Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search

Contraception and the Constitution: Reproductive Autonomy and Constitutional Change after McGee

Conference hosted by the Trinity Centre for Constitutional Governance (TriCON) and ICON-SGBIE


2 December 2023

Venue: The Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin

It is now 50 years since the decision of McGee v Attorney General which led to a significant shift in Irish societal attitudes towards reproductive rights and led the way for subsequent legislative changes. Trinity College Dublin's TriCON (Trinity Centre for Constitutional Governance) and ICON-S GBIE will host a one-day conference to discuss this case and broader constitutional change following the decision.

Schedule of Events

Registration: 9:00 - 9:15
Introduction and Welcome

Professor Aileen Kavanagh and Hilary Hogan

9:15 - 9:30am

Panel 1

9:30 - 11:00am
Dr. Alan Brady McGee v Attorney General: Interpretive communities, judges, and the limits of the possible
Hilary Hogan Griswold, McGee and the Limits of Marital Privacy
Dr. Conor Casey A Second Look at the Forgotten McGee Judgment: President O’Caoimh Vindicated?
Saoirse Enright Judging Walsh J’s McGee Judgment: A Liberal Catholic Judge Pioneering Social Change?

Tea/Coffee Break

11:00 - 11:30am

Panel 2

11:30 - 1:00pm

Professor Máiréad Enright McGee: Liberation or the status quo?
Dr. Róisín Costello McGee and the Patriarchy of the Right to Privacy
Dr. Andrea Mulligan Modern Marital Privacy: Re-Evaluating McGee for Contemporary Reproduction
Daniel Gilligan Constitutional Privacy and Private Law


1:00 - 2:00pm

Panel 3

2:00 - 3:15pm

Chair: Professor Oran Doyle
The Hon. Mr Justice Gerard Hogan McGee, Norris and the X Case
Dr. James Rooney BL McGee, Norris and the AIDS Crisis
Professor Aileen Kavanagh McGee as Catalyst in the Collaborative Constitution

Tea/Coffee Break

3:15 - 3:30pm

Panel 4: Contraception and Society after McGee

3.30 - 5:00pm

Chair: Ruadhán MacCormaic
Professor Mary Daly How the McGee case shaped access to contraception in Ireland
Dr Deirdre Foley A health rather than a criminal concern: Family planning and the Irish women’s movement
Dr. Ann Nolan Drafting the Health (Family Planning) Bill in Response to McGee
Maeve Taylor Reproductive autonomy and constitutional change after McGee

Drinks Reception and Praeses Elit Award

5:15 - 6:30 pm

Award of the Praeses Elit prize to Mrs. Mary McGee by the Trinity College Law Society presented by The Hon. Mr. Justice Gerard Hogan, in recognition of her immense contribution to Irish law and society.

Speakers and Chairs

Dr Alan D.P. Brady is an adjunct assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin where he teaches judicial review and human rights. He is author of Proportionality and Deference under the UK Human Rights Act: An Institutionally Sensitive Approach (Cambridge University Press, 2012). He is also a practicing barrister specialising in human rights law, particularly as it relates to children, disability and social housing.

Dr Róisín Á Costello is an Assistant Professor in the School of Law at Trinity College Dublin and a practicing barrister. Róisín’s research focuses on the right to privacy and EU law and has been funded by the IRC, the ESRC and the AHRC. Róisín is the author of Privacy Law in Ireland (Bloomsbury, 2023), and an editor of Data Protection after Brexit. Her peer-reviewed writing has recently appeared in Global Constitutionalism, the Human Rights Law Review, The Journal of Law and Religion and Law and Literature.

Professor Mary Daly is Emeritus Professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin. From 2014 to 2017, she served as the President of the Royal Irish Academy. She was presented with the Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal in 2021. She is author of The Battle to Control Female Fertility in Modern Ireland (Cambridge University Press, 2023).

Professor Oran Doyle is Professor in Law at Trinity College Dublin and author of numerous books and articles on Irish and comparative constitutional law, including The Constitution of Ireland: A Contextual Analysis (Hart publishing, 2018).

Professor Máiréad Enright is Professor of Feminist Legal Studies at the University of Birmingham. Her research interests are in reproductive justice, historical institutional abuse, feminist legal history and obstetric violence.

Saoirse Enright is a third year IRC Scholar, supervised by Dr Laura Cahillane at the University of Limerick. Her PhD examines Mr Justice Brian Walsh’s contribution to judicial decision-making and the role of the judge in Irish law.

Dr Deirdre Foley is a historian of modern Ireland with a particular interest in the status of women in 20th century Ireland. She is a former Roy Foster Irish Government Research Fellow at Hertford College, University of Oxford, and has published widely on the marriage bar and birth control in 20th century Ireland. Currently, Dr Foley is an Irish Research Council funded fellow at Trinity College Dublin, where she is researching Irish women's working lives from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Daniel Gilligan is a PhD researcher in the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin. His dissertation concerns the horizontal effect of constitutional rights in Ireland, and his research spans private law and theory and constitutional law and theory. His writing has appeared in the Irish Jurist and Modern Law Review. He lectures in Tort in the School of Law.

Hilary Hogan is a Teaching Fellow at the Trinity College Dublin School of Law, and a Ph.D Researcher at the European University Institute, Florence.

The Hon. Mr Justice Gerard Hogan was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2021. He previously served as a judge of the Court of Appeal and the High Court, and he served as Advocate General to the Court of Justice. He has published extensively on Irish constitutional law, including The Origins of the Irish Constitution: 1928-1941. He is one of the co-authors of Kelly: The Irish Constitution.

Professor Aileen Kavanagh is Professor of Constitutional Governance at Trinity College Dublin and Director of TriCON, the Trinity Centre for Constitutional Governance. Formerly Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Oxford, Aileen Kavanagh has written widely on comparative constitutional law, human rights and constitutional theory. Her most recently published work is The Collaborative Constitution (CUP, 2023).

Ruadhan MacCormaic is Editor of the Irish Times and author of The Supreme Court: The Judges, the decisions, the rifts and the rivalries that have shaped Ireland (Penguin, 2016).

Dr Andrea Mulligan is Assistant Professor of Law, Trinity College Dublin, teaching and researching in the field of Medical Law and Bioethics. Her particular area of specialisation is the legal regulation of human reproduction, encompassing maternity care, assisted reproduction and abortion. She leads the IRC-funded CORALE Project investigating attitudes to conscientious objection in abortion services in Ireland. She was appointed a Commissioner at the Law Reform Commission of Ireland in 2020.

Dr Ann Nolan is an Assistant Professor in Social Policy with a research and teaching portfolio in global health. She is a technical specialist in HIV and sexual health with research in sexual and reproductive health and rights; the politics of health; inclusion health, and the regulation of sexuality and other contested policy domains. Ann is a former Executive Director and Chairperson of HIV Ireland Ltd and an advocate for the rights of sexual minorities and people living with HIV.

Dr James Rooney is a Teaching Fellow at the Trinity College Dublin School of Law and a Barrister-at-Law. He did his doctorate at Trinity College Dublin comparing the protection of social rights in Ireland and South Africa.

Maeve Taylor is the Director of Advocacy and Communications of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA). Before joining the IFPA, Maeve worked in adult education and training, with a focus on women’s human rights and sustainable global development. Maeve holds a Bachelor of Civil Law degree from University College Dublin and a Master’s degree in human rights law from Queen’s University, Belfast.

Event Registration:

Places are limited and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Event registration can be completed by returning the attached Conference Booking Form to

CPD Points/Hours: 6

These seminars are supported by Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union through the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in Law and Politics, Trinity College Dublin.