The Special Criminal Court: Hollowing out the Right to Trial by Jury in Ireland

The Irish Constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, was adopted via plebiscite in 1937. It guarantees a right to jury trial. The drafters, acutely aware of the threats to security
which had stalked the precursor Irish Free State, included an emergency powers clause & the ability to legislate for non-jury trial where the 'ordinary courts' were deemed 'inadequate'. These constitutional provisions were given legislative effect in the Offences Against the State Act, 1939 – an elaborate national security law which remains in force today, 79 years later. Trial by jury is not merely a means of securing a fair trial. It is a constitutional institution, a political institution, & an institution of deliberative democracy. This paper will highlight how the willingness of the Irish State to embrace non-jury trial in the face of the (very real) threat of terrorism hollowed out this important institution of Irish democracy & facilitated the wider undermining of the right to trial by jury in Ireland