Charles Haughey and Roger Hayes a reforming duo at the Department of Justice 1959-1964, the Succession Act influence of the Brehon Laws outrage to the threat to the integrity of the family farm and the threat to ‘Women of certain age’

The public sins of Charlie Haughey are well known and ventilated. A lesser episode in the career of this complex character is his tenure at the Department of Justice. Firstly as 2 years as Parliamentary Secretary to Oscar Traynor and as full Minister for around two years from October 1961. There is a road in north Dublin called after Traynor.

Traynor was an elderly cadre veteran like many in FF/FG of the War of Independence and Civil War. Like many of his confreres he ruled a rigid unyielding Department over one of the microstates of Ireland post partition. The Department in the 1950s was involved in holding the line in the IRA 1950s campaign a tame affair compared to what came later.

Haughey as well as having a business degree and being a qualified accountant was a qualified barrister but did not practice. He arrived into the Department and soon made his mark. A later Secretary Peter Berry said that he just got better and better the longer he stayed.

He formed an alliance with Roger Hayes the then Assistant Secretary and encouraged him on the route to Legal Reform. He would later drft many pieces of reforming legislation. He also drafted to civil Liability Act drawing on the work of Glanville Williams which was acknowledged. Hayes was later to become Chairman of  the Law Reform Commission.

To get a picture of the legal landscape of 1950s Ireland an article by the Listowel Solicitor Robert Pearse paints a less than flattering picture. He studied law in UCD there were probably no full time Law Lecturers, lectures were at 9 or 5 to suit the practising barristers. His Professor of Criminal Law was Paddy McGilligan earlier Minister for Finance who sponsored the Shannon Scheme.

The Constitution lay dormant Dicey with his book on the ‘unwritten’ English Constitution held sway before John Kelly’s seminal book and Brian Walsh’s Judicial Activism in the 1960s.

There were no Irish Law textbooks and Pease recalls using the then standard English tome on the subject. The chapters of sexual crime were coming up and McGilligan told them to skip those as they never came up in the exams. Some time later in private practice he realised that he and others like him had no knowledge as qualified lawyers of sexual crime.

Before the advent of Wylie on Irish Land Law the only text books were those like Popham in the pre 1926 editions when the Land Law Reforms of England took place. I recall getting a copy of this book in Wildys in London the Law Bookshop.

Haughey was interested in reforming the law on Succession and tried to incorporate aspects of the Brehon Law into the first Succession Bill. As well as making compulsory provision for the spouse which endured there was a provision to provide a third for the children. This and the legal spouse right caused outrage as it was felt it interfered with the right of testator to dispose and could endanger the integrity of family farms. Eventually Haughey left for the Department of Finance and Brian Lenihan steered the diluted Bill through.

On the issue of spouse being gender neutral there were ominous warnings from FG Deputies that it endangering ‘women of a certain age’. It is noteworthy it is the gender neutral phrase of ‘spouse’ that was used.