A New Legal Approach to Reducing Social Exclusion

Author:Paul O'Connell and Deirdre Malone
Position:Junior Sophister Law, Trinity College, Dublin/Senior Sophister Law, Trinity College, Dublin
Pages:5-17
A
NEW
LEGAL
APPROACH
TO
REDUCING
SOCIAL
EXCLUSION
PAUL
O'CONNELL*
AND
DEIRDRE
MALONE**
The
recent decision
of
the
Supreme
Court
in
T.D.
v.
The
Minister
for
Education'
has
been
received with
dismay
by
public
interest
lawyers
throughout
Ireland.
It
seemed
the
first
attempts
at
judicial
activism
in
the
public interest
sphere
had
been
sabotaged
almost
before
they
had
properly
begun.
This article
outlines
the
desirability
of
the
reduction
of
social
exclusion
and
provides
a
blueprint
of
how
the
reduction
of
social
exclusion
is
possible
in
a
practical sense,
even
in
the
wake
of
the
T.D.
case.
The
article
notes
what
has
already been
achieved
through
the legal
struggle
to
realise
social
inclusion,
but
primarily
concentrates
on
the
practical
and
psychological
changes
that
are
now
required
to
radically
transform
both
the
infrastructure
and
the
ethos
of
our
present
legal
system.
At
this
moment
in
Irish
legal
history,
the
Public
Interest
Lawyer
stands
at
a
crossroads.
The
recent T.D.
decision
casts
a
gloomy
shadow
and
the
present
attitude
of
the
Supreme
Court
seems
an
insurmountable
obstacle
in
the
legal
effort
to
effect
social
change.
Yet,
a
brief
glance
at
the
history
of
public
interest
litigation
in
Ireland
reminds
us
that
a
certain
measure
of
change
has
in
the
past
been
effected through
the
use
of
the
courts.
We
are
faced with
a
choice.
We can
resign
ourselves
to the
conservatism
and
apparent omnipotence
of
the
present
Supreme
Court
or
we
can
use
this
disappointing decision
as
a
stirring
motivation,
an
ideal
opportunity
to
take
an
entirely
new
approach
to
the issue.
The
Lawyer
To
begin
with,
public
interest
lawyers
find themselves
in
an
unenviable
and
seemingly
contradictory
position. Poverty
is
a
social
reality
in
Ireland
today and
notwithstanding
the
economic
boom
which
the
country
has
recently enjoyed,
this
reality becomes
more
extreme
and
pronounced
by
Junior Sophister
Law,
Trinity College, Dublin.
Senior
Sophister
Law,
Trinity
College, Dublin.
T.D.
v.
Minister
for
Education
[2001]
4
IR
259.
(Hereinafter
T.D.)
© Paul
O'Connell
and
Deirdre
Malone
and
Dublin University
Law
Society

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