Ireland’s pub justice

Jennifer Lauren’s appearance in a Co. Tipperary pub on criminal charges has put international attention on the links between Ireland’s criminal justice system and its drinks industry.

The New York-based niece of billionaire fashion designer Ralph was appearing before a judge charged with being drunk and abusive on an airplane. The 41-year-old was flying from Barcelona to New York when the plane was diverted to land at Shannon, allegedly as a result of an air rage incident.

Jenny Lauren
Jennifer Lauren: left it late to organise her Gathering event.

The unexpected landing brought 200 passengers and crew into Shannon, although unfortunately the event happened six days too late for Ms. Lauren to be considered for a Special Merit award from The Gathering.

Lauren was accused of breaching the peace on the Delta Air Lines flight and charged with engaging in behaviour likely to cause annoyance to any person on board the aircraft, which is surely a test case Michael O’Leary and his scratch cards will have more than one eye on.

Having been held overnight, she was brought to court the following morning. Only this was no regular courtroom, this was in fact the Brian Boru pub in Ballina, Co. Tipperary. One can only speculate on her confusion upon being rushed by Gardaí into a pub, although given the nature of the charges it is likely that it was the last place she wanted to be brought that morning.

The pub in question is, of course, named after the ancient High King of Ireland, who was born in the town back in the 10th century. This is particularly fitting given Boru’s legacy of bringing law and order to the country. After all, his 12 year reign saw just one major war in north Dublin. That said, the location of Ballina’s courthouse would surely be prejudicial against any Danish visitors unfortunate enough to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The Brian Boru pub: now serving justice on tap.

It transpires, however, that the holding of court sittings in public houses is actually quite a common occurrence throughout the country. In the absence of a courthouse in every town and village, it seems the justice system relies on the one institution that can be relied upon to be found throughout the country. It’s as well Michael McDowell’s café culture never took off, otherwise the confusion between barristers and baristas may have proven too much.

The setting for Ireland’s latest courtroom drama caused a few raised eyebrows internationally. The BBC’s headline screamed “Jennifer Lauren air rage case heard in pub courthouse”, allowing you to just about hear the titters of the sub-editor. Their reportage of the case went on to note, “the pub was packed for the day’s court sittings, with the bar area cordoned off with wire mesh”, which will peek the interests of many a stag party in search of a cattle mart.

However, given recent efforts to re-establish – or, indeed, establish – our reputation as a serious country, it would be unfortunate if we were to gain a name for ourselves as the best small country in the world in which to be a thirsty solicitor. What would the markets think? Unless, of course, it’s the Market Bar, which would presumably welcome the additional revenue stream.

Some international observers will no doubt sneer at a country that hosts court sittings in buildings where children have to be off the premise by 9pm, but others may find it practical. Considering the close link between alcohol and crime in Ireland, our pub courts deserve a stout defence on the basis of efficiency alone.

US President Barack Obama enjoys a tour of Ireland’s District Courts

In any case, there is something comforting about living in a country where the courts have bouncers instead of bailiffs. And that’s not to mention the huge opportunities this initiative offers to struggling solicitors whose principle problem at university was never being able to pass the bar.

There are a lot of similarities between Irish court rooms and Irish pubs, of course. Most Irish pubs are held in camera, although these days it’s usually a series of selfies with your mate Brian who has just poured half a pint of Guinness down his Christmas jumper.

Pubs are also the places where most incidences of unscheduled debt are debated in Ireland, while many of the country’s trendier public houses hold their patrons in a permanent state of contempt. In addition, let’s face it, we’ve all felt a little corpis juris after a few too many from time to time.

Not that such a set-up with without its problems, of course. For a start, when the judge shouts “order, order”, it must spark absolute pandemonium from the public benches.

It’s also very problematic for the jury, who were once hung but are now absolutely hanging. In fairness to them, you would be too if you’d spent a week digesting the bourbon of proof.

One thought on “Ireland’s pub justice

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  1. Isn’t the deeper problem that the only places in many of our rustic towns and villages the pub is literally the only place you can have a court sitting. Forget about court houses, where are the community centers, theaters, gyms etc? We have the infrastructure we as a nation have invested in.


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