Early Irish Law

Early Irish law comprised the statutes that governed everyday life and politics in Early Medieval Ireland. They were partially eclipsed by the Norman invasion of 1169, but underwent a resurgence in the 13th century, and survived into Early Modern Ireland in parallel with English law over the majority of the island until the 17th century. "Early Irish Law" was often, although not universally, referred to within the law texts as "Fenechas", the law of the Feni, or the freemen of Gaelic Ireland mixed with Christian influence and juristic innovation. These secular laws existed in parallel, and occasionally in conflict, with canon law throughout the early Christian period.

The laws were a civil rather than a criminal code, concerned with the payment of compensation for harm done and the regulation of property, inheritance and contracts; the concept of state-administered punishment for crime was foreign to Ireland's early jurists. They show Ireland in the early medieval period to have been a hierarchical society, taking great care to define social status, and the rights and duties that went with it, according to property, and the relationships between lords and their clients and serfs.

The secular legal texts of Ireland were edited by D.A. Binchy in his six-volume Corpus Iuris Hibernici. The oldest surviving law tracts date to the 8th century.

Read more about Early Irish LawOrigins, Legal Procedure, Relationship To The Church and Church Law, Legal Texts, Decline of The Brehon Laws, Fictional References and Ulster Cycle of Legends

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D. A. Binchy
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