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ACE2464 Constitutional Rights and the Law (online only)

Started 7 Feb 2024

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Full course description

Course Overview:

Each person has certain rights, these include the right to freedom of expression, the right to privacy, the right to dignity and the right to fair procedure. 

These constitutional rights are embedded in everything we do as individuals. Not only in how we interact with the State but also how we interact with each other. However, not everyone is aware of the underlying constitutional  basis for these rights. This short course seeks to uncover the legal and ethical basis for constitutional rights in Ireland while also identifying the everyday benefits that may arise from these rights. To further illustrate the global nature of constitutional rights the underlying constitutional frameworks in other jurisdictions will also be examined with particular focus on the United States.

This course will examine the historical context in which these rights have evolved over the years in line with wider societal developments. For example, important Irish constitutional cases such as the McGee v. Attorney General and Norris v. Attorney General will be discussed in a participatory forum. Constitutional cases from the United States will also be covered such as Roe v Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges.

Students who take this course should gain an insight into how constitutional rights develop and how these rights interact with - different fields such as education, housing, and access to justice. This course should also help individuals become more aware of the importance constitutional rights hold for others such as members of minority communities and other marginalized groups. For students that wish to better understand the legal and social challenges facing society then this course will help them in navigating these challenges via a constitutional focus.

Other courses may examine constitutional rights through a public policy or social studies prism, but this course provides students with an opportunity to understand the legal precepts underlying these rights in Ireland. Furthermore, this course aims to facilitate an open discussion about possible future constitutional rights and how these may impact on not just individuals but also wider society in both Ireland and further afield.

Course Practicalities:

This course will run for 6 weeks on Wednesdays from 7-9pm from 7th of February to 13th of March 2024 online over Microsoft Teams. 

Closing date for applications: Monday 29th of January 2024.

Course Content 

Week 1-Introduction to Constitutional Rights and the Law

The opening lecture will set out and identify what constitutional rights are and the importance of these rights in our everyday lives. How constitutional rights are formulated will also be examined including the historical context in which these rights arose. An overview of the areas tackled by this course will also be set out for students.

Week 2-Constitutional Rights in the Irish Constitution

The following week will examine the constitutional rights both enumerated and unenumerated protected by the Irish Constitution. Cases such as McGee v Attorney General and Norris v. Attorney General will be discussed to illustrate the evolving nature of social rights from an Irish perspective.

This lecture will also identify specific pieces of legislation which bridge the gap between constitutional provisions and the Irish State’s practical role in upholding constitutional rights. Students will be asked to consider whether they themselves are protected under these laws. Examples of the laws examined will include those addressing equality and educational rights.  

Week 3-Ethical basis for Constitutional Rights for individuals and minority groups

This lecture will focus on the different constitutional rights which apply to specific individuals and minority groups. The evolution of these rights will be examined and the challenges facing governments in respecting these rights due to resource limitations.

How the European Court of Human Rights interprets the European Convention of Human Rights is also covered in this lecture and the related tension this may cause between supranationally recognized rights and domestic based constitutional rights

Week 4-Comparative overview of Constitutional Rights in other jurisdictions

This lecture will focus on how constitutional rights are defined and protected in different jurisdictions. For example, socio-political issues such as access to abortion and same-sex marriage in the United States will be examined. Constitutional rights in other European countries will also be subject to discussion and how these rights may diverge from those in Ireland.

Week 5-Possible Future Constitutional Rights

With the emergence of artificial intelligence and with individuals increasingly living their lives online, new rights may need to be considered and recognised by the State. This lecture will address these challenges and the possible wider consequences that may arise from these developments.

 Students will be asked to consider how the development of social media and artificial intelligence may impact their own existing constitutional rights. For instance, the rise of social media may undermine constitutional rights such as the right to privacy.

Week 6-Climate Justice and Constitutional Rights

The final lecture will examine how existing constitutional rights may need to be re-interpretated to meet climate justice objectives. This may include the need to limit certain rights, but these limits may very well undermine the democratic mandates of governments both in Ireland and in other jurisdictions.

This lecture will also provide a summary of previous topics in the preceding five lectures and a discussion about the positive and negative aspects of constitutional referenda as a tool to protect certain rights. 


Course Lecturer:

Dr. Patrick O’Sullivan has a PhD in law, holds a BCL and LLM, and currently works as legal researcher in the Business Information Systems Department in UCC. He previously worked as a researcher in the Governance, Risk and Compliance Technology Centre, an Enterprise Ireland funded research centre. He also works as an external contributor to the International Compliance Association.

He has published papers in the field of human rights and Irish Constitutional rights and presented at several conferences examining the relationship between the Irish educational sector and the Irish Constitution. He has also examined the difficult balance governments need to strike between protecting society-wide interests and continuing to protect individual freedoms, such as freedom of expression during a pandemic.

Patrick has an interest in how constitutional rights may evolve in a new era of social media and how constitutional rights may be impacted by political developments. He plans to develop an online resource for law students that aims to highlight the key points from major constitutional cases both from Ireland and the United States.


Entry Requirements:

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement.

Contact Details for Further Information:


Please note our refund policy as follows:
100% refund  if student cancels before course commencement
100% refund if student's course is cancelled due to insufficient numbers. 
If the student cancels after the first week of the course - full refund minus €50 processing fee 
If the student cancels after the second week of the course - no refund