‘Authors meet Readers’ series: Dr Eoin Daly

We are delighted to welcome Dr Eoin Daly, Lecturer at UCD School of Law contributing to our ‘Authors meet Readers’ series, celebrating the work of UCC PhD law graduates. As this is an ‘Authors meet Readers’ series, please feel free to contribute your comments as readers!

s200_eoin.daly[1]Eoin has had continuing success in his academic career, with several publications in leading international journals. He is a regular contributor to print and broadcast media engaging with contemporary issues of constitutional change in Ireland. Eoin graduated with a BCL (Law and French) degree from University College Cork, and was awarded a PhD by UCC in 2010, having secured a Government of Ireland Irish Research Council scholarship to support his doctoral research. He subsequently lectured at the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University between 2010 and 2012, and joined the School of Law at UCD in September 2012. His research interests lie primarily in the areas of constitutional law and political theory, with a focus on religious freedom, the separation of church and state, theories of justice, republican theory and John Rawls’ political liberalism. His areas of teaching include Law, Religion and Secularism, Constitutional law, French Civil Law, and Legal Theory.

Below Eoin discusses the recent publication of his book: Religion, Law and the Irish State (Clarus Press, 2012)

Eoin Daly, Religion, Law and the Irish State (Clarus, 2012)

Religion-Law-State-297x446[1]This book emerged indirectly from research I originally had carried out for my PhD thesis in UCC.  I had long held an interest in issues surrounding religion and the State, particularly in the field of education. Since my undergraduate studies, I had been interested in the question of how denominational control of publicly-funded schools in Ireland could be squared with the ostensibly extensive rights of freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and religious equality which the Constitution recognises. I was also interested in how jurisdictions with contrasting traditions of constitutional secularism order the competing social claims on the value of religious freedom that arise in the context of public education. In my PhD thesis, which I completed in 2010 (supervised by Conor O’Mahony). I addressed this issue from the perspective of John Rawls’ theory of justice. Thus, through my PhD studies I developed an interest in political philosophy as well as constitutional law.  I studied the constitutional treatment of this subject not only in Ireland, but also in the United States, where there is a strong constitutional tradition of Church-State separation, and France, which is also associated with a relatively strict conception of secularism and state neutrality. My thesis argued that formal state neutrality towards religions in the funding and recognition of schools can sustain significant inequalities in the protection of religious freedoms in this context. Increasingly, the system of support for denominational schools is justified using the terminology of “choice”, but “choice” itself – while morally and philosophically incoherent – is distributed unevenly based on power relations rooted in demographics, class and recognition.

Religion, Law and the Irish State, which I wrote while lecturing at DCU, essentially stemmed from this interest. Rather than focusing on education specifically, it offers a more general treatment of the status and protection of religion in Irish law. While there is relatively little case law on this subject in Ireland, I aimed to set the legal doctrine in the context of the history and politics of the Church-State relationship in Ireland. The book explores how the constitutional framework for State and religion – which is more flexible and indeterminate than is often assumed – has evolved in tandem with the transformations that have occurred in the Church-State relationship since the enactment of the current Constitution.

In Chapter 1, the book examines how, compared to earlier decades, the Supreme Court has increasingly eschewed any use of religious values as a guide to interpreting and delimiting constitutional rights, gradually embracing a more secularised understanding of the constitutional philosophy. Chapter 2 argues that the Irish courts have yet to adopt a coherent doctrine concerning freedom of religion in light of recent controversies surrounding the accommodation of religious expression in education and employment. In Chapter 3, I argue against the prevailing tendency to view religious equality and non-discrimination as being subordinate to a narrow conception of religious freedom.  Chapters 4 and 5 examine inequalities in the protection of religious freedom in the schools context, in light of the historical “patronage” model which sees the public education function devolved to denominational bodies. Chapter 6 considers the separation of Church and State in light of the constitutional guarantee against the state endowment of religion. Finally, Chapter 7 looks at legislative intervention in religious function, and Chapter 8 at the offence of blasphemy in Irish law.

The book aims to show that while there is a commonplace understanding of the Irish constitution as being strongly influenced by religious and Catholic values in particular, it is in fact ambiguously poised between contradictory theories and understandings of the State-religion relationship. It tentatively accords religion public status and recognition at mostly symbolic levels, but commits it to the “private sphere” for most practical purposes.  More fundamentally, I aimed to show that the abstract status and recognition which the legal system accords to religion has obscured important inequalities in the protection of rights relating to religious and non-religious beliefs and practices.

After completing my PhD at UCC, I worked for two years in the School of Law and Government at DCU. I moved to the UCD School of Law last September. Recently the focus of my research has shifted away from issues concerning religion in Ireland specifically to look at the doctrine of laïcité (constitutional secularism) in French political and legal thought – as well as broader issues in political and legal theory, particularly Rousseau and republican thought. My most recent publication is “Laïcité under the Sarkozy Presidency” in French Politics (2013). I am also currently working on a co-authored book on political theory and constitutional law which will appear with Manchester University Press in 2014.