Publication: Famous Irish Trials


M. McDonnell Bodkin K.C.

Introduction by Eamonn G Hall

Mankind has a remarkable interest in sensational legal cases. Television, the cinema, the theatre, the press and writers of books satisfy this interest by devoting considerable attention to sensational details of legal cases. It has been argued that there are two possible motives for reading anything: to learn or to be entertained. Famous Irish Trials by McDonnell Bodkin will certainly entertain and, at the same time, readers will gain an insight into events that have aroused great public interest. Famous Irish Trials follows in a classical tradition. The most theatrical manifestation of the law's drama is the trial.

When McDonnell Bodkin was invited to write a book on famous Irish trials, he was advised that there is nothing the public 'so love to read as a good savage, sensational murder'. He did not write a book devoted exclusively to murders, but did include a 'couple of murder trials' selected 'not for the gruesome details of crime, but for the curious incidents or interesting illustrations of character that were brought to light at the trial'. The author had a particular interest in politics and in this book one of his famous trials relates to the defence of that enigmatic figure, Charles Stewart Parnell, the 'uncrowned King of Ireland', before the co-called Parnell Commission in 1888. The Yelverton Case, a story of passion, intrigue and religious tension, is another of the famous trials described by the author. This trial and its subsequent aftermath have passed into folklore. A couple of murder trials, a breach of promise case, a trial involving a disputed will and political or quasi political prosecutions are the subjects of the other trials chosen by the author. The film and television stars may be idolised by millions but the trial and the advocates still exert a profound influence in our society and still attract the public attention. The great advocate lives on and is still thriving in our own time.

[Published in 1997 by Ashfield Press, an imprint of Blackhall Publishing, the book is now out of print but available from Eamonn G Hall See Contact Details.]