Adrian Hardiman praised as ‘Renaissance man’

Chair left vacant in Supreme Court for ‘colossus of the legal world’, who died aged 64


A chair was left empty at a special sitting of the Supreme Court yesterday in memory of Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman (64), who died suddenly at his Dublin home.

Chief Justice Susan Denham told the packed courtroom the State had lost a “colossus of the legal world” and the court “a good and true friend”.

The presidents of the Court of Appeal and High Court, Mr Justice Seán Ryan and Mr Justice Peter Kelly, joined the Supreme Court judges to sit in memory of the late judge for the brief sitting.

He was also described by the Chief Justice as a “Renaissance man”, a passionate historian and a “remarkable and engaging” Joycean scholar.

Widely regarded as among the best legal minds of his generation, Mr Justice Hardiman was involved as a barrister in many of the prominent legal cases of the day, including when he represented former Democratic Left leader Proinsias De Rossa in two of his three defamation actions.

Other clients included Sinn Féin, whom he represented in early 1998 when the party faced exclusion from the Northern Ireland talks. He blushed when he afterwards got a standing ovation from Sinn Féin in the Four Courts. Another client was convicted drug dealer John Gilligan.

Recalling his colleague, senior counsel Michael O’Higgins said: “Adrian Hardiman was always ready to represent the damned.”

Separation of powers

In 2013 while agreeing with four colleagues that convicted garda killer Noel Callan was entitled to statutory remission after serving 28 years, he described, with characteristic directness, as “nonsense” and “breathtaking in their technicality”, contradictory arguments advanced by the State to deprive him of remission.

He was a sometimes passionate dissenter from important majority decisions. He was the sole dissenter when six Supreme Court colleagues rejected the challenge by Independent TD Thomas Pringle to the constitutionality of the ESM treaty providing a bailout fund for distressed states in the euro zone. He considered it neither legally nor constitutionally permissible for Ireland to adhere to the ESM, which involved paying €11 billion, without approval of the people.

Student politics

CoolockBelvedere College

He stood unsuccessfully for Fianna Fáil in the local elections in 1985. He was among the founders of the Progressive Democrats with another UCD contemporary, Michael McDowell.

Having attended the King’s Inns, he was called to the Bar in 1974 and became a senior counsel in 1989 practising chiefly in criminal and defamation law. He was well known for his fearless advocacy. He was appointed straight from the Bar to the Supreme Court in February 2000 aged 49.

Mr Justice Hardiman is survived by his wife, retired Circuit Court judge Yvonne Murphy, three sons, Eoin, Hugh and Daniel, and three grandchildren.

His remains will repose at Fanagans Funeral Home, Aungier Street tomorrow from 5pm- 7pm. His funeral Mass will be held at 10am on Thursday at the Church of the Holy Name, Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh, followed by cremation at Mount Jerome Crematorium.