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"A colossus of the legal world." - Tributes paid after death of Supreme Court judge

Hardiman was one of the most well-known barristers in the country before his appointment to the State’s highest court.
Mar 7th 2016, 4:17 PM 51,348 55

Updated 4.13 pm

8/12/2007. Defamation Bills Adrian Hardiman Source:

ADRIAN HARDIMAN, ONE of Ireland’s best-known judges, has died suddenly.

He was 64 years of age.

A well-known barrister, Hardiman received the rare honour of being appointed directly from the bar to the Supreme Court, Ireland’s highest court, aged just 49 in February 2000. He was well-known for his progressive views.

In a statement, Chief Justice Susan Denham said she had received the news “with great sadness and shock and her immediate reaction was to be mindful of the needs of his wife and family”.

Denham described Hardiman as “a man who had made great and courageous efforts on behalf of those who sought justice”. 

“He neither favoured nor feared any interest – and went about his work with great integrity, grit and dedication.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also expressed his sadness at the judge’s death, describing him as “one of the great minds of our time”.

To mark his passing, the Supreme Court chamber held a special sitting this afternoon. The sitting was full save for the Hardiman’s seat that was left empty by his peers.

Justice Denham read out a statement on behalf of the court at the sitting at which she referred to Hardiman as a “colossus of the legal world”.

“A good and true friend has been lost by his colleagues on the Court,” she said, also describing his wisdom outside of the legal world.

He was a historian. He spoke and wrote on many topics, including the Trial of Robert Emmet, the 1916 Rising, and we were looking forward to his lecture, on Easter Monday, here in the Four Courts, on the 1916 Proclamation. He was a remarkable and engaging Joycean scholar. He has written on many aspects of James Joyce, and lectured at home and abroad, in riveting lectures, on this other great Irishman.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald described Hardiman as a “fearless defender of the constitution and a man of extraordinary intellectual ability”.

Born in Coolock, Dublin, he studied history at UCD and trained for the bar at King’s Inns, graduating in 1974.

Politically, Hardiman became involved with Fianna Fáil in college and stood for the party in the local elections of 1979 and 1985. Today party leader Micheál Martin paid tribute to him, saying he was known for his great intellect and wit.

I always found Adrian to be extremely kind, generous and good natured.

Hardiman eventually left Fianna Fáil to help form the Progressive Democrats in 1985 (along with college friend and former Attorney General Michael McDowell). He left this party when he was appointed to the Supreme Court.

Commenting on the judge’s sudden passing, director general of the Law Society of Ireland, Ken Murphy, said: “With the untimely passing of Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, the Irish people have lost a fierce protector of their rights against any overreaching by the power of the State.”

 As one of the most brilliant barristers of his generation, he was a powerful, punchy and highly persuasive advocate. Fearless, fluent and articulate, he could think on his feet to handle with ease whatever was thrown at him.

“As a judge, since his appointment in 2000, he was driven by a deep passion for justice as is evidenced by his many landmark judgements.”

He is survived by his wife, Yvonne Murphy (herself a Circuit Court judge), and three sons.

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy and Rónán Duffy

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