Tag: TCD

Felonius Monk and the Right to Copy

Saint Columba, on a stained glass window in Iona Abbey, via WikipediaToday is the feast day of St Columba (in Irish, variously: Colamcille, Columcille, Colm Cille etc).

To mark the occasion, I present a(n in)famous episode (pdfs here and here; image here, purchase here) in his life, retold – under the above title – by my Trinity colleague Dr Eoin O’Neill, who says that his tale below is most effectively delivered in the accents of Chicago of the 1930s, as interpreted by Hollywood:

The Monks had a corner on the market

In the early days of the monastic age in Ireland, (it only lasted for ~1,000 years),
the faithful were attracted to regional monasteries by various marketing techniques such as the sight of rare and sacred objects eg finely worked gold vessels and rare books.

Rivalry between monasteries was rife, and when the renowned monk Colamcille (a scion of the house of Uí Néill, the ruling dynasty) went to visit the abbot Finian at his monastery (possibly Moville or Clonard), he noted that Finian had a fine book in the scriptorium, (a copy of the Psalms: the recording media used normally was the skin of a calf). Finian had diligently procured this copy abroad through his network, no small feat in the early part of the sixth century, given the firewalls that were then in vogue.

No Open Source code policy

The noble monk sought from Finian a Licence to copy this work so he could use it in his own monastery, but this Licence to copy was refused. He was however permitted to read the sacred manuscript in the scriptorium, and the local monks marvelled at how he diligently pursued his theological readings until late into the night, when less pious monks had gone to bed.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Imagine the consternation of the hosts when it was discovered that their guest had indeed not only studied diligently in the monastery scriptorium at night; he had downloaded the text with his quill pen onto some spare calf-hides, and indeed had secretly transmitted the copy to the safety of his own monastery. Demands from Finian for the return of the copy were ignored by Colamcille, and eventually Finian had to seek redress.

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Tales of Mystery and Pagination – A new blog from Trinity College Dublin Library

Tales of Mystery and Pagination


The Library of Trinity College Dublin dates back to the establishment of the College in 1592, and it is now the largest research library in Ireland. It was endowed with the privilege of legal deposit by the Copyright Act, 1801 and continues to receive copies of material published in the United Kingdom and Ireland, pursuant respectively to the Legal Deposit Libraries Act, 2003 and section 198 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 (also here). The Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections in the Library, located in the East Pavilion of the Old Library, is responsible for some of the oldest and most valuable books in Ireland. The Department of Early Printed Books has just established a most wonderful blog about its work, entitled Tales of Mystery and Pagination. They explain the title as follows:

In a effort to gain a loyal fan-base for our blog we have been inspired by the ever popular Harry Clarke and his contributions to the 1919 edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of mystery and imagination. Not content with behaving like a magpie for the blog’s title we have used three examples of Clarke’s work to help illustrate what we hope to be a lively and interesting site for anyone interested in books and libraries. …

The image above is the banner across the top of the Tales of Mystery and Pagination blog, and the Harry Clarke illustrations are the first, third and fifth panels – the second is an image of a spiral staircase in the Old Library and and the fourth is an image of early books in the Old Library. The posts so far cover a wide range topics, including:

It is a sumptuously informative blog: I’d be a regular reader for the content alone, but the images are gorgeous too. Bring on those tales of mystery and pagination – I cannot wait!

Philosophical questions about fascism and free speech

Logos for Phil, BNP, TCD

Last Tuesday, in the My Education Week column in the Irish Times, Paddy Prendergast, the Provost of Trinity College Dublin (and thus my boss) wrote a diary of his working week. This is how his entry for Wednesday, October 5th, began (with added links):

I meet with the Senior Dean and Dean of Students to discuss the student debating society, the Philosophical Society’s invitation to the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, to participate in a debate later this month. The issue has received considerable media coverage, but more importantly there are objections from our own college community. Freedom of speech is an important principle as is that of self-governance of student societies. We agree to meet with the Philosophical Society and consider this serious matter further. …

This seemed positive enough. Both freedom of speech and student society self-governance would pull in favour of allowing Nick Griffin to speak. Don’t get me wrong: Griffin’s views are loathsome, and the BNP is a hateful organisation, but I defend their right to spew their foul and horrid bile simply so that it can be exposed for the obnoxious and indefensible nonsense that it is. But this debate is not to be. According to a statement on the TCD website:

The University Philosophical Society and Trinity College Dublin have decided to withdraw the invitation to Mr Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party. Mr Griffin was invited by the Philosophical Society to participate in a debate on October 20th next. After careful consideration of the matter, involving a series of discussions between the Philosophical Society’s officers and the College and taking all safety considerations into account, the decision was taken today (October 14th).

The College encourages balanced debate and freedom of speech at all times. It is a very important part of academic life, particularly among students and their societies. As part of the education of our students, the College also promotes the autonomy and self governance of student societies. These are important principles observed by the College.

Following careful review of operational and safety issues, the Philosophical Society and the College are now not satisfied that the general safety and well being of staff and students can be guaranteed. Access to the College will not be given to Mr Griffin or members of the BNP.

The University Philosophical Society feels it is unfortunate that circumstances have arisen under which the planned debate cannot go ahead without compromising safety.

The original invitation was predictably controversial. The decision to rescind it has garnered quite a bit of media coverage (BBC | DailyUpdate.ie | Irish Examiner | Irish Independent | Irish Times here and here | PA | RTÉ | StudentNews.ie | TheJournal.ie | University Times | UTV); and this has been welcomed by some of the visit’s critics (including the youth wing of the Irish Labour Party, and the Socialist Workers Party).

I am dismayed by this turn of events. Having several times wrapped themselves in the mantle of freedom of expression, TCD and the Phil have now let the mantle slip. Those who claim to respect freedom of speech must actively do so when it is difficult; else they do not really respect it at all. Freedom of speech is not always self-executing – when push comes to shove, it is necessary to be active in its defence and support. If a society such as the Phil invites controversial speakers, making a grab for the headlines, then that society must take all necessary steps to ensure that the controversial speakers actually have the opportunity to speak. Otherwise, the hecklers in a hostile audience will have a veto on the speakers. And the heckler’s veto is antithetical to freedom of speech. Hence, the US Supreme Court has rejected it as inconsistent with the freedom of expression guarantees in the First Amendment.

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Academic tenure in the Universities Act, 1997

DVD cover for the movie 'Tenure', via Amazon width=Tenure:

the very word connotes safety, security, and a sense that you have made it in academia. But is the system really all it is cracked up to be, or is it lumbering into the world of 21st century academia like a dinosaur that hasn’t heard it is supposed to be extinct?

In earlier posts on this blog, I have looked at various issues relating to the various legal protections of academic freedom and at the concomitant concept of academic tenure as a matter of principle. In today’s post, I want to look at it as a matter of law.

The starting point is the Universities Act, 1997. Section 25(6) (also here) of the Act provides (with added emphasis):

A university may suspend or dismiss any employee but only in accordance with procedures, and subject to any conditions, specified in a statute made following consultation through normal industrial relations structures operating in the university with recognised staff associations or trade unions, which procedures or conditions may provide for the delegation of powers relating to suspension or dismissal to the chief officer and shall provide for the tenure of officers.

The Statutes of a university constitute its basic law, and section 3 of the 1997 Act (also here) provides that “officer[s]” include “permanent, full-time member[s] of the academic staff of the university”. Hence, section 25(6) effectively requires that each university’s statutes must only specify disciplinary procedures leading to the suspension or dismissal for their employees, but must also provide for tenure of full-time members of academic staff. This rider to section 25(6) is very important. Dismissal procedures must be set out in universities’ fundamental constitutional documents, and where such procedures affect full-time members of the academic staff, they must specifically provide for tenure. This is a strong legislative commitment to the principle of academic tenure. As with the Act’s comcomitant protection of academic freedom, there are very few similar general legislative provisions elsewhere. In this respect at least, Irish legislation is particularly progressive, and – as Prof Jim McKernan, formerly of UCD and UL, and now of the College of Education in East Carolina University, has recently argued on Ninth Level Ireland – these freedoms must be jealously guarded and zealously protected:

Academic Freedom and Tenure: Necessary Rights for Irish Academics

Academic freedom is the right of the faculty member to select one’s materials, methods, pedagogy and points of view in teaching one’s discipline. … Academic freedom is an absolute necessity for a democratic society. … Faculty need to be free of the constraints of censorship and interference in the conduct of their duties by the institution or other agents and agencies in the community.

… Faculty members, after a probationary period have a property right to their position and cannot be removed barring ‘just cause’. Tenure does not guarantee a post for life. When I was first appointed at UCD in 1981 there was one condition in my contract letter for removal-being guilty of ‘gross moral turpitude’. Irish academics had real tenure in those days. I do not know if new conditions for removal of tenured faculty have been introduced. … Tenure really means that one ‘owns their position’ and the right to return to that position year after year after the probationary period. … Tenure secures a working community of scholars based on accepted academic values and aims, and it guarantees that a person cannot be dismissed from that community without due process and without consideration based on well established objective academic criteria. As it turns out, the truth is not always popular, especially within circles of power and wealth. Remove the system of tenure and we shall witness a ‘Flight of the Dons’. …

The answer to Jim’s question in bold about the current state of tenure in Irish universities is in three parts. (more…)

Rethinking Law – Law Student Colloquium at TCD

Greek Symposium image.Are you a Law student, undergraduate or postgraduate? Would you like to present a short paper or give a presentation on a legal topic of your choice at a colloquium in Trinity College Dublin? If so, then the third annual Law Student Colloquium is for you. Kindly sponsored by Allen & Overy, it will take place in the Graduates’ Memorial Building, TCD (map) and the Law School, TCD (map), on Saturday 19 February 2011. Posts about the previous colloquia are here.

This conference brings together law students from Ireland and abroad to present papers on a wide variety of legal topics. The ethos of the Colloquium is one of re-thinking law. Papers which demonstrate originality, engage with current developments and challenge existing understandings of distinct legal issues are especially welcome.

Law students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, as well as researchers and recent graduates from all institutions, are invited to attend and participate. The Colloquium will consist of several panels on thematic areas of law with individual presentations of approximately fifteen minutes duration. An expert in the relevant area of law will chair each panel. There is some excellent advice here about the art of the conference paper; the article was written for US graduate students but it contains much that will be very helpful indeed for anyone interested in participating in the Colloquium. It will provide an excellent opportunity to explore current and future developments in law, to obtain feedback on your ideas and research, as well to experience presenting and participating at a law conference. There will be prizes for the best undergraduate presentations.

To submit an application to present a paper at the Colloquium, please use the online submission form before 3 December 2010 at 5pm. For answers to queries regarding submissions, please consult the FAQs, or email the Colloquium Committee. Finally, there are detailed regulations here (pdf).

It’s going to be interesting and lot of fun, honest! (And there’s a wine reception at the end). So, what are you waiting for? Fill in that form or send that email now! Indeed, it’s so much fun that even if you are not presenting a paper, you should turn up anyway and enjoy the papers and the fun. Attendance is free, but registration via email will be required.

Futher points of law

Central Applications Office animated logo, via their site

The CAO needs no introduction to the present generation of school-leavers or their parents. Since 1976 it has enabled our institutions of third-level learning to reconcile annually the choices of the hopefuls — more than 60,000 last year — seeking to embark on a chosen career path.

This is how Fennelly J began his judgment for the Supreme Court in Central Applications Office v Minister for Community Rural and Galeltacht Affairs [2010] IESC 32 (13 May 2010). The Court granted a declaration that respondent Minister did not have the power under the Official Languages Act, 2003 (also here) to designate the applicant as a public body subject to obligations imposed by the Act concerning the conduct of its affairs in both official languages. The CAO today publishes its second round of offers of third level places for the forthcoming academic year, and in the inauspicious technical landscape of a Supreme Court appeal, Fennelly J provided an excellent primer on the operations of the Central Applications Office (the CAO; logo, above left):

is a company limited by guarantee and is a non-profit body. It was formed in 1976 and is based in Galway. … The State has no responsibility for its operation. The members of the CAO are the third-level institutions which it serves. Prior to the establishment of the CAO in 1976, there was no centralised system for processing applications from students seeking admission to third level. … The universities … decided to form a single body to process applications. The CAO now has 44 participant Higher Education Institutions …

The process by which the CAO matches applications (from students) and offers (from institutions) is as follows. Each student makes a single application to the CAO early in the year. The student specifies, in order of preference, the preferred colleges and courses of study. Each institution decides on the number of places it will offer in each category and informs the CAO. The CAO relates the student’s application with [that student’s] Leaving Certificate results. It then makes an offer to the student on a form described as “offer notice” which specifies the course being offered and the institution offering it. It invites the student to return a part of the form specifying acceptance. …

This is a far more elegant explanation than the one I essayed in an earlier post, in which I went on to explain that grades of the last-admitted candidate to a course can be regarded as the cut-off for qualification for entry to that course, and that these grades can be expressed as a function of points in a range from 0 to 600. In that earlier post, I set out the points levels for entry into various law courses on the basis of the CAO’s first round of offers.

Each year, not all of the CAO’s offers are accepted, with the result that some courses have vacancies. The third level institutions notify the CAO of the vacancies, and it issues a further round of offers. Where the points of the last-admitted candidate on this round are lower than those of the last-admitted candidate in the first round, the CAO also publishes the revised points cut-off. This year, the second round of offers of places was made today, and the points requirements for some law courses were revised accordingly. (Of course, some of these offers will not be accepted, and the third level institutions and the CAO will continue to make further offers as necessary to fill their courses).

In the table below (after the jump), I set out the final points requirements for law degrees in the various third level institutions. The first number, in bold font, is the final points requirement. Where the points were revised in round 2, the points for round 1 are then set out in regular font, prefaced by “R1:”. Finally, for the sake of completeness, where the course was offered last year, the final points for 2009 are set out in italics in parentheses. (more…)

Making the point

Central Applications Office animated logo, via their siteMany things about Ireland bemuse visitors to our shores. Two of the most difficult to explain are our electoral system and the programme by which third level places are allocated. I’ll leave the former to other election anoraks for the time being, but the latter is much in the news this week, so I’ll try to give a simple account of how it works.

The Central Applications Office (logo, above left) processes all applications to first year undergraduate courses in the country’s various third level institutions. In early summer, students at the end of their secondary (high) school careers sit a state examination, and the results are published in early August. During the course of that final year, most of the students will have filled in a list of their preferred third level courses and returned it to the CAO. In mid-August, the CAO assign university places to students based on their exam results.

Allocation of places is simply a function of demand and supply. A third level institution will inform the CAO of the number of places in a given course, and the CAO’s computer will allot places on the course to the highest qualified applicants who had applied for that course. The grades of the last-admitted candidate can be regarded as the cut-off for qualification for entry to that course.

In the final state exam, each letter grade is assigned a level of points (eg, an A1 is worth 100 points, a C3 is worth 60 points, etc). The CAO takes each candidate’s best 6 grades to calculate the points total of each candidate (eg, a candidate who got six A1s is will have 600 points, a candidate who got six C3s will have 360 points, etc). Hence, the grades of the last-admitted candidate on a course can be represented in terms of these points, and the entry requirement for any given third-level course in any given year can be represented in terms of points.

Scaled up across every applicant for every third-level course, it is clear that the CAO system is a significant undertaking. This year, the first round of offers of places in third level institutions was made yesterday, and the cut-off points levels for their various law degree offerings are below the jump. (Update: I’ve blogged about the second round final points here). (more…)

Conference: Recent developments in Irish Defamation Law

TCD front square, via TCD websiteNext week, the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, will host a conference on

Recent Developments in Irish Defamation Law – Including the Defamation Act, 2009

It will be on from 9:30am to 1:15pm on Saturday, 28 November 2009, in the Davis Theatre, Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin.

As regular readers of this blog will know, Irish Defamation law has undergone a number of radical changes in the last twelve months including, most notably, the changes which are to be wrought by the newly enacted Defamation Act, 2009 (pdf). These changes will significantly influence the way in which defamation cases are to be managed and may, potentially, represent a shift in the traditional balance between plaintiffs and defendants in defamation cases. The conference will consider the nature of such changes. Here’s the provisional programme:

  09:00   Registration

  09:30   Paul O’Higgins, SC  The Defamation Act from the Plaintiff’s Perspective
  09:55   Eoin McCullough, SC  The Defamation Act from the Defendant’s
Perspective      
  10:20   Paula Mullooly  The Defamation Act from the Solicitor’s Perspective
  10:45   Questions and Discussion

  11:00   Tea/Coffee Break

  11:15   Brendan Kirwan BL  Injunctive Relief and Remedies
  11:40   Ray Ryan BL  Key Points of Practice and Procedure in Defamation
  12:05   Dr Eoin Carolan BL  Alternative Causes of Action
  12:30   Dr Eoin O’Dell The Defamation Act: The Constitutional Dimension
  12:55   Questions and Discussion

  13:15   Conference Ends

  14:30   Ireland v South Africa    (Croke Park)

For more information or to make a reservation, please phone ((01) 896 2367), fax ((01) 677 0449), email, or visit the website.

Other forthcoming events in the Law School are listed here; other forthcoming Law events in Ireland are listed here by Darius.