Institutions and Ireland: Law, Punishment, and Accountability

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Trinity Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Research Institute

Trinity College Dublin

 Keynote Speaker: John Lonergan, former Governor of Mountjoy Prison

 In recent years, legal institutions on the island of Ireland have investigated a series of institutional failures. The Ryan Commission, the Murphy Commission, and the Saville Inquiry—to name but a few high-profile examples—have probed the relationship of the citizen to educational, religious, and military institutions. In turn, these investigations have been subject to analysis from academic, political, and cultural institutions, as well as the media. In 2011, as part of an Amnesty International publication responding to four reports on institutional abuse, Kevin Rafter diagnosed a ‘conspiracy of silence’ as an underlying factor in such institutional failure. Legal inquiries have gone some way towards breaking this silence and the university has a key role to play in furthering this debate. How do legal institutions hold sections of society to account? Are these institutions themselves held to account? How effective are the legal systems in Ireland at administering justice?

Law, Punishment, and Accountability is a one-day conference that will critically examine the legal institutions on the island of Ireland through a thematic and interdisciplinary approach. As the second event in TCD’s Institutions and Ireland series, the conference will analyse the ways in which Ireland has been shaped by both its own legal institutions, as well as by international bodies such as the European Parliament and European Court of Human Rights.

We invite abstracts of up to 300 words from any discipline for 20-minute papers that shed light on Ireland’s evolving relationships with legal institutions. The deadline for receipt of abstracts is Friday 29 April at 5pm. Please send your abstract and a short bio to

Topics can include, but are not limited to:

  •  Public inquiries and their impact
  • The study of legal history in Ireland
  • Cultural representations of law and punishment
  • Coercive confinement
  • The Irish courts systems
  • The law as colonial legacy
  • Policing and the Defence and Security Forces
  • European and international law from an Irish perspective
  • The crisis of migration
  • Restitution and retribution
  • Privacy and defamation
  • Memory, the past, and accountability
  • The impact of digitisation on the law

The Institutions and Ireland series has been developed as part of TCD’s core research theme Making Ireland, which spans fifteen disciplines within the college and explores Ireland as ‘a continuously evolving and plural phenomenon, produced through diverse media and varieties of human agency’. Further details can be found on and