Adrian Hardiman: Ebullient colleague who held strong opinions, but no grudges

Supreme Court colleagues of the late Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman have described him as a man of energy, oratory, and with flashes of wit. Here, they pay tribute.

Supreme Court Judges, President of the High Court & President of the Court of Appeal during a sitting to commemorate Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman.

Our first thoughts today must be with Adrian’s wife, Yvonne Murphy, son, Hugh, and daughter-in-law Alison, and sons Eoin, and Daniel.

Adrian was a proud husband and a proud father. He took immense pleasure in the achievements of his wife and sons. He was, too, an entirely doting grandfather.

In the coming days there will be many words of tribute from many sources. In truth, he inhabited a number of worlds with huge distinction.

For us, his colleagues, his judgments, his interventions in court and his contributions in conference and discussions were all incisive and illuminating. For a person who sometimes appeared to espouse cool detachment, he held strong and passionate beliefs, particularly in the liberty of the citizen, and the rights of accused persons. He held strong opinions, but no grudges. At a personal level, he was the most entertaining, amusing and generous of companions.

His judgments were written in his distinctive style, sometimes very direct, but always clear. For law students and commentators, they were always a pleasure to read. For us, as colleagues, whether we agreed or disagreed with him in individual cases, he was always courteous and considerate, and maintained an unswerving loyalty to the Court which he served with such distinction.

He was a counsel who was able to bring to bear extraordinary powers of energy, oratory, flashes of wit and strength of character, to each case in which he was involved. He was a devastating cross-examiner, but his predominant characteristic was his sheer presence in Court, which he dominated by force of character.

He was a man of strong loyalties. First, of course, to his family, to his school, but, in a very deep way, to the history department in UCD, and those who taught him there. For his entire life, he spoke with the deepest respect and affection of all those historians. His choice of career, however, did not prevent him making a huge contribution to his other worlds of history and literature.

His capacity for analysis and engagement in cases of the past was remarkable. No one who attended his lectures on the trial of Robert Emmet will forget it. He wrote many brilliant articles on James Joyce and the law. One of the great regrets will be that he will not live to see the forthcoming publication of his great work on Joyce and The Law. The depth of his scholarship, in law, history and literature, was recognised by his membership of the Royal Irish Academy.

One of his most pronounced characteristics was a truly prodigious memory. He could recall, without effort, vast tracts of poetry, especially from the Victorian and Edwardian era. He had a capacious vocabulary that enlivened his conversation as much as his vivid judgments . He was a wry observer of human nature, and of the idiosyncrasies of people he encountered both inside and outside the law. He enjoyed company, but nothing gave him more pleasure than being at his house in Portnoo, where he did much of his writing, walking and thinking.

While sometimes critical of the State, he was, in truth, profoundly loyal to it, and its institutions. He recognised and espoused the value of the dissenting view at a time when consensus had frequently led to wrong conclusions, and wrong paths. He had a great love of the Irish language, which he made clear in one of his most distinctive judgments in O’Maicin v Ireland. His loyalty was to the law, in the very best sense.

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He was a student of the Constitution, its evolution and the way in which its identification of rights was there for the protection of each individual. He gave his heart and soul to each judgment. Those judgments will stand as a monument to him, as much as his extraordinary literary and historical engagement.

Any person who witnessed Adrian Hardiman in court, either as a barrister, or as a judge, knew that they were witnessing something unique, a person who was a master of both the art and craft of law.

He was always an ebullient colleague, full of spirit and life. It can be justly said that no one was quite as “alive” as he was, as he was both at work and in leisure. His judgments contained a high degree of principled consistency, even in circumstances where, as he knew, the conclusions he arrived at might be criticised.

He was at his best, and perhaps his happiest, defending an unpopular person, or position, against the populist consensus.

Adrian Hardiman died far too young. He had far too much still to give at a time when clarity, detachment and rigor, but also humour and generosity, are so necessary. He was a unique person, and irreplaceable. For his family, the only consolation, at this dreadful time, is that he gave so much to them and to Ireland. For us , his colleagues, he leaves an irreplaceable store of fond personal memories.

His Colleagues.


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