Supreme Court ‘the protector of rare birds’, chief justice says

State’s highest court has had run of environmental cases, guests at book launch told

The Chief Justice has said a recent run of environmental cases in the Supreme Court had led to jokes it was becoming the protector of rare bird species.

Addressing the relationship of European Union law to the Irish courts, Mr Justice Frank Clarke made light of recent litigation involving the habitat of the Hen Harrier.

“One of my colleagues says that the Supreme Court is really the court for the protection of the Hen Harrier,” he said.

“Another colleague pointed out . . . that the prey of the Hen Harrier is the Meadow Pipit and complained bitterly that while there was great protection in European Union law of the Hen Harrier, who was looking after the interests of the poor Meadow Pippit who was being eaten to a much greater extent?”


Mr Justice Clarke, remarking on the need for humour among judges, was speaking at the launch of the book Constitutional Law of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy by associate professor of law Dr Graham Butler in Dublin on Wednesday.

He said that since the creation of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court had been dealing with cases of general public importance, often “heavily influenced by European law”, including European arrest warrants, immigration and environmental issues.

"I would genuinely think it's now the case that perhaps somewhere between 33 and 40 per cent of the cases being heard by the Irish Supreme Court have a significant European Union law element," he said.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times