Constitutional Law

My interest in constitutional law is largely comparative and, generally, connected with my overall interest in the relationships between courts and politics as regards constitutional(ist) evolution. In particular, I am interested in–and have written on–the cognitive and doctrinal reception of international human rights standards in the context of constitutional evolution, although I have also written some ‘pure’ constitutional law on the Irish constitution in particular. Constitutions and constitutional law are part of the work that I do in respect of security/counter-terrorism, gender and the law, and human rights.

Evolving Constitutions

Some of my work in constitutional law has been concerned with the evolution of constitutional standards. This is primarily reflected in four particular pieces of work. The first, coauthored with David Gwynn Morgan, considers the formal and informal amendment (i.e. evolution) of the Irish constitution and, in particular, the relationship in this respect between Courts (whose interpretive judgments can constitute ‘informal amendments’), the Legislature (which can initiative referenda, including ‘corrective referenda’ in respect of these interpretive judgments), and ‘the People’ (which has the ultimate formal amending power). The second concerns the relationship between international human rights law and domestic constitutional standards, which I characterise as ideally synergistic. The third considers the domestic constitutional impact of a ‘rule of international law’ and posits a spectrum of internationalism analysing four different constitutional systems: Ireland, UK, Singapore and South Africa. The fourth considers the role of judicial innovation/activism in the evolution of the Irish Constitution, arguing that such judicial ‘activism’ is a legitimate exercise of the judicial role.

Abortion in Ireland: The Constitutional Position

In recent years I have written on the constitutional position as regards abortion in Ireland, where–pursuant to a Supreme Court decision in Attorney General v X as well as numerous referenda–an abortion is constitutionally permissible where there is a real and substantial risk to the life (as opposed to the health) of the pregnant woman. Many years later, and in a context in which no legislative architecture for exercising this right had been designed, the European Court of Human Rights held in A, B & C v Ireland that the lack of practicability of this right violated the Convention. My scholarship in this regard first argued for improvements to the Protection of Law During Pregnancy Act 2013, giving statutory effect to the right, and operated within the current constitutional position. A research briefing on work done in this respect with Laura Graham, a Durham colleague, is available here, and you can read a co-authored article with Máiréad Enright (Kent) here. Recently, I have also been writing about the implications for law and practice of constitutionalising foetal rights and my article, “Constitutionalizing Fetal Rights: A Salutary Tale from Ireland” will be published in the Michigan J. of Gender and the Law in late 2015.


A further strand of this work concerns building the argument for repeal of the 8th Amendment and what might follow that in terms of a legislative framework. In this respect I was engaged, as part of a group of ten lawyers, by the Irish Labour Party as part of the Labour Women Commission to Repeal the 8th Amendment. Our work within this process resulted in the production of a draft law with an explanatory article attached. The draft law was published open access on feminists@law: it is available here, and the accompanying article is here. This work has been influential across the political spectrum in Ireland. The Green Party, which was the first party to publish its reproductive justice policy in advance of the General Election 2016, has proposed a scheme that reflects much of ours (I published an analysis here), and the Labour Party proposals (published in November 2015) also mirror many of our proposals (analysis published here).

Relevant Publications

Fiona de Londras & Cliona Kelly (2010) The European Convention on Human Rights Act: Operation, Impact and Analysis Dublin, Round Hall/Thomson Reuters.

Fiona de Londras (2016), “Zappone & Gilligan v Revenue Commissioners & Ors” in Máiréad Enright, Julie McCandless & Aoife O’Donoghue, Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments (Hart) forthcoming

Fiona de Londras (2016), “In Defence of Judicial Innovation and Constitutional Evolution” in Laura Cahillane, James Gallen & Tom Hickey, Judges, Politics and the Irish Constitution (Manchester University Press) forthcoming

Fiona de Londras & David Gwynn Morgan (2012) ‘Constitutional Amendment in Ireland’ In: Xenophon Contiades (eds).  Engineering Constitutional Change: A Comparative Perspective on Europe, Canada and the USA (2012, London: Routledge)

Fiona de Londras (2010) ‘Dualism, Domestic Courts and the Rule of International Law’ In: Sellers, Mortimer & Tomaszewski, Tadeusz (eds). Ius Gentium: The Rule of Law in Comparative Perspective . Wien: Springer

Fiona de Londras, “Constitutionalizing Fetal Rights: A Salutary Tale from Ireland” (2015) 22(2) Michigan J. of Gender and the Law forthcoming

Mairead Enright, Vicky Conway, Fiona de Londras, Mary Donnelly, Ruth Fletcher, Natalie McDonnell, Sheelagh McGuinness, Claire Murray, Sinead Ring, Sorcha ui Chonnachtaigh, “Abortion Law Reform in Ireland: A Model for Change” (2015) 5(1) feminists@law

Mairead Enright, Vicky Conway, Fiona de Londras, Mary Donnelly, Ruth Fletcher, Natalie McDonnell, Sheelagh McGuinness, Claire Murray, Sinead Ring, Sorcha ui Chonnachtaigh, “General Scheme of the Access to Abortion Bill 2015” (2015) 5(1) feminists@law

Máiréad Enright & Fiona de Londras, “‘Empty Without and Empty Within’: The Unworkability of the Eighth Amendment after Savita Halappanavar and Miss Y” (2014) 20(2) Medico-Legal Journal of Ireland 85

Fiona de Londras & Laura Graham, “Impossible Floodgates and Unworkable Analogies in the Irish Abortion Debate“, (2013) 3(3) Irish Journal of Legal Studies 54

Fiona de Londras, “Suicide and Abortion: Analysing the Legislative Options in Ireland” (2013) 19(1) Medico-Legal Journal of Ireland 4

Fiona de Londras (2011) ‘Introduction: Special Issue on the Judges’ Remuneration Referendum’ 29 Irish Law Times 189

Fiona de Londras (2011) ‘The Judicial Pay Referendum in its Broader Context of Dáil Empowerment: Unbalancing Powers?’ 29 Irish Law Times 202

Fiona de Londras (2011), “A ‘New Politics’ Without the Seanad: Concerns from a Human Rights Perspective” Irish Law Times 48-54.


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