One of the country’s most high-profile judges, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, has died.
Chief Justice Susan Denham described her colleague as “a man who had made great and courageous efforts on behalf of those who sought justice”.
“He neither favoured nor feared any interest – and went about his work with great integrity, grit and dedication,” she said.
The Courts Service said Judge Denham had “received the news with great sadness and shock” and her immediate reaction was to be mindful of the needs of Judge Hardiman’s wife, Judge Yvonne Murphy and family.
The 64-year-old had been due to speak tonight at an event on the Irish language at NUI Galway along with President Michael D Higgins.
He was called to the Bar in 1974 and practised as a barrister for the next 26 years, when he was appointed to the Supreme Court, an unusual promotion to the the highest court directly from the ranks of lawyers.
President Higgins described Judge Hardiman as one of the great legal minds of his generation.
“On the Supreme Court, Judge Hardiman has made an immense contribution to the development of Irish law. The depth and rigour of his legal analysis has been matched by the eloquence and clarity of his judgments,” the President said.
“A strong voice on the court, he has been rightly recognised as a particularly passionate defender of civil liberties and of individual freedoms.”
President Higgins described the late judge as a proud and patriotic Irishman, and a lifelong defender of the Constitution.
“His loss to Ireland and to law will be enormous,” he said.
Among the high-profile cases Judge Hardiman ruled on was the lawsuit against the State taken by Frank Shortt, a Donegal publican framed for drug dealing by rogue gardai.
The Supreme Court awarded him 4.5 million euro in 2007 – doubling his compensation for miscarriage of justice after being jailed for three years.
Judge Hardiman said it was the worst case of its kind the State had been aware of.
“Mr Shortt was framed by gardai who, on all the evidence, bore him at first no personal ill will, simply in pursuit of an unscrupulous scheme to advance their careers,” he said in his judgment.
Judge Hardiman also campaigned against the eighth amendment to the Constitution which banned abortion and was a founding member of the Progressive Democrats.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “Adrian had a long and illustrious legal career and was one of the great minds of our time.
“As well as his enormous contribution to our judicial system, he had a love of our language, a huge interest in history and politics and was also a published writer and broadcaster.”
Another high-profile case which Judge Hardiman ruled on was an unsuccessful attempt to force Portmarnock Golf Club to admit women members.
Last year, Judge Hardiman criticised a Supreme Court ruling which would allow the State to use unconstitutionally obtained evidence in a criminal trial.
He said it would give the Garda “effective immunity from judicial oversight”.
In a speech in 2014 Judge Hardiman warned that the European Court of Human Rights may be exceeding its powers by taking on cases that have not been fully heard in member states.
He criticised its adjudication in the case of Louise O’Keeffe, after she asked the Strasbourg judges to rule on her claim that the State was ” directly liable” for abuse she suffered in school.
The Supreme Court held a special sitting at 2pm in the Four Courts, leaving Judge Hardiman’s seat empty as the Chief Justice paid a glowing and heartfelt tribute.
Judge Denham described her late colleague as a Renaissance man, an historian and a remarkable and engaging Joycean scholar.
“However, it is as a colleague and a friend that the members of the court will miss him,” she said.
“His eloquence in conference, his depth of knowledge, his humour, but most of all his friendship, will be sorely missed by each member of the court.”
Judge Denham said his profound knowledge of the law and fluency in expressing his views added immensely to legal jurisprudence in Ireland.
She highlighted Judge Hardiman’s “concern for the protection of persons and their dignity” in judgments that found suspects have a right to legal advice before being interrogated by detectives.