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Law Research Centre

Research and Practice

Research Overview

The work of the Socio-Legal Research Centre interrogates the impact that law has on society and how society can impact upon the evolution of law. It is the symbiotic relationship of society and law and the synergies and creative capacity at moments of collision between them that drives our research. As such, our research moves beyond doctrinal analysis to engage the lived experiences of people subject to the law and to analyse the development of the law in its political, social and economic contexts. As scholars we work in a variety of distinct subject areas linked by five core themes: Social Justice; Human Rights; Ethics; Constitutionalism and Governance and Regulation

Our approach to our work is unique in Ireland. As a collective of scholars our focus is not primarily black letter legal analysis. Rather, our work is prompted from a holistic perspective and seeks to excavate below the surface of the law to uncover the policies and influences on, and of, law. We are intrigued by the impact that the transformation of law from theory to practice creates in society and by the legal reform that can result from the societal response to that impact. The methodologies we employ in our work include:

  • Policy development and intervention
  • Socio-legal and broader theoretical critique
  • Interdisciplinary research
  • Comparative and international work
  • Evidence-based research. 
Social Justice

 

Under this theme, members of the Centre interrogate the relationship between individuals, society and the State. Our understanding of social justice is broad and includes, but is not limited to, a consideration of the role of law in promoting social justice.

Adam’s research examines the extent to which law caters for vulnerable members of society.

Aisling’s work considers the societal and public policy considerations presented as genetic science and technological innovation advances and becomes more accessible in medical and non- medical contexts, as well as in society.

Brenda’s work considers issues around access to justice in the context of health/medical law, and in particular examines the effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to determine accountability in a clinical negligence setting.

James considers the interaction of law with systemic, widespread and historical violations of human rights. James’ work examines the potential and risks in the use of law to respond to legacies of human rights abuse from the perspective of victims/survivors.

Roderic looks at how concepts of social justice have been treated within European Union law, particularly when it comes to the provision of social and economic services by the Member States and in the context of the response to the Financial Crisis.

Tanya considers how the law defines certain bodies, or uses of bodies, as legally acceptable.  A corollary of such a determination is the identification of unacceptable bodies, or unacceptable uses of the body. Tanya’s work interrogates whether this corollary enables discrimination and inequality that is tacitly supported by law.

Tom’s research is informed by republican insights on the nature and experience of domination, or vulnerability to arbitrary power. It considers the patronage model in Irish schooling, for example, and the social domination engendered by a system in which freedom to discriminate on the basis of religion, where understood as a necessity for the free practice religion, is prioritized over freedom from discrimination based on religion.

Vicky pays attention to the lived experience of individual interactions with the criminal justice system, particular as regards the use of police powers. She interrogates the imbalance of power in those interactions, injustices which occur and remedies available for those.

Yvonne focuses on the power dynamics at play within the pre-trial criminal process, analysing the shifting recognition of and support for police powers and suspect rights, and the extent to which the legislature and the courts provide for same. 

 Human Rights

The members of the SLRC adopt an expansive approach to research in and the understanding of human rights.

Adam’s research examines the role of human rights in medical law, the rights of the child and the rights of human trafficking victims.

Aisling’s research examines the human rights concerns arising with contemporary medical law, health law and genetics law. Her research specifically considers the human rights implications of advancing genetic science and new technologies, with a focus on issues such as genetic discrimination, genetic privacy and data protection. She also considers the human rights concerns presented at the intersection of disability and genetics.

Brenda researches in the areas of healthcare law, law and dispute resolution (arbitration and mediation), and employment law. Brenda’s research includes consideration of patients’ rights in medical law, in particular women’s right to health and their right to access reproductive health care services.

James’s research addresses the application of human rights to post-conflict and post-authoritarian states through transitional justice and to historical forms of abuse and injustice, by addressing child sex abuse and historical institutional abuse.

Roderic looks at second and third generation human rights such as social, economic and environmental rights, along with the protection of fundamental rights with the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Stephen’s research focuses on the development of human rights in the European Union from a constitutional perspective. He is particularly interested the developing human rights jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice in criminal law and in immigration and asylum matters and the relationship between citizenship and human rights in the context of the EU.

Tanya researches how human rights are engaged in the context of bodies and the law, medical and health law, and gender and sexuality.

Tom’s research considers institutional and theoretical questions relating to rights: how they might best be vindicated through concrete political mechanisms; how they might be understood in theoretical terms and how that might inform how they are best interpreted in concrete contexts; how different categories of rights might be compared and balanced against competing public interests.

Vicky’s research primarily relates to policing and police accountability, with a particular emphasis on how social change alters the nature of policing. She is also interested in miscarriages of justice and remedies for such injustices. Her research also examines the human rights of women, especially as regards abortion rights.

Yvonne’s research considers the human rights implications of criminal justice procedure, and evidence. She is particularly interested in the pre-trial rights to silence and to legal advice, along with the inviolability of the dwelling and related exclusionary rules of evidence. 

  Ethics

  

Under this heading, members of the Centre consider a broad range of ethical issues arising in the socio- legal sphere. In conjunction with the focus on social justice and human rights, the Centre engages emerging ethical considerations, as well as challenges to ethical action in various facets of society. On exploring the understanding between human behaviour, decision- making and moral values, our approach examines key ethical issues in the sciences, in professional settings and in the field of public law. There is a particular focus on bioethics, and the ethical concerns arising with emerging genetic science, medicine and new technologies.

Adam’s research examines the interplay between medical law, medical ethics and human rights.

Aisling’s research considers the ethical issues arising at the forefront of genetics, medicine and new technologies. She also looks at the ethical issues presented in the field of disability, as genetic science and new technologies (such as genetic testing and gene editing techniques) advance.

Brenda’s research includes consideration of the ethical issues arising in the context of health/medical law.

James’ work considers the ability of international organisations, States and non-governmental actors to ethically and effectively engage with post-conflict and transitional societies and individuals and historically vulnerable groups in consolidated democracies.

Tanya’s research examines the ethical considerations that arise in the context of medical and or surgical intervention on the body. 

 Constitutionalism 

 Under this theme, members of the Centre consider questions relating to how public power is distributed, exercised and controlled, at both national and supra-national levels. We understand constitutionalism as intimately bound up with ideas of freedom, the rule of law, and democracy. Our work engages broader theoretical and institutional questions, but also explores specific and concrete matters, in areas ranging from asylum and immigration to environmentalism and civil liberties.

Roderic examines comparative constitutional trends, with a particular interest in how environmental rights and social rights are protected across national constitutions

Stephen’s work addresses constitutionalism in the context of the European Union. In particular his research seeks to uncover how developments in substantive areas of Union law reflect broader constitutional developments. He also works in the field of economic and monetary governance and its impact on national constitutions and the rule of law more generally.

Tom’s research examines the role of judges in constitutional democracies, specifically in respect of the nature and extent of their power in respect of constitutional review. He draws on broader insights in political theory, mainly in neo-republican idealism. 

Yvonne’s research examines the recognition, definition and protection of important constitutional rights which operate in the pre-trial criminal process, such as the right to silence and the right to legal advice. She is interested not only in the substance of the rights themselves, but in the manner in which their ambit comes to be defined and the interplay between the legislature and the judiciary in that context. Her research is also concerned with the consequences of police breach of constitutional rights, and with the consequences of judicial declarations of unconstitutionality in the criminal justice context.  

 Governance and Regulation

  Under this theme, members of the Centre interrogate the manner in which law is used as a tool to govern and regulate practice across a diverse range of areas. We are interested both in the large theoretical question of how and why governance and regulation is constructed but also in more specific example of how governance and regulation can impact (or limit) freedom in a range of issues.

Aisling’s research focuses on the law, policy and regulatory issues arising in medical and health law. On examining these issues, she focuses particularly on genetics, law and policy at national and European level.

James’ work considers the ability of law, especially international law, to govern and regulate the transition from conflict to peace or authoritarian rule to democracy.

Roderic focuses on regulatory issues within EU Environmental and Internal Market law, with a particular focus on habitats legislation and animal welfare law.

Tanya’s research examines how law is used as a tool for the regulation of acceptable identity and ways within which bodies can be used.

Vicky’s work analyses the ways in which both members of police services, and the organisations as a whole, are governed and regulated in the use of their expansive powers. In her work on abortion, she also examines how the law is used to regulate women’s bodies and behaviours.

Yvonne’s work on the pre-trial criminal process focuses on the manner in which the legislature and the judiciary create the parameters of lawful police/suspect interaction, and the ability of the courts to review such action where there has been a breach of rights.