Northern Ireland

A Question of the Border – On This Day in 1924

Judges face questions over jurisdiction following the imposition of the border on areas they previously covered

A map produced during deliberations by the Boundary Commission showing religious breakdowns of areas in determining the border
A map produced during deliberations by the Boundary Commission showing religious breakdowns of areas in determining the border
July 11 1924

At Forkhill Petty Sessions on Tuesday, before Mr George McCrory, JP, and Mr Thomas Vyse, JP, an interesting point was raised on the magistrates’ jurisdiction to try a case of assault brought by a man named McCann against Edward Nugent, ex-JP, Charles Carlisle, and J Johnston.

The complainant resides at Carrickedmond, just on the other side of the border, and which formed part of Forkhill Petty Sessions district prior to the ratification of the Treaty, whilst the defendants reside in Shean, which is in Northern Ireland.

Mr JH Collins, who appeared for two of the defendants, raised the question of jurisdiction at the outset. He contended that as the alleged assault took place at Carrickedmond, the Bench had no power to try the case.

Their powers as joint justices for Armagh and Louth were modified by the Treaty, and they had no jurisdiction in the County Louth.

There was in law no name such as Ireland; that is to say, a part of it was Saorstat Eireann, and the remainder Northern Ireland.

The Free State had now Dominion status, the same as Canada, and their Worships had as much jurisdiction to try three men for an offence committed on the streets of Montreal as they had to try these defendants for an offence alleged to have been committed in the Free State.

Mr Goodlet Hamill, who appeared for the third defendant, supported Mr Collins’ contention, and said if their worships attempted jurisdiction they would be usurping the functions of the District of Justice.

The magistrates adjourned the case for the attendance of an RM [Resident Magistrate].

Similarly, in the Irish Free State, there was confusion over where people who resided in County Down in the north, who allegedly ran over a boy in a motor car in County Louth in the Free State, should be tried.
In 1925, at the Monaghan Circuit Court, the judge had to rule on the jurisdiction of a case involving a man who went to sleep with ‘his head in the Free State and his feet in Northern Ireland’.
Demonstrating the arbitrary nature in how the border was drawn up, judges on both sides of it had to convene over cases relating to the border and the confusion it caused, with very little precedence to work with.