Irish law

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Irish law

Origins[ edit ] Irish law represents possibly the oldest surviving codified legal system in Europe, and is believed to have Proto-Indo-European origins in common with the Hindu Laws of Manu. Early Irish law consisted of the accumulated decisions of the Brehonsor judges, guided entirely by an oral tradition.

Some of these laws were recorded in text form by Christian clerics. According to that text, after a difficult case involving St. Patrickthe Saint supervised the mixing of native Irish law and the law of the church.

The story also tells how the law transitioned from the keeping of the poetswhose speech was "dark" and incomprehensible, to the keeping of each group who had an interest in it. Patrick while scholars have been able to determine Irish law it was collected during the 8th century, at least three centuries after the time of St.

For some time, especially through the work of D. Binchythe laws were held to be conservative and useful primarily for reconstructing the laws and customs of the Proto-Indo-Europeans just as linguists had reconstructed the Proto-Indo-European language.

For instance, historians have seen similarities between Irish and Indian customs of fasting as a method of shaming a wrongdoer to recover a debt, or to demand the righting of a wrong. While few historians argue that all Irish law comes from church influence, they are today much more Irish law as Irish law what material is a survival and what has changed.

There is dispute, however, as to just how large a role each of these aspects may have played in creating the legal texts.

The subject is an important scope for debate. A number of legal terms have been shown to have originated in the period before the Celtic Languages split up because they are preserved in both Old Irish and in the Welsh legal texts. On the other hand, this is not regarded as unquestionable evidence that the practices described by such terms are unchanged or even have their origins in the same period as do the terms.

Early Irish law is, like the Old Irish language, remarkably standard across an Island with no central authority. However, close examination has revealed some variations.

Men and women held their property separately. The marriage laws were very complex. For example, there were scores of ways of combining households and properties and then dividing the property and its increase when disputes arose.

Irish law

A husband was legally permitted to hit his wife to "correct" her, but if the blow left a mark she was entitled to the equivalent of her bride-price in compensation and could, if she wished, divorce him. Property of a household could not be disposed of without the consent of both spouses.

In particular, very little material survives regarding succession practices, which have been reconstructed as the system of Tanistry. However, while other kings in Europe were able to promulgate law, such as Alfred the Great and his Doom bookthe Irish had very little authority to do so.

They could collaborate on law authored by the church. Additionally, a king could issue a temporary law in times of emergency. But kings could not, by their own authority, issue permanent law codes.

One law tract, Gubretha Caratniad, describes a brithem giving advice to a king in this case, advice that seems flawed but is actually correct who then gives it as judgment in a case.

It is unclear, therefore, how much kings made judgments by themselves and how much they had to follow professional advice. It is clear, however, that a king had to judge in accordance with the laws. However, the kings do not appear to have stood as judges in all cases, and in some cases the professional jurists took that role.

The king was not supposed to be above the law. In fact, some stipulations applied specifically to the king. However, as the king was the most powerful individual, and the one with the highest honour in an area, it was difficult to enforce the law against him.

Although it might have been possible to proceed against the king as against any other, the laws also had an innovative solution to this quandary. Instead of enforcing against the king directly, a dependent of the king known as an aithech fortha substitute churl was enforced against instead, and the king was responsible for repaying the substitute churl.

These included doing the work of a commoner, moving around without a retinue, and showing cowardice in battle; again, though, it is unclear how often such stipulations were followed.

Sunday is for drinking aleMonday is for judging, Tuesday is for playing fidchellWednesday is for watching hounds hunt, Thursday is for sexual unionFriday is for racing horsesand Saturday is for judging a different word from Monday, but the distinction is unclear.

Among those problems was that everyone was in a state of equality.

Irish law

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