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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Hugh Holmes, MP & Judge of the Court of Appeal in Ireland

Hugh Holmes QC, an Irish Conservative Party, then after 1886 a Unionist Member of Parliament (MP) in the Parliament of the United Kingdom and subsequently a Judge of the High Court and Court of Appeal in Ireland, is born in Dungannon, County Tyrone, on February 17, 1840.

Holmes is the son of William Holmes of Dungannon and Anne Maxwell. He attends the Royal School Dungannon and Trinity College, Dublin. He is called to the English bar in 1864 and to the Bar of Ireland in 1865.

Holmes becomes a Queen’s Counsel (QC) in 1877. He is appointed Solicitor-General for Ireland on December 14, 1878 and serves until the Conservative government is defeated in 1880. He becomes Attorney-General for Ireland in 1885–1886 and 1886–1887. He is made a member of the Privy Council of Ireland on July 2, 1885. He is a MP for Dublin University from 1885 to 1887.

Holmes resigns from the House of Commons when he is appointed a Judge in 1887. He is a Justice of the Common Pleas division of the High Court of Justice in Ireland until 1888 when he becomes a Justice of the Queen’s Bench division. He is promoted to be a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1897. Ill health causes his retirement in 1914.

Holmes appears to be a stern judge, who does not suffer fools gladly and often imposes exceptionally severe sentences in criminal cases. Although the story is often thought to be apocryphal, Maurice Healy maintains that Holmes did once sentence a man of great age to 15 years in prison, and when the prisoner pleaded that he could not do 15 years, replied “Do as much of it as you can.” His judgments do however display some good humour and humanity, and the sentences he imposes often turned out to be less severe in practice than those he announces in Court.

The quality of his judgments is very high and Holmes, together with Christopher Palles and Gerald FitzGibbon, is credited with earning for the Irish Court of Appeal its reputation as perhaps the strongest tribunal in Irish legal history. His retirement, followed by that of Palles (FitzGibbon had died in 1909), causes a loss of expertise in the Court of Appeal from which its reputation never recovers. Among his more celebrated remarks is that the Irish “have too much of a sense of humour to dance around a maypole.” His judgment in The SS Gairloch remains the authoritative statement in Irish law on the circumstances in which an appellate court can overturn findings of fact made by the trial judge.

In 1869 Holmes marries Olivia Moule, daughter of J.W. Moule of Sneads Green House, Elmley Lovett, Worcestershire. She dies in 1901. Their children include Hugh junior, Sir Valentine Holmes KC (1888-1956), who like his father is a very successful barrister and a noted expert on the law of libel, Violet (dies in 1966), who married Sir Denis Henry, 1st Baronet, the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Elizabeth, who marries the politician and academic Harold Lawson Murphy, author of a well known History of Trinity College Dublin, and Alice (dies in 1942), who marries the politician and judge Edward Sullivan Murphy, Attorney General for Northern Ireland and Lord Justice of Appeal of Northern Ireland.

Holmes dies on April 19, 1916, five days before the beginning of the Easter Rising.


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Birth of Hugh Kennedy, Politician, Barrister & Judge

File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hugh_Kennedy.jpgHugh Edward Kennedy, Fine Gael politician, barrister and judge, is born in Abbotstown, Dublin on July 11, 1879. He serves as Attorney General of Ireland from 1922 to 1924, a Judge of the Supreme Court of Ireland from 1924 to 1936 and Chief Justice of Ireland from 1924 to 1936. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South constituency from 1923 to 1927. As a member of the Irish Free State Constitution Commission, he is also one of the constitutional architects of the Irish Free State.

Kennedy is the son of the prominent surgeon Hugh Boyle Kennedy. His younger sister is the journalist Mary Olivia Kennedy. He studies for the examinations of the Royal University of Ireland while a student at University College Dublin and King’s Inns, Dublin. He is called to the Bar in 1902. He is appointed King’s Counsel in 1920 and becomes a Bencher of King’s Inn in 1922.

During 1920 and 1921, Kennedy is a senior legal adviser to the representatives of Dáil Éireann during the negotiations for the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He is highly regarded as a lawyer by Michael Collins, who later regrets that Kennedy had not been part of the delegation sent to London in 1921 to negotiate the terms of the treaty.

On January 31, 1922, Kennedy becomes the first Attorney General in the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State. Later that year he is appointed by the Provisional Government to the Irish Free State Constitution Commission to draft the Constitution of the Irish Free State, which is established on December 6, 1922. The functions of the Provisional Government are transferred to the Executive Council of the Irish Free State. He is appointed Attorney General of the Irish Free State on December 7, 1922.

In 1923, Kennedy is appointed to the Judiciary Commission by the Government of the Irish Free State, on a reference from the Government to establish a new system for the administration of justice in accordance with the Constitution of the Irish Free State. The Judiciary Commission is chaired by James Campbell, 1st Baron Glenavy, who had also been the last Lord Chancellor of Ireland. It drafts the Courts of Justice Act 1924 for a new court system, including a High Court and a Supreme Court, and provides for the abolition, inter alia, of the Court of Appeal in Ireland and the Irish High Court of Justice. Most of the judges are not reappointed to the new courts. Kennedy personally oversees the selection of the new judges and makes impressive efforts to select them on merit alone. The results are not always happy. His diary reveals the increasingly unhappy atmosphere, in the Supreme Court itself, due to frequent clashes between Kennedy and his colleague Gerald Fitzgibbon, since the two men prove to be so different in temperament and political outlook that they find it almost impossible to work together harmoniously. In a similar vein, Kennedy’s legal opinion and choice of words could raise eyebrows amongst legal colleagues and fury in the Executive Council e.g. regarding the Kenmare incident.

Kennedy is also a delegate of the Irish Free State to the Fourth Assembly of the League of Nations between September 3-29, 1923.

Kennedy is elected to Dáil Éireann on October 27, 1923, as a Cumann na nGaedheal TD at a by-election in the Dublin South constituency. He is the first person to be elected in a by-election to Dáil Éireann. He resigns his seat when he is appointed Chief Justice of Ireland in 1924.

On June 5, 1924, Kennedy is appointed Chief Justice of Ireland, thereby becoming the first Chief Justice of the Irish Free State. He is also the youngest person appointed Chief Justice of Ireland. When he is appointed he is 44 years old. Although the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal had been abolished and replaced by the High Court and the Supreme Court respectively, one of his first acts is to issue a practice note that the wearing of wigs and robes will continue in the new courts. This practice is still continued in trials and appeals in the High Court and the Supreme Court (except in certain matters). He holds the position of Chief Justice until his death on December 1, 1936 in Goatstown, Dublin.

In September 2015, a biography by Senator Patrick Kennedy (no relation) is written about Kennedy called Hugh Kennedy: The Great But Neglected Chief Justice.