24 February 2020
The inaugural ‘Justice Week’ kicks off today, spearheaded by The Bar of Ireland, with the objective of raising awareness amongst those aged under-25s about the importance of the justice system, and how the law protects fundamental rights and freedoms.
Each day will have a distinct theme during Justice Week, which reflect many of the common challenges facing citizens and states across Europe and beyond:
Monday, 24 - Protecting Freedom
Tuesday, 25 - Fighting for Rights
Wednesday, 26 - Defending Democracy
Thursday, 27 - Saving the Planet
As part of the first Justice Week in Ireland, students, younger people and organisations working in the justice and NGO fields will take part in a series of activities including a debate between university law schools on Wednesday and a mock trial today involving the students of St. Audoen’s National School Dublin 7 investigating the ‘Case of the Missing Box of Chocolates’.
At the launch of ‘Justice Week’, the Hon Mr. Justice Frank Clarke, Chief Justice, said; “The themes of the Justice Week are at the forefront of the issues confronting us. Few can argue that climate change represents one of the great challenges of our time. But precisely how, and in what way, the law may have a role in meeting that challenge is a complex and difficult question. It is also one of particular relevance to the Supreme Court at the moment in that, as recently as last Thursday, I began the case management process which is intended to lead to a hearing of a most important climate change related case in the Supreme Court in the second half of June.
“The Irish judiciary has been active in emphasising the importance, internationally, of an independent judiciary as a protector of the rule of law. We all know that there have been challenges to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in other countries so that this remains a highly important contemporary question.
“I have often commented that public acceptance of, and confidence, in the justice system is fundamental to maintaining the rule of law which underpins a democratic society. But a knowledge and understanding of how that justice system works is essential to public acceptance. As I have also often said in the past, we, in the justice system, cannot complain about that system being misunderstood if we do not seek to explain it.
“Initiatives such as Justice Week are exactly what is needed to explain and thus increase understanding,” he said.
Micheál P O’Higgins SC, Chairman of the Council of The Bar of Ireland said; “Often the world of law can seem distant and convoluted to younger people but in reality, it shapes so many aspects of society and everyday life. Throughout Justice Week, we will be holding a series of events to raise the profile of justice and the rule of law, with a particular focus on enhancing young people’s understanding of the system and its importance in protecting our democracy and human rights. These themes are more acute now than ever before and young people are mobilised on so many of them. For those of us working in the justice system, there is an increasing obligation to communicate and engage with younger citizens in championing our justice system.”
Anita Finucane BL, Chair of the Young Bar Committee said; “The Bar of Ireland recognises the importance of young people learning about access to justice particularly when in recent years they have played a defining role in protecting principles of equal treatment before the law both at home and abroad. We’re really excited to be working with students from St. Audoen’s and the university law schools this week, the first Justice Week. We’ll also be running a series of video interviews on The Bar of Ireland’s Twitter handle and we’d like to encourage everyone to get involved in Justice Week and to learn more about the legal system, and how it protects us all on a daily basis.”
To mark the launch of Justice Week, the Council of The Bar of Ireland conducted a survey amongst the 100 Transition Year students from across the country who participated in its ‘Look into Law TY Programme’ earlier this month, to assess their understanding of and attitudes towards the Justice System. The findings of the survey revealed that students consider the law to be important in addressing the big challenges facing citizens and states, including climate change and protecting human rights and freedoms.
The survey found that 90% believed in the importance of an independent judiciary. 63% believed that the law is being used to protect the environment against climate change. 87% felt that the legal system can achieve real, positive change and 94% felt that the legal system protects our human rights and freedoms.