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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Masters in Law to the Technological University Dublin, 2010.


The central theme of my thesis concerns the case of McGimpsey v. Ireland [1990] I.R. 110 and its wider significance. All discussion in the thesis can be traced back to this seminal case. On a wider level, the thesis discusses Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution, tracing their history from their ideologically irredentist origins through to their amendment following the Good Friday Agreement, with its pluralist, inclusive re-definition of nationality. In essence, the thesis attempts to analyse the relationship between the two jurisdictions in Ireland, and how it evolved over time. I have endeavoured to explain how the 1937 Constitution re-defined these relationships, creating problems for the 26 County State and its courts. The thesis discusses how the State reconciled the existence of a legal claim over Northern Ireland with the reality provided by a partitioned island. I argue that the State has adopted an essentially pragmatic position in its attempts to reconcile Articles 2 and 3 with the de facto political reality on the ground. I discuss how this fundamentally pragmatic position has co-existed alongside rigid Republican dogma and ideology. In charting the political journey of Articles 2 and 3, I discuss how pragmatic considerations have tended to weigh more heavily than idealistic rhetoric. While acknowledging the radical re-definition of Irish nationality prescribed by the Good Friday Agreement, I argue that conciliation and accommodation has always characterised the Irish State’s relationship with Northern Ireland. It was through such pragmatism that the State was able to reconcile the existence of the legal claim with the reality of partition. The McGimpsey case forms the foundation of my argument, serving to illustrate the plethora of problems created by the former Articles 2 and 3. My interview with Chris McGimpsey (a plaintiff in McGimpsey v. Ireland) permits a deeper analysis of the subject, revealing his personal perspective on the wider constitutional issue. The case demonstrates how, (on a political level) the main traditions on this island were able to find a way to compromise, enabling the realisation of a workable accommodation. I explain my belief that the amendment of Articles 2 and 3 contributed in a small, but significant way to the delivery of this new dispensation. The essential theme of my thesis, however, is that such spirit of accommodation has always been inherent in Irish political thought.