Four Courts Press 
New Catalogue
March 2005
€45/£40/$55 hbk

Subversive law in Ireland, 1879-1920: from 'unwritten law' to the Dáil courts

Heather Laird

'Ground-breaking in every sense, Heather Laird's brilliant discussion of the fusion of memory and modernity in agrarian insurgency is the most sophisticated treatment to date of the cultural forces that drove Irish people to keep a firm grip on their homesteads throughout the long duration of the Land War' Professor Luke Gibbons, University of Notre Dame and author of Edmund Burke and Ireland (2003).

The primary focus of this book is subversive law from the Land War period to the establishment of the Dáil courts. More specifically, Subversive law in Ireland explores the extent to which various practices and institutions mimicked, paralleled, appropriated, parodied, subverted and displaced the official system of law in Ireland.

It has long been recognized that law was one of the main mediums for the implementation of English rule in Ireland. What is less widely acknowledged is that law was also a fundamental component of anti-colonial resistance, with the concept of an alternative system of control capable of supplanting a despised legal system functioning as one of the most sustained threats to successive administrations. Resistance to official law created a space for the establishment of alternative legal concepts and structures that monitored and regulated the behaviour of rural communities. These systems of control included such diverse practices and institutions as boycotting, 'unwritten law', Land League courts, National League courts, United Irish League courts and Dáil courts.


1.'Secret and unrecognized governments': official law, subversive law and the alternative state
2.Writing law(lessness): legal crisis and narrative structure in Emily Lawless's Hurrish
3.'Ride rough-shod': evictions, sherriffs' sales and the anti-hunting agitation
4.Consequences and conclusions
5.Theories of resistance: an analysis

The book is completed with a bibliography and index.

Heather Laird is the James and Mary Fox Postdoctoral Fellow with the Centre for Irish Studies, NUIG.

192pp March 2005