On this day (hat tip: ScotusBlog) in 1819, Chief Justice Marshall (left) delivered the decision of the US Supreme Court in McCulloch v Maryland 17 US (4 Wheat) 316 (1819) (findlaw | Landmark Cases | wikipedia), holding that the US Federal Government had the power to establish the Bank of the United States, and in the process laying down some fundamental constitutional doctrine which underpins many of the world’s constitutions today – not only the US, but the Irish as well. In particular, he asserted that
… we must never forget that it is a constitution we are expounding (17 US (4 Wheat) 316, 407 (1819) (Marshall CJ) emphasis in original).
A recent conscious Irish echo of this dictum is to be found in the judgment of Barrington J in Irish Times v Ireland  1 IR 359,  2 ILRM 161 (2 April 1998) (doc | pdf) , where he asserted that
… it is important to remember that we are construing, not a revenue statute, but a constitution.
The trope that a constitution is not to be interpreted as a revenue statute is a common one. For example, in National Union of Railywaymen v Sullivan  IR 77 (HC) 88 Gavan Duffy J held that a Constitution is “emphatically not to be parsed as if it were an Income Tax Act”; whilst in AG v Paperlink  ILRM 373, 385;  IEHC 1  Costello J said that the Constitution is “a political instrument as well as a legal document and in its interpretation the courts should not place the same significance on differences of language used in two succeeding sub-paragraphs as would, for example be placed on differently drafted sub-sections of a Finance Act” (see also Murray v Ireland  IR 532 (SC) 539 (Costello J)).…