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Adrian Hardiman
Adrian Hardiman - 20090224.jpg
Judge of the Supreme Court
In office
7 February 2000 – 7 March 2016
Nominated by Government of Ireland
Appointed by Mary McAleese
Personal details
Born (1951-05-21)21 May 1951
Coolock, Dublin, Ireland
Died 7 March 2016(2016-03-07) (aged 64)
Portobello, Dublin, Ireland
(m. 1981⁠–⁠2016)
Children 3
Education Belvedere College
Alma mater

Adrian Hardiman (21 May 1951 – 7 March 2016) was an Irish judge who served as a Judge of the Supreme Court from 2000 to 2016.

Early life and education

Adrian Hardiman was born on 21 May 1951, in Coolock, Dublin. His father was a teacher and President of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).

He was educated at Belvedere College, Dublin, and University College Dublin, where he studied history, and the King's Inns. He was president of the Student Representative Council at UCD and Auditor of the Literary and Historical Society (UCD) and won The Irish Times National Debating Championship in 1973.


Hardiman was married to Judge Yvonne Murphy, from County Donegal, a judge of the Circuit Court between 1998 and 2012. She has been chair of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby homes.

Justice Hardiman and Judge Murphy had three sons, one of whom, Eoin, is a barrister and has been a member of the Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee; Hugh, who was a personal assistant to Michael McDowell, when McDowell was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; and Daniel, a Doctor.

Political career

While involved with Fine Gael, he subsequently joined Fianna Fáil while a student in University College Dublin, and stood (unsuccessfully) for Fianna Fáil in the local elections in Dún Laoghaire in 1985. In 1985, he became a founder member of the Progressive Democrats, but left the party when he was appointed to the Supreme Court. He remained very friendly with the former party leader and ex-Tánaiste, Michael McDowell, who was a close friend at college, a fellow founding member of the party, and best man at his wedding.

Legal career

Hardiman was called to the Irish Bar in 1974, where he had a successful practice as a barrister, focusing on criminal law and defamation. In 2000, he received the rare honour of being appointed directly from the Bar to the Supreme Court, Ireland's highest court.

In a tribute following his death in 2016, President Michael D. Higgins said Justice Hardiman "was one of the great legal minds of his generation", who was "always committed to the ideals of public service". He was described as a "colossus of the legal world" by Chief Justice Susan Denham.

One commentator wrote that "Hardiman’s greatest contribution ...was the steadfast defence of civil liberties and individual rights" and that "He was a champion of defendants' rights and a bulwark against any attempt by the Garda Síochána to abuse its powers".

After his death, Hardiman was described by Joan Burton as a liberal on social issues. But he could be an outspoken opponent of political correctness and a supporter of judicial restraint, such as when he rejected the Equality Authority's attempt to force Portmarnock Golf Club to accept women as full members. He also believed that certain decisions, such as those involving public spending, were better left to elected politicians rather than unelected judges, regardless of how unpopular that might sometimes be in the media (which he tended to hold in low esteem) and among what he described as the "chattering classes".

One commentator wrote that "Hardiman’s greatest contribution ...was the steadfast defence of civil liberties and individual rights" and that "He was a champion of defendants' rights and a bulwark against any attempt by the Garda Síochána to abuse its powers".

Key judgments

Hardiman wrote a number of important judgments since joining the Court. He also presided (as does each Supreme Court judge on a rotating basis) over the Court of Criminal Appeal. The following is a selection of judgments delivered by Justice Hardiman, in reverse chronological order:

  • O'Callaghan -v- Judge Mahon: dissent; holding that Tribunal of Inquiry should be prevented from further inquiring into the applicants; cites R -v- Lynch (1829) – the Doneraile Conspiracy case – in which by skilful cross-examination Daniel O'Connell secured acquittals on capital charges; concluded that the contrary approach "would represent a very marked coarsening of our standards of procedural fairness."
  • Shortt -v- The Commissioner of An Garda Síochána: one of two judgments, in which the Court more than doubled (€1.9m to €4.7m) the damages granted to a man wrongfully imprisoned for over two years after two members of the Garda Síochána concocted evidence against him
  • P.H. -v- D.P.P.
  • D.P.P. -v- Anthony Barnes: discusses and restates the criminal law of self-defence in the case of burglary
  • McK. -v- Homan
  • N -v- Health Service Executive: one of five judgments given by the Court; this case concerned the circumstances in which a parent may exercise the right provided for in Irish law to rescind initial consent to adoption.
  • A. -v- The Governor of Arbour Hill Prison: one of five judgments; the case concerned a "collateral" challenge by a prisoner to the lawfulness of his detention following the judgment in C.C. -v- Ireland (see immediately below).
  • O'Callaghan -v- The Hon. Mr. Justice Mahon
  • Gough -v- Neary
  • Lobe -v- Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform: one of seven judgments in a case concerning whether the State could deport the parents of Irish citizens who were still minors; the Court by a majority (5–2) dismissed the appeal and allowed the deportation of the family.
  • Dunne -v- D.P.P.: one of a series of cases, beginning with Braddish v D.P.P., in which the Court considered the contours of the Garda Síochána's duty to seek out and preserve evidence relevant to a criminal trial.


Hardiman died on 7 March 2016 at the age of 64. The eulogy at his funeral, which took place in the Church of the Holy Name in Ranelagh, was delivered by Michael McDowell. He said: "The fates have robbed us of someone who simultaneously excelled in his many different personae as husband, father, grandfather, an original thinker, an advocate and, for so many who are here, simply that of a loyal friend."

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, US Ambassador Kevin O'Malley and Chief Justice Ms Justice Susan Denham all paid their respects. Ex-TDs Lucinda Creighton, Mary Harney, Des O'Malley and Pat Rabbitte were also among those who signed a book of condolence, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny represented by his aide-de-camp.

Upon his death, his colleague Justices of the Supreme Court released an extensive statement acknowledging Hardiman's contributions to the court system and to the country.

See also

  • Auditors of the Literary and Historical Society (University College Dublin)
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