Couriers, Communication and the Irish Constitution

An Post logo via the An Post siteLet me take you back to a time in which the market for delivery of letters was dominated by large national monopolies or former monopolies, and impatient potential entrants worried the incumbents. Oh wait; that’s today. Postal workers in various EU countries, unhappy at European plans (existing legislation here) to attain greater liberalisation in the postal market, held scattered strikes in Ireland, Belgium and Hungary, though there was little strike activity in France, and none at all in Germany, Poland and the UK.

Cover of Irish ConstitutionBut that’s also Ireland of the early 1980s, when a company called Paperlink sought to run a letter delivery service in Dublin. This contravened the Post Office’s monopoly on letter delivery conferred by section 34(2) of the Post Office Act, 1908; and in AG v Paperlink Ltd [1983] IEHC 1; [1984] ILRM 373 (15th July 1983) Costello J held that this monopoly did not infringe Paperlink’s constitutional right to communicate. The effects of his analysis, baleful for most of its existence but now pregnant with positive possibility, are the focus of my paper at this weekend’s conference on The Constitution at 70 (website | brochure (pdf)) organized by colleagues at the School of Law, TCD.

If you are coming along, please say hello.

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