presumption, based e.g., on wishful thinking, or on a low opinion of Celtic Christendom's abilities - or whether, on the other hand, there might be anything in the way of referenced evidence to back it up. What evidence do Kelly and Ó Cróinín cite for a largely pre-Christian provenance? Etaonsh 17:29, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

I don't assume it's pagan, nor does the article, although it makes claims that I don't think are entirely justified. The laws, new age fantasies aside, come down to us in writing and are thus representative, insofar as they are representative, of the law as it stood in early Christian Ireland. Other things, like triads and heptads, have the appearance of being oral materials, older, but not necessarily much older, than the written materials. Some people would probably like them to be representative of very ancient times, but that seems unlikely. Fergus Kelly doesn't devote a great deal of time to the history and origins of the laws. He's interested in what they say and what that tells us about society. (His excellent book Early Irish Farming is based largely on law texts.) Ó Cróinín devotes space to the background, and remarks that the customary laws are at variance with Canon law on marriage, inheritance and more. For marriage and inheritance, the evidence is pretty clear that custom beat Canon law. Irish Canon law, specifically the Cáin Adamnáin, treats secret killing as more serious than other sorts, on a par with causing death through spells, a pretty clear concession to custom. Another reason to doubt the efficacy of Canon laws, the Cáin Adamnáin included, is that the annalists, clerics themselves, tell us of the rare occasions that they were actually enforced. The customary laws are just that, based on custom rather than biblical or Canon law prescriptions, hence the horror with which they are regarded in later times. Angus McLellan (Talk) 19:47, 12 May 2006 (UTC)

How can written materials 'have the appearance of being oral materials' (not an altogether dismissive/rhetorical question)? And surely we simply don't know whether they are 'representative of very ancient times'? Surely to say that 'custom beat Canon law' is POV, however blindingly obvious to you or I? Also, you seem, correct me if I'm wrong, to be inferring from the superiority of 'custom law' over Canon law that the former originates from a pre-Christian epoch? Etaonsh 07:30, 13 May 2006 (UTC)

Some relevant passages from Ó Cróinín (p. 124): "This and other evidence would tend to suggest that native Irish law and canon law had already profoundly influenced one another by the latter half of the seventh century at the latest". He affirms that the law derives largely from pre-Christian elements, mainly citing language and structure- the Brehon Laws were written in Old Irish, not Latin, and Latin passages that were incorporated into Brehon Law were written in the Old Irish "Fénechas" style of the other Brehon Law texts. Ó Cróinín does, however, affirm that the Brehon Law was deeply and profoundly influenced by Canon Law, and the written form as we know it was the product of a Christian society, which had taken the old law and rewritten it. Mayor Beauregard 03:45, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

'Wikipedia does not make presumptions'[edit]

I was recently reminded by an administrator that 'Wikipedia does not make presumptions' [[1]]. That being the case, why does the current article state: 'The laws were written in the Old Irish period (ca. 600–900 AD) and probably reflect the traditional laws of pre-Christian Ireland' - without supporting references? Etaonsh 08:16, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

when did Canon Law (Christianity) spread to Ireland[edit]

did it occur prior to the Norman invasion? i don't think that's clear from the article. Streamless 15:35, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

It was long, long before the Norman invasion. This is considered common knowledge to anyone with the most basic knowledge of Irish history, and probably doesn't need to be mentioned here.Mayor Beauregard 03:36, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

I have a degree in Irish history and I did not know this, it clearly needs to be mentioned here. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:54, 22 March 2011 (UTC)
Canon law was applied, often in a partial way. For example, abbots were discouraged from owning female slaves, but female slavery itself was not abolished.Red Hurley (talk) 13:15, 22 December 2007 (UTC)


There is a request for a photo at the top of this page and I'm wondering what might be feasible.

I've considered manuscript images, but I haven't found any that aren't copyrighted (the photos of the ms, obviously the ms themselves are beyond copyright). I've also considered Cahermacnaghten, in the Burren, Co. Clare which was the sight of the O'Davoren law school in the late middle ages (it's featured on the cover of Liam Breatnach's A Companion to the Corpus Iuris Hibernici and while I haven't found a good photo not under copyright (though one might be found), it would also be an easier image to take (although not by me, any time soon).

I'm wondering if any one else has any suggestions of what sort of images might be used? --Buirechain 15:08, 25 October 2007 (UTC)


I am very tempted to move this to "Early Irish Law". "Brehon Law" is a late and anglicized term and perhaps somewhat misleading therefore. Undoubtedly it is unclear just how significant a roll the Brithemain played in creating the law, although they certainly wrote it down. Further, "Early Irish Law" is the term given by most scholars - i.e. Fergus Kelly's "Guide to Early Irish Law" and elsewhere.--Buirechain 01:05, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

Sounds reasonable. I'd support that. --Nicknack009 08:41, 29 October 2007 (UTC)
Same here. Angus McLellan (Talk) 11:15, 29 October 2007 (UTC)
If it is moved, should there be a disambiguation entry? Brian Pearson (talk) 05:55, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
I'm unclear what you think would need a disambiguation entry, but if you think there is cause, go ahead. Buirechain (talk) 03:48, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

added Frisian & Anglo-Saxon URLs[edit] give students something to compare / contrast with; there was nothing uniquely Irish about female slaves / the eraic principle etc. etc. A great page.Red Hurley (talk) 13:12, 22 December 2007 (UTC)

I thought adding the Frisian & Anglo-Saxon URLs was a great idea, so to follow it up, I've added links to wikpedia pages about other customary legal systems around the world. Rinne na dTrosc (talk) 15:57, 2 August 2010 (UTC)

Corrected Tyrconnell fishery entry[edit]

  • From:

"In one exceptional case, vestigial rights have been recognised in recent Irish case law in reference to the survival of Brehon law-governed fishery rights in Tyrconnell, once the last bastion of Gaelic sovereignty until 1601. The rights survived the end of Tyrconnell's independence, and also survived the Elizabethan conquest."

  • To:

"In one exceptional case, vestigial rights have been recognised in recent Irish case law, in reference to the survival of Brehon law-governed customary local fishery rights in Tyrconnell, as these also amounted to an easement under Common Law."

Sorry to be so prosaic, but the recent case had nothing to do with sovereignty, though it was anciently granted by the local lords. The Tyrconnell earls c.1550-1600 did not claim sovereignty but had longstanding local authority.Red Hurley (talk) 13:43, 22 December 2007 (UTC)

is it reiality that doughtares dont get any thing from the inhereted father or son[edit]


    there are two points, one if the father and the mother died in an accedent,would sons and doughters inhert or the migority would be to the sones and the least would be for douters, on the other hand is it possible in some casess that the doughters whount inhearit nothing.
    second, if they where children wlould they be the same, where would the dougters spend on them self from, would they go to an orphneg or to the church.
    last, i would rather say that articles writen in this mattar are quit misleading,i have spoken to a person, she said she is christian and both gendars inhertie the same, on the other said i sopke to an eygption, he said he is christian and his name is bashay, they inherite in eygep according to islam way and some using the other way but i dident excactly get the propare ansewr.

regards, civil eng, fawaz f a a alfahad u of toledo 277020200917 272988751 0096597767223 0096599126730 mishref,block1,street7,avenu1,house38 kuwait thursday 5:22pm 19/may/2011 الخميس —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:22, 19 May 2011 (UTC)

Women and marriage section[edit]

I've restored an earlier version of this section, before changes made by User:2600:1004:b009:5c9b:20f7:6fdb:79b4:f228 in July 2012, because they are largely tendentious. We have no record of any laws written between 200 BC and 400 AD - the earliest laws go back to the 7th century - so we can't say how anyone was treated under the law in that period. The reference to Eoin Mac Neill is not cited, nor is the paragraph about queens, and a cited reference to the Cáin Adomnáin was removed. The one cite given, to "D. A. Binchy, Studies in Early Irish Law", is, I think, probably spurious and certainly inadequate as that book is a book of essays by multiple authors, and which essay is referred to is not specified. I'll have a go at writing a more comprehensive section later, but this earlier version should be reasonably reliable. --Nicknack009 (talk) 08:18, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

When was "Early Medieval Ireland"?[edit]

Early Irish law contains a link to Early Medieval Ireland, which redirects to History of Ireland (800–1169). However, the lede of History of Ireland (400–800) describes that period as "early medieval". Which period is the Law article refering to, and which should be the redirect for "Early Medieval Ireland"? (Posted in all three talk pages) Iapetus (talk) 12:48, 28 April 2015 (UTC)

translation of the last name is uncertain in the Dictionary of the Irish Language[edit]

"It should be mentioned that the translation of the last name is uncertain in the Dictionary of the Irish Language." Assuming the "last name" is indfine (end-kin), the eDIL entry does not seem to support the assertion:

indḟine iā, f. (lit. 'end-kin' GEIL 312 ) the fourth subdivision of the 'fine.' Descendants on the male line of the same great-great-great-grandfather

jnestorius(talk) 20:49, 6 July 2015 (UTC)

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