University College Dublin Law Society

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The Law Society (University College Dublin)
Law Society Coat of Arms.jpg
Founded 1911
Motto Ar son na córa (In the pursuit of justice)
Auditor Aodhán Peelo
President Professor Joe McMahon
Patron Professor Andrew J. Deeks

The UCD Law Society is one of the largest student societies in Europe. Established in 1911 as 'The Legal and Economic Society', it has over 4100 members drawn from the various faculties of the University.[1] Weekly Tuesday night debates during term are the Society's core activity. Individuals who have addressed the Society include President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins,[2] Former Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Bertie Ahern [3] and Former President of the E.U. Commission, Jacques Santer[citation needed]. The society's motto is "Ar son na córa" (in the pursuit of justice). Now in its 106th Session, the current Auditor is Aodhán Peelo.


House Debates[edit]

As one of the two debating unions in University College Dublin, the Society gathers once a week to debate topical motions relating to students and other national issues of importance. This is the main activity of the society, typically taking place on Tuesday evenings in a lecture theatre of the Newman Building during term. Guest speakers related to the topic are often invited to engage with the motion and address the students. The annual Glamour Model debate and Government debate are two popular motions that often attract a significant audience. Attendance at house debates varies weekly, with debates attracting anywhere between 30 and 300 people. Motions often range from Northern Ireland politics to the relevance of the Students’ Union. The Law Society organised the first live Irish Presidential Debate which took place on Nominations day 2011 in Theatre L. The largest recorded attendance at a Society debate was the second Lisbon Treaty referendum debate on the 28th of September 2009, which had an attendance of over 1,000 students in O’Reilly Hall, Belfield.[4]

Guest speakers and Honorary Life Memberships[edit]

The Law Society also regularly invites notable speakers to deliver individual addresses to the Society. Recent guests given the honour of address include former Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell in October 2009[5] and the former lead prosecutor of Slobodan Milosevic, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC in March 2010.[6]

The Society awards Honorary Life Memberships to important individuals who have contributed significantly to their chosen field of human endeavour. The presentation of honorary life membership also affords the recipient with an opportunity to address the assembled members of the Society.

Recent recipients of honorary life membership include actors Patrick Johannes Adams, Sir Christopher Lee, Martin Sheen, John C. McGinley,[7] Dirk Benedict,[8] Jeremy Irons,[9] and the late David Kelly and Leslie Nielsen,[10] comedians Colin Murphy, Dan Antopolski and Bill Bailey,[11] authors Tucker Max,[12] Jung Chang[13] and Noam Chomsky,[14] political figures Ken Livingstone[15] and Bill Clinton, sportspeople Cristiano Ronaldo, Pauleta, Jimmy White,[16] Brian O’Driscoll[17] and Paul O’Connell,[18] Conor Rock, dancer Michael Flatley,[19] supermodel Erin O’Connor[20] and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney.[21]

Free Speech[edit]


The Society is committed to maintaining a strong policy of free speech, a policy which it has, on occasion, found difficult to maintain. In 2008, the radical French political Jean Marie Le-Pen was invited to address the Society concerning the federalisation of the European Union.[22] This event was essentially struck down by University Authorities after it denounced the move in response to queries from the national media. Many other debates have seen significant protests from left-wing student movements. Their policy of ‘no TDs on campus’ due to perceived Government support of University tuition fees has often conflicted with invitations to Fianna Fáil TDs on unrelated debate motions. Protests occurred in 2008 when Government Minister Eamon Ryan TD arrived to address the Society[23] and again in 2009 when Bertie Ahern TD chaired a debate.[24]

In November 2015 Robert O'Neill, the man who shot Osama Bin Laden, was invited to address the society.[25] The event attracted enormous controversy. The week of the event posters and online advertising of the event disappeared without explanation.[26] Many believed the Law Society to have buckled. The morning of the address however, posters appeared promising a 'mystery guest' and depicting the silhouette of a navy seal. Robert O'Neill duly gave his address to the delight of free speech advocates.

Moot Court Competitions[edit]

Cecil Lavery Moot Court Competition[edit]

The Cecil Lavery is a Moot Court competition named after one of the Society’s most distinguished former Auditors, a former Attorney General and Supreme Court Judge. It was initiated in 2005 and has continued as the principal moot court competition in UCD, with the winners going forward to represent UCD in the Holland & Knight National Moot Court Competition. The competition is organised in a knockout format, with written submissions and oral hearings adjudicated upon. A Grand Final is held in the UCD Sutherland School of Law in February each year with senior members of the Irish Judiciary invited to adjudicate. The Chair was traditionally held by the Hon. Mr Justice Lavan, a former Auditor and longtime friend to the society. For many years prior to his death, he served as senior judge of the High Court.

The 2016/17 Cecil Lavery Moot Court champions are Kevin Roche and Eoin MacLachlan.

Past winners
Year Winning team
2005/06 Stephen Byrne & Stephen Fagan
2006/07 Niall Ó hUiginn & Garry Wynne
2007/08 Ian Dalton & Peter Dunne
2008/09 Donal Scott & Richard McNally
2009/10 John Joy & Alex Layden
2012/13 Peter Hamilton & April Duff
2013/14 John Mallon Jnr & Samuel O'Connor
2014/15 John Mallon Jnr & Samuel O'Connor
2015/16 Colin Higgins & Samantha O'Brien O'Reilly
2016/17 Kevin Roche & Eoin MacLachlan

Thomas A. Finlay Moot Court Intervarsity[edit]

The Thomas A. Finlay Moot Court Intervarsity is an international moot court competition named after the former Irish Chief Justice, Thomas A. Finlay. Founded in 2009, it has attracted teams from across the British Isles and beyond, including Warwick, Middle Temple and Notre Dame University. The competition occurs over a Friday and Saturday in March, with the teams hosted in the nearby Tara Towers hotel. The format is similar to debating intervarsities with a number of preliminary rounds followed by a ‘break’ to semi-finals, at which stage the competition reverts to a knock-out format. The Grand Final, chaired by a senior member of the British or Irish judiciary, is followed by a Gala Dinner and presentation of awards.

Competitive Debating[edit]

The Law Society has a proud record in competitive debating. The Society has won a number of international debating competitions and has enjoyed victory in The Irish Times and Mace debating competitions as well as international and national intervarsities. The Society has sent delegates to the World Universities Debating Championship annually and the European Universities Debating Championship, often reaching quarter finals in both competitions. In 1987 & 2006, UCD hosted the World Universities Debating Championship.

Schools' Debating[edit]

The Society also promotes and organises competitive debating in schools across Ireland through the Law Society Schools' Mace and the Junior Schools Debating Competition which reaches secondary schools throughout the country.


Legal & Economic Society[edit]

The Society was founded in 1911 as the Legal & Economic Society. The prominent professor and politician, J.G. Swift McNeill, gave the inaugural address. Early committee members included Thomas Kettle, Conor Maguire, Thomas Arkins and Arthur Cox. The Society ran a number of small legal debates in its early years and struggled to maintain its activity during the War of Independence and Civil War.

Legal Society[edit]

The Society was renamed the Legal Society in 1924 and had a brief resurgence of activity under the auditorship of J.C. Flood. In 1926 however, the Society ran into trouble once again.

Law Society[edit]

Finally, in 1935, the Society found firm footing as it was reconstituted as the Law Society, tasked with organising legal debates and representing legal students. Early Auditors and members were Thomas Finlay and T.F. O’Higgins. In 1946, the son of Conor Maguire, Peter D. Maguire, became Auditor, addressing the Society on the importance of peace through the United Nations. The Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, attended.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Society began to challenge the Literary & Historical Society for dominance in University debate. A debating tour to Universities in Britain was organised annually, with team places much coveted. The tour eventually ceased in Colm Allen’s session due to security concerns following IRA violence in the Troubles.

In the 1970s the Society achieved unprecedented debating success. Following its recognition as an individual University debating institution for the purposes of national and international competition, it won the Irish Times twice in the 1970s as well as the Irish Mace, both times with Auditor Conor Gearty. It would continue the success throughout the 1980s and 1990s as the society won the Irish Times twice more. The 1980s and 1990s also saw an increase in the scale of the Society’s activities as it began to host larger and more exciting debates. The notorious criminal, Martin Cahill, addressed the Society in 1987 and for many years the Society held the Guinness World Record for the longest ever continuous debate and was later declared as Auditor.[27]

The 1990s saw the Society expand its membership base beyond law students; reaching out to the entire campus. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the Society continually grew, first in hundreds, then in thousands. The Society reached virtually saturation point in 2010, when prior to the awarding of Honorary Life Membership to television presenter Jeremy Kyle, it signed up its 5,000th member for that Session, making it the largest annually subscribed student society in Europe[citation needed].


Auditor and Committee[edit]

The Law Society is run by a committee of selected members, each with a specific remit. The committee is chosen by the Auditor, who is elected for a single year term by the enrolled membership of the Society. The Auditor is the head of the committee and responsible for the day-to-day running of the Society. The Society’s sessions usually begin in late March or early April, following the Annual General Meeting. The AGM consists of reports from the Auditor, Treasurer, Librarian and Senior Legal Assessor. At the AGM the results of the auditorial election are declared and the new Auditor appointed following the passing over of the chain of office.

Patron, President and Vice-Presidents[edit]

These roles are largely ceremonial. The Patron of the Law Society is Professor Andrew J. Deeks, the President of UCD. The President of the Society is the Dean of the School of Law, Professor Colin Scott. There are a number of Vice-Presidents, who are almost exclusively all international legal figures and address the Society upon their appointment to the position. The most notable Vice-Presidents are the Chief Justice of Canada, the Hon. Ms Justice Beverly McLachlin PC,[28] Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia,[29] the former President of the U.K. Supreme Court, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers,[30] Professor Joseph Raz, Baroness Hale of Richmond[31] and former Irish President and U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson.


The Society has received an increased amount of funding in recent years, due to corporate sponsorship and college contributions. The Society's accounts are presented by the Honorary Treasurer at each AGM; the Society's turnover is in the region of €100,000 annually. The Society receives funding from the University Societies Council and also seeks corporate sponsorship to cover the costs of each Session. The current title sponsors of the Society are the Irish law firm, Matheson Ormsby Prentice.

Notable auditors[edit]

  • Michael McDowell, Former Tánaiste, Minister for Justice and Attorney General
  • Thomas Finlay, Former Chief Justice of Ireland
  • Hugh Geoghegan, Former Irish Supreme Court Judge
  • Hugh O'Flaherty, Former Irish Supreme Court Judge
  • Declan Costello, Former Attorney General and President of the High Court
  • Conor Gearty, Rausling Professor of Human Rights Law, London School of Economics
  • Arthur Cox, Founder of Arthur Cox Solicitors

List of Past Auditors[edit]

107th Laura Hogan
106th Aodhán Peelo
105th James Green
104th Ian Fahey
103rd Rachel Duffy
102nd Sinead Rooney
101st Francis McNamara
100th Kieran McCarthy
99th Conor O'Hanlon
98th Niall Ó hUiginn
97th Ciarán Ahern
96th Richard Mulrooney
95th John Thuillier
94th Caroline O'Gorman
93rd Seán O'Quigley
92nd Tom Ward


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  18. ^ "98th Paul O'Connell". Retrieved 2012-02-16. 
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