George Gavan Duffy (1882-1951)

Life

[var. Gavin-Duffy]; b. Cheshire, son of Charles Gavan Duffy by his third wife, Louise [née Hall], with 3 siblings incl. Louise (yngr.), and 13 half brothers and sisters; ed. France and Stonyhurst; practiced law successfully as solicitor in London, 1907-1916; m. Margaret Sullivan, 1907, with whom a son and daughter; volunteered to arrange defence of Roger Casement; called to Irish bar, 1917; took S. County Dublin for Sinn Féin in 1918 Election; unofficial Irish delegate to Paris Peace Conference with Sean T. O’Kelly [Ó Ceallaigh];
 
expelled from France through English intervention; unofficial Irish envoy in Rome, 1920; read out the French translation of the “Declaration of Independence” (viz., 1916 Proclamation) in Dáil Eireann, 1921; participated in Irish delegation to Treaty negotiations in London, 1921, and reluctantly voted for acceptance of the terms in Dail Eireann, 1922; served as Min. of Foreign Affairs, 1922; unsuccessfully proposed that Republican prisoners should be treated as prisoners of war, 27 Sept. 1922, and resigned ministry, to be succeeded by Desmond Fitzgerald;
 
resumed legal practice; attacked policy of reprisal execution, esp. the shooting of Erksine Childers; briefly involved in National Reconstruction Alliance with Col. Maurice Moore et al.; failed to be elected as independent for S. Co. Dublin, 1923; appt. High Court Judge, 1929; Senior Counsel, 1930; shaped article on fundamental rights in Irish Constitution of 1936; made President of the High Court, 1946; adjudicated mixed-marriage Tilson Case of 1951 in favour of the Catholic appellant; established practise of judicial review in Ireland; d. 10 June, Bushy Park Road, Terenure; his papers are held in the UCD Archive. DIB DIH

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Criticism
Patrick Keatinge, ‘The Formative Years of the Irish Diplomatic Service’, in Éire-Ireland, 6, 3 (Autumn 1971), pp.57-71; G. M. Golding, George Gavan Duffy 1882-1951, A Legal Biography (Blackrock Dublin 1982).

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Reference
Univ. College, Dublin (Library): papers held there incl. Correspondence and memoranda relating to the Roger Casement Trial (1916) where he acted as barrister for Casement; and to his tenure as Senior Counsel at the Inner Bar (1930–36); Judge of the High Court (1936–51); and President of the High Court (1946–51). Correspondence and memoranda relating to his political career commencing with his nomination as Sinn Féin candidate for South County Dublin (1918), his tenure as envoy extraordinary representing Ireland in Paris, Rome and other European capitals (1919–21); his role in the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations and ensuing debates (1921–22); his role in drafting the Constitution of the Irish Free State (1922); his tenure as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Second Dáil Éireann (1922); his resignation from the Dáil and its consequences (1922); and his unsuccessful stance as an Independent candidate in South County Dublin in the general election (1923). Semi-official and personal correspondence (1922–39); printed material including contemporary ephemera and propaganda (1916–22); transcripts of speeches and particularly of a voice recording from the Bureau of Military History (1951); drawings photographs and reproductions. See UCD Archive: Collections [link].

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Commentary
Basil Chubb, The Politics of the Irish Constitution (1991), ‘Following him [Chief Justice Kennedy], Gavan Duffy, in a sustained effort to deny the validity of English precedents and to replace them with decisions based on Catholic principles, showed what potential there was for invoking natural law, establishing a set of Catholic rights and, generally, for Catholicising Irish law. In doing so, he made painfully clear what this might mean for the rights of Protestants. [...] basing his decision [in the case of a priest’s refusing to divulge information in a seduction case] not to follow British precedents explicitly on the ‘special position’ of the Catholic church in the Constitution, ‘In a state where nine out of every ten citizens today are Catholic and on a matter closely touching the religious outlook of the people, it would be intolerable that the common law, as expounded after the Reformation in a Protestant land, should be taken to bind a nation which persistently repudiated the Reformation as heresy [...] I hold the emergence of the national Constitution is a complete and conclusive answer to the objection that I have no judicial precedent in favour of the parish priest.’ (Cook v. Carroll, 1945, p.519). In the same spirit, he adjudged a pre-marital promise to bring up the children of a mixed marriage as Catholics, in accordance to the requirements of Ne Timere, as binding, contrary to common law precedent, in 1951. Chubb comments, In these cases as elsewhere, Judge Gavan Duffy was to a great extent a lone voice. [...] Gavan Duffy in particular is important rather because his judgements showed clearly where a thoroughly Catholic approach to the Constitution could have taken Irish law. [43-44]

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Notes
Declaration of Independence (i.e., 1916 Proclamation, 1916), being read in Dail Eireann on 21 Jan 1921, Eamonn Duggan gave it in English, George Gavan Duffy in French and Cathal Brugha in Irish. (Hilary Pyle, Estella Solomons, Portraits of Patriots, Allen Figgis 1966, Pref.)

Louise Gavan (1884-1969), his sister, taught at Scoil Ide, and served in the GPO in 1916; she founded Scoil Bhríde in St. Stephen’s Green, later at Oakley Rd.

Miss Gavin-Duffy: a Miss Gavin-Duffy owned a premisses identified by Anne Francis Cavanaugh as ‘the quiet of Miss Gavin-Duffy’s tea-room’ in ‘Remembering Mary’ (‘A Bouquet for Mary’, Irish Literary Supplement, Fall 1996, pp.4-5 [Maureen Murphy, et. al.]).

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