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University College Dublin Law Society

The UCD Law Society is one of the largest student societies in Europe. Established in 1911 as 'The Legal and Economic Society', it has over 4100 members drawn from the various faculties of the university.[1] Weekly Tuesday night debates during term are the society's core activity. Individuals who have addressed the society include President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins,[2] former Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Bertie Ahern [3] and President of the European Council Donald Tusk. The society's motto is "Ar son na Córa" (In Favour of Justice). The current Auditor is Calem Martin.

The Law Society (University College Dublin)
Law Society Coat of Arms.jpg
Founded 1911
Motto Ar son na Córa (In favour of Justice )
Auditor Calem Martin
President Professor Imelda Maher
Patron Professor Andrew J. Deeks


House DebatesEdit

As one of the two debating unions in University College Dublin, the society gathers once a week to debate topical motions relating to students and other national issues of importance. This is the main activity of the society, typically taking place on Tuesday evenings in the Fitzgerald Chamber in the New Student Centre. Guest speakers related to the topic are often invited to engage with the motion and address the students. The annual Abortion debate is generally the most attended debate in UCD in any given year, and the now annual 'Dubs v Culchies' Orientation Week debate for incoming first year students also often attracts a significant audience. Attendance at house debates varies weekly, with debates attracting anywhere between 30 and 300 people. Motions often range from Northern Ireland politics to the relevance of the Students’ Union.

The Law Society organised the first live Irish Presidential Debate which took place on Nominations day 2011 in Theatre L. The largest recorded attendance at a Society debate was the second Lisbon Treaty referendum debate on 28 September 2009, which had an attendance of over 1,000 students in O’Reilly Hall, Belfield.[4]

Guest speakers and Honorary Life MembershipsEdit

The Law Society also regularly invites notable speakers to deliver individual addresses to the society. Recent guests given the honour of address include former Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell in October 2009[5] and the former lead prosecutor of Slobodan Milosevic, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC in March 2010.[6] In 2017, the Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans received an honorary lifetime membership, as did Jean-Claude Trichet, former President of the ECB.

The society awards honorary life memberships to important individuals who have contributed significantly to their chosen field of human endeavour. The presentation of honorary life membership also affords the recipient with an opportunity to address the assembled members of the society.

Recent recipients of honorary life membership include actors Patrick Johannes Adams, Sir Christopher Lee, Naylor the Impaler, Martin Sheen, John C. McGinley,[7] Dirk Benedict,[8] Jeremy Irons,[9] and the late David Kelly and Leslie Nielsen,[10] comedians Colin Murphy, Dan Antopolski and Bill Bailey,[11] authors Tucker Max,[12] Jung Chang[13] and Noam Chomsky,[14] political figures Ken Livingstone[15] and Bill Clinton, sportspeople Cristiano Ronaldo, Pauleta, Jimmy White,[16] Brian O’Driscoll[17] and Paul O’Connell,[18] Conor Rock, dancer Michael Flatley,[19] supermodel Erin O’Connor[20] and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney.[21]

Free SpeechEdit


The society is committed to maintaining a strong policy of free speech, a policy which it has, on occasion, found difficult to maintain. In 2008, the radical French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen was invited to address the society concerning the federalisation of the European Union.[22] This event was essentially struck down by University Authorities after it denounced the move in response to queries from the national media. Many other debates have seen significant protests from left-wing student movements. Their policy of ‘no TDs on campus’ due to perceived Government support of University tuition fees has often conflicted with invitations to Fianna Fáil TDs on unrelated debate motions. Protests occurred in 2008 when Government Minister Éamon Ryan arrived to address the society[23] and again in 2009 when Bertie Ahern chaired a debate.[24]

In November 2015 Robert O'Neill, the soldier who shot Osama Bin Laden, was invited to address the society.[25] The event attracted enormous controversy. The week of the event posters and online advertising of the event disappeared without explanation.[26] The morning of the address however, posters appeared promising a 'mystery guest' and depicting the silhouette of a navy seal. Robert O'Neill duly gave his address to a large audience.

Moot Court competitionsEdit

Cecil Lavery Moot Court CompetitionEdit

The Cecil Lavery is a Moot Court competition named after one of the Society's most distinguished former Auditors, a former Attorney General and Supreme Court Judge. It was initiated in 2005 and has continued as the principal moot court competition in UCD, with the winners going forward to represent UCD in the Holland & Knight National Moot Court Competition. A Grand Final is held in the UCD Sutherland School of Law in February each year with senior members of the Irish Judiciary invited to adjudicate. The chair was traditionally held by the Hon. Mr Justice Vivian Lavan, a former Auditor and longtime friend to the society.

Thomas A. Finlay Moot Court IntervarsityEdit

The Thomas A. Finlay Moot Court Intervarsity is an international moot court competition named after the former Irish Chief Justice, Thomas A. Finlay. Founded in 2009, it has attracted teams from across the British Isles and beyond.[citation needed]

Competitive debatingEdit

The Law Society has a proud record in competitive debating. The society has won a number of international debating competitions and has enjoyed victory in The Irish Times and Mace debating competitions as well as international and national intervarsities. The society has sent delegates to the World Universities Debating Championship annually and the European Universities Debating Championship, often reaching quarter finals in both competitions. In 1987 & 2006, UCD hosted the World Universities Debating Championship.

Irish Times Debate Winners for UCD Law SocietyEdit

1978 Conor Gearty & Donal O'Donnell
1979 Conor Gearty & John O'Donnell
1989 Julian Clare (as individual)
1992 Cian Ferriter (as individual)
2017 Aisling Tully & Dara Keenan
2018 Cian Leahy & Aodhán Peelo

Schools' DebatingEdit

The society also promotes and organises competitive debating in schools across Ireland through the Law Society Schools' Mace and the Junior Schools Debating Competition which reaches secondary schools throughout the country.


Legal and Economic SocietyEdit

The society was founded in 1911 as the Legal & Economic Society. The prominent professor and politician, J.G. Swift McNeill, gave the inaugural address. Early committee members included Thomas Kettle, Conor Maguire, Thomas Arkins and Arthur Cox. The society ran a number of small legal debates in its early years and struggled to maintain its activity during the War of Independence and Civil War.

Legal SocietyEdit

The society was renamed the Legal Society in 1924 and had a brief resurgence of activity under the auditorship of J.C. Flood. In 1926 however, the society ran into trouble once again.

Law SocietyEdit

In 1935, the society found firm footing as it was reconstituted as the Law Society, tasked with organising legal debates and representing legal students. Early Auditors and members were Thomas Finlay and T.F. O’Higgins. In 1946, the son of Conor Maguire, Peter D. Maguire, became Auditor, addressing the society on the importance of peace through the United Nations. The Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, attended.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the society began to challenge the Literary & Historical Society for dominance in University debate. A debating tour to Universities in Britain was organised annually, with team places much coveted. The tour eventually ceased in Colm Allen's session due to security concerns following IRA violence in the Troubles.

In the 1970s the society achieved unprecedented debating success. Following its recognition as an individual University debating institution for the purposes of national and international competition, it won the Irish Times twice in the 1970s as well as the Irish Mace, both times with Auditor Conor Gearty. It would continue the success throughout the 1980s and 1990s as the society won the Irish Times twice more. The 1980s and 1990s also saw an increase in the scale of the society's activities as it began to host larger and more exciting debates. The notorious criminal, Martin Cahill, addressed the society in 1987 and for many years the society held the Guinness World Record for the longest ever continuous debate.[27]

The 1990s saw the society expand its membership base beyond law students; reaching out to the entire campus. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the society continually grew, first in hundreds, then in thousands. The society reached virtually saturation point in 2010, when prior to the awarding of Honorary Life Membership to television presenter Jeremy Kyle, it signed up its 5,000th member for that Session, making it the largest annually subscribed student society in Europe[citation needed].

In the 2010s, the society gained national news coverage when welcoming figures such as Judge Judy, Patrick J. Adams and Donald Tusk. In the immediate years prior to the historic vote on Ireland's Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, the society was at the forefront of the national discussion on the issue, hosting a debate on abortion every September. By 2017, the society had reached 5,600 members before winning the Irish Times back-to-back, in 2017 and 2018.


Auditor and CommitteeEdit

The Law Society is run by a committee of selected members, each with a specific remit. The committee is chosen by the auditor, who is elected for a single year term by the enrolled membership of the society. The auditor is the head of the committee and responsible for the day-to-day running of the society. The society's sessions usually begin in late March or early April, following the annual general meeting, which includes reports from the auditor, treasurer, librarian and senior legal assessor. At the annual general meeting the results of the auditorial election are declared and the new auditor appointed following the passing over of the chain of office.[citation needed]

Patron, President and Vice-PresidentsEdit

These roles are largely ceremonial. As of 2019, the patron of the Law Society is Professor Andrew J. Deeks, the President of UCD, while the president of the society is the Dean of the School of Law, Professor Imelda Maher.[citation needed] There are a number of Vice-Presidents, who are almost exclusively all international legal figures and address the society upon their appointment to the position. The most notable vice-presidents are the Chief Justice of Canada, the Hon. Ms Justice Beverly McLachlin PC,[28] Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia,[29] the former President of the U.K. Supreme Court, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers,[30] Professor Joseph Raz, Baroness Hale of Richmond[31] and former Irish President and U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson.[citation needed]


The society has received an increased amount of funding in recent years, due to corporate sponsorship and college contributions. The society's accounts are presented by the Honorary Treasurer at each annual general meeting; the society's turnover is in the region of €100,000 annually. The society receives funding from the University Societies Council and also seeks corporate sponsorship to cover the costs of each Session. As of 2019, the title sponsors of the society are the Irish law firm, Matheson Ormsby Prentice.[citation needed]

Notable auditorsEdit

List of Past AuditorsEdit

109th Calem Martin
108th James Brandon
107th Laura Hogan
106th Aodhán Peelo
105th James Green
104th Ian Fahey
103rd Rachel Duffy
102nd Sinead Rooney
101st Francis McNamara
100th Kieran McCarthy
99th Conor O'Hanlon
98th Niall Ó hUiginn
97th Ciarán Ahern
96th Richard Mulrooney
95th John Thuillier
94th Caroline O'Gorman
93rd Seán O'Quigley
92nd Tom Ward
91st Simon Larragy
90th Gareth Murphy
89th Niall Buckley
88th Andrew Fitzpatrick
87th Vincent Nolan
86th Anne-Marie Lawlor
85th Rossa Fanning
84th John Kennedy
83rd Jennifer Curry
82nd Rachel Byrne
81st Cian Ferriter
80th John Menton
79th Thomas C Smyth
78th Micháel P O'Higgins
77th Ann M Markey
76th Eamonn MacAodha
75th Gerard O'Brien
74th Bernard O'Kelly
73rd Ronan M Murphy
72nd Helen O'Connell
71st Michael J Quinn
70th Felix McEnroy
69th Sunniva McDonagh
68th Eugene McCague
67th Conor Gearty
66th David Hardiman
65th A Elio Malocco
64th Ciaran Lawlor
63rd Gerry McCumiskey
62nd Michael McDowell
61st Aindrias O'Ruairc
60th Colm Allen


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  2. ^ "UCD News, The Magazine of University College Dublin". 21 March 1978. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  3. ^ "Wed, Sep 30, 2009 - Bertie finds safe ground on the southside". The Irish Times. 9 September 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  4. ^ "UCD News - Big hitters debate Lisbon Treaty at UCD". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  5. ^ "The University Observer » Stop the Presses - Ireland's Award-Winning Student Newspaper". 6 October 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  6. ^ Fiona de Londras (11 March 2010). "Sir Geoffrey Nice QC to Speak at UCD - Human Rights in Ireland". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  7. ^ "98th John C McGinley". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 October 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Jeremy Irons at UCD". YouTube. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  10. ^ "Leslie Nielsen". 28 November 2010. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  11. ^ "The University Observer » Analysis: Pulling up our Socs - Ireland's Award-Winning Student Newspaper". 2 March 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  12. ^ "Blog Archive » Video – LawSoc Tucker Max 2009". 28 March 2010. Archived from the original on 14 August 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  13. ^ "UCD News - Mao biographer, Jung Chang at UCD". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  14. ^ "UCD News - Event - Noam Chomsky Honorary Life Membership". 3 November 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  15. ^ "98th HLM Ken Livingstone". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  16. ^ "98th HLM Jimmy White". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  17. ^ "96th HLM Brian O'Driscoll". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  18. ^ "98th Paul O'Connell". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  19. ^ "UCD Boxing Debate - Michael Flatley at the Celtic Cafe". 15 January 2004. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  20. ^ Horoscopes. "Erin holds court at Law Society - Around Town, Entertainment". Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  21. ^ "UCD News - Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney receives life membership of UCD Law Society". 18 February 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  22. ^ "Jean Marie Le Pen to visit UCD - Indymedia Ireland".
  23. ^ "Eamon Ryan bottles out of debate in UCD when chalenged by Shell 2 Sea protesters - Indymedia Ireland".
  24. ^ "Civilised Bertie is even nice to 'loolahs'". Irish Independent. 30 September 2009.
  25. ^ Dunne, Robert. "Free speech should reign on campus". The Irish Times.
  26. ^ Kelleher, Patrick. "UCD Law Society awards lifetime membership to Robert O'Neill".
  27. ^ "Galway Advertiser Archive".
  28. ^,51255,en.html
  29. ^ "UCD News - US Supreme Court Justice engages in Q&A session at UCD".
  30. ^,15802,en.html
  31. ^ "College Tribune - Issue 8". Issuu.