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Lord Chief Justice of Ireland

The Four Courts
The headquarters of the Irish judicial system since 1804. The Court of Common Pleas was one of the four courts that sat there.

The Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was the senior Irish judge under English and British rule. The Annals of the Four Masters dates the appointment of a John, Bishop of Norwich, as Lord Justice over Ireland to 1208. The office under its full title was created during the Lordship of Ireland (1171-1536) and continued in existence under the Kingdom of Ireland (1536-1800) and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Previously the presiding judge on the King's Bench of Common Pleas the Lord Chief Justice from the mid 1870s, when the courts system was restructured, presided over the High Court, the most senior of the Irish courts, which met in the Four Courts in Dublin.

With the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 the new government under W.T. Cosgrave set about restructuring the Irish judicial system. The two highest ranking judicial postings, Lord Chancellor of Ireland and Lord Chief Justice were abolished, in 1922 and 1924 respectively. The Courts of Justice Act, 1924 created a new courts system, with a Supreme Court as the highest court. The president of the Supreme Court received the title Chief Justice.

Thomas Lefroy, later Lord Chief Justice of Ireland (LCJ 1852-1866), was used by Jane Austen as the model for her Pride and Prejudice character Mr. D'Arcy. Lefroy and Austen had had a romance in their youths. Other prominent Lord Chief Justices of Ireland include Lord Whiteside (LCJ 1866-1876), who as a Queen's Counsel had defended Irish nationalist leader Daniel O'Connell in court, Gearoid Iarla Fitzgerald, (the Third Earl of Desmond), Hugh de Lacy, Richard Tuite, John Dougherty and Thomas Marley, James Ley and Peter O'Brien. James Henry Mussen Campbell, 1st Baron Glenavy (LCJ 1916-1918, later Chairman of Seanad Éireann and father of the satirist Patrick Campbell). One Lord Chief Justice, Lord Kilwarden, was killed by a crowd during Robert Emmet's 1803 rebellion. The final Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was Thomas F. Moloney.

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Additional reading

Daire Hogan, R.R. Cherry, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, 1914-16