DAILY CATHOLIC TUESDAY June 23, 1998 vol. 9, no. 121
NEWS & VIEWS
IRISH JUDGE SETTLES LAWSUIT AGAINST GOVERNMENT
DUBLIN (CWNews.com) - An Irish High Court judge who was dismissed for speaking out against abortion has settled his legal action against the Irish government.
Justice Rory O'Hanlon, a member of Opus Dei was appointed to the Irish High Court bench in 1981 after a distinguished legal career. In 1992, the government appointed him president of the Law Reform Commission, which considers changes to Irish law. Four weeks later he was removed from the position after asserting that he would not support ratification of the European Union's Maastricht Treaty if it made abortion available in Ireland.
The government summoned the judge to a meeting to explain his position, but he refused to attend on the basis that the government had no power to "summon" a High Court judge to a meeting. The following day, the judge was "invited" to attend a meeting with the prime minister, following which he was fired as president of the Law Reform Commission.
Justice O'Hanlon also became embroiled in further controversy when he spoke out publicly against proposed legislation which would have allowed Irish women to be referred to abortion clinics abroad. At the time he explained, "I feel that if I remained silent at a time when the Abortion Information Bill is about to come before the Houses of the Oireachtas [the Irish Parliament], I would be betraying a trust God has imposed on me, just as if I had been a judge in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s and had remained silent when the Jewish Holocaust was being planned and put into effect." Despite the judge's intervention, the legislation was eventually passed.
Two years later, as he faced mandatory retirement at the
age of 71, Justice O'Hanlon instituted legal proceedings
against the government, looking for a declaration that his
removal as president of the Law Reform Commission had been
unconstitutional. But following lengthy discussions between
lawyers, the matter was settled before coming to court. The
judge was paid damages estimated to be around $200,000 and
a statement was read out in open court, in which the
government recognized Justice O'Hanlon's distinguished
Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
NEWS & VIEWS