The Master of the Rolls in Ireland was a senior judicial office in the Irish Chancery under English and British rule, equivalent to the Master of the Rolls in the English Chancery. Originally called the Keeper of the Rolls, he was responsible for the safekeeping of the Chancery records such as close rolls and patent rolls. The office was created by letters patent in 1333, the first holder of the Mastership being Edmund de Grimsby. As the Irish bureaucracy expanded, the duties of the Master of the Rolls came to be performed by subordinates and the position became a sinecure which was awarded to political allies of the Dublin Castle administration. In the nineteenth century it became a senior judicial appointment, ranking second within the Chancery behind the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The post was abolished by the Courts of Justice Act 1924, passed by the Irish Free State established in 1922.
Until the sixteenth century the Master of the Rolls was always a clergyman. The office in its early centuries was closely associated with St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin: several Masters of the Rolls served as either Dean or Prebendary of the Cathedral. The office was originally an administrative rather than a judicial office, and not all of the early Masters were qualified lawyers. As late as the mid-sixteenth century the office was held by John Parker, a layman who had made a fortune from selling hats; nor was his successor, Henry Draycott, as far as is known, a lawyer. At that time, as the older title Keeper of the Rolls suggests, the Master's principal role was to have custody of the Chancery records.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the office of Master was notoriously a sinecure for absentee politicians. Some of the appointments have been described as "farcical". Richard Rigby is said never to have set foot in Ireland during the 30 years he held the office, and William FitzGerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster, who succeeded him, had no qualifications whatever for judicial office.
In the nineteenth century the office became a full-time judicial position: the Master acted as Deputy to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, with full powers to hear any lawsuit brought in the Court of Chancery. A number of gifted judges, including Sir Michael Smith, Edward Sullivan and Andrew Marshall Porter greatly enhanced the reputation of the office. Michael O'Loghlen was notable not only as a fine judge but as the first Roman Catholic appointed to the Bench since 1688. The office was offered to Daniel O'Connell, who admitted that it was the only office he truly wanted but who nonetheless refused it. Charles Andrew O'Connor, the last holder of the office, was sufficiently highly regarded to be appointed a judge of the new Supreme Court of the Irish Free State.
The 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State prescribed a new court system for the new State but allowed the existing system, based on the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877, to persist as a transitional measure.In 1923, Charles Andrew O'Connor as Master of the Rolls participated in the Judiciary Committee established by the Free State Executive Council which planned the Courts of Justice Act 1924. In this capacity he caused controversy by refusing to admit an affidavit written in Irish because he did not know the language. When the 1924 Act was passed, O'Connor became a judge of the new Supreme Court. The officers of the Chamber of the Master of the Rolls were transferred in 1926 to the Examiner's Office.
Office abolished 1924. II
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John O'Byrne was an Irish judge and barrister who served as a Judge of the Supreme Court, Judge of the High Court from 1926 to 1940 and Attorney General of Ireland from 1924 to 1926.
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Hugh Edward Kennedy KC was an Irish Fine Gael politician, barrister and judge who served as Chief Justice of Ireland from 1924 to 1936, a Judge of the Supreme Court from 1924 to 1936 and Attorney General of Ireland from 1922 to 1924. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South constituency from 1923 to 1927. As a member of the Irish Free State Constitution Commission, he was also one of the constitutional architects of the Irish Free State.
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The Courts of Justice Act 1924 was an Act of the Oireachtas that established a new system of courts for the Irish Free State. Among the new courts was the Supreme Court of the Irish Free State, and the first Chief Justice of the Irish Free State was also appointed under the Act.
The Court of Chancery was a court which exercised equitable jurisdiction in Ireland until its abolition as part of the reform of the court system in 1877. It was the court in which the Lord Chancellor of Ireland presided. Its final sitting place was at the Four Courts in Dublin.
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Charles Andrew O'Connor PC was an Irish judge, who served as the last Master of the Rolls in Ireland, and one of the first judges of the Supreme Court of Ireland. His judgement in a crucial habeas corpus case R. (Egan) v. Macready, is still influential.
The Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that brought about a major reorganisation of the superior courts in Ireland. It created a Supreme Court of Judicature, comprising the High Court of Justice in Ireland and the Court of Appeal in Ireland. It mirrored in Ireland the changes which the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873 had made in the courts of England and Wales.
The High Court of Justice in Ireland was the court created by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877 to replace the existing court structure in Ireland. It mirrored the reform of the courts of England and Wales five years earlier under the Judicature Acts. The Act created a Supreme Court of Judicature, consisting of a High Court of Justice and a Court of Appeal.
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