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History of the IALT
The Irish Association of Law Teachers was established in 1979, and has always been conceived as an all-island association. In the years since its foundation, the Association has witnessed significant changes in the legal landscape of Ireland, north and south, and of the wider world. The Association has always been committed to furthering excellence in legal education and research, and this has always been reflected in the activities of the Association and its members.
Traditionally the Association has held an Annual Conference, the venue for which changes from year to year to reflect the broad geographical spread of the Association’s members. In addition, the Association hosts various workshops and seminars from time to time, and has been involved in a number of publications in the 1980s, for example, the Association had a publications sub-committee.
An annual meeting of the Association at Queen’s University Belfast in December 1981 included workshops on labour law, which was chaired by Professor Dennis R. Nolan from the University of South Carolina. A seminar hosted by the Association at University College Dublin in June 1981 examined law reporting and publication of statute law in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In 1984 the Association published an Index to Irish Superior Court Written Judgments 1976-1982, edited by Jennifer Aston and Maeve Doyle, and this was followed in 1990 by an Index to cases decided in the Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeal and High Court, in which unreported judgments were available for circulation, 1966-1975.
In 1991 the Association’s Annual Conference was held in Galway in December, and one publication arising from this was Stephen Livingstone’s paper on ‘The House of Lords and the Northern Ireland Conflict’, published in the Modern Law Review in 1994. In March 1997, the Association held a joint conference with the Association of Law Teachers, our sister organization in England, and speakers travelled from as far as Australia for the event. The 1998 Annual Conference took place in Dublin, and in 1999, members of the Association travelled south to Killarney, Co. Kerry, for a conference on the theme of Leading Cases of the Twentieth Century. Revised versions of some of the papers delivered at the 1999 Conference were later published by Round Hall Press in a collection of essays edited by Eoin O’Dell: Leading Cases of the Twentieth Century (Dublin, 2000). This was later reviewed by Judge Bryan McMahon in the Judicial Studies Institute Journal in 2001.
In April 2000, the Annual Conference took place at the Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny, and was opened by Mr. Justice Ronan Keane, Chief Justice of the Irish Supreme Court. Two sessions of the conference were dedicated to a panel of editors of leading Irish law journals and a panel of law librarians, and both provoked lively discussion. The 2001 Annual Conference was hosted at the Law Society Buildings in Dublin on 20 October 2001. The theme for the conference was The Person in the Law, and included papers on charities law, commercial law and family law. and the 2001 annual conference was hosted at the Law Society Buildings in Dublin on 20 October 2001. The theme for the conference was The Person in the Law, and included papers on charities law, commercial law and family law.
In April 2002 the Annual Conference was hosted in Belfast, on the theme of Hard Cases and Bad Law. Papers on subjects ranging from family law to restitution were delivered by delegates from all over Ireland, as well as the United States, England, Scotland and Sheffield. As always, the conference was well-attended by members of the judiciary. In November of the same year the Association held a mid-year conference on Recent Developments in Human Rights Law at Dublin Institute of Technology. Papers were delivered on a range of topics including equality law, employment law and private law, and a plenary session was given by Professor Brice Dickson of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, and Maurice Manning of the Irish Human Rights Commission.
The 2003 Annual Conference, entitled Common Law at the Crossroads: Facing into the New Millennium , took place at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Galway city. The conference was well-attended, and opening addresses were delivered by Mr Justice Ronan Keane and the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, SC. Delegates enjoyed a trip to the Aran Islands and a night-time walking tour of Galway city. In 2004 the Conference again took place north of the border, in the City of Derry, marking the 25th anniversary of the Irish Association of Law Teachers. The theme of this conference was Law in the Modern World: New Problems, New Solutions, reflecting the changes in the landscape of law and legal systems over the life of the Association. Delegates from Ireland, the UK and the Unites States attended and delivered papers on a range of subjects. Chief Justice Ronan Keane gave the opening address, and a number of other members of the judiciary, both north and south attended.
In March 2005 the Annual Conference was held in Letterkenny, on the theme of Law and the New Ireland . The Conference’s opening address was delivered by Ms. Justice Susan Denham of the Irish Supreme Court. The annual dinner at the Mount Errigal Hotel was sponsored by Thomson Round Hall, and Mr. Justice Aindrias Caoimh of the European Court of Justice was a guest speaker at the conference. and the opening address was given by Ms. Justice Susan Denham of the Supreme Court. Mr. Judge Aindrias Caoimh of the European Court of Justice was also a guest speaker at the conference. The annual dinner at the Mount Errigal Hotel was sponsored by Thomson Round Hall. In April 2006, the Association’s Annual Conference took place in Douglas, Co. Cork. Papers were delivered on a range of subjects including legal education, employment law, criminal law and law and the economy. The annual dinner was sponsored by Tottel Publishing, and delegates were brought on a trip to Cobh.
Although membership was at one stage limited to those teaching in University Law Faculties, this has been expanded to encompass all of those involved in the provision of legal education in Ireland, whether in Universities, Institutes of Technology, private colleges, or professional institutions. This broader reach is reflected in the composition of the Council of the Association, and highlights how the nature of legal education has changed over the past three decades.
The Association has in recent times undergone something of a resurgence, and 2009 represented the Association’s thirtieth year in existence. A number of events are planned throughout 2010 to mark this, and a number of new initiatives are being launched, including a Book Prize and a Teaching Award. Having undergone significant changes in the years since its inception, the Association is looking to the future, seeking new ways in which to promote and foster scholarly activity in the field of Irish legal education, and anticipating the challenges ahead.