I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Though the Sky Fall

Though the Sky Fall

Ronan Sheehan
In 1975 I received a BA degree in English and Latin from University College Dublin. My father asked me to work with him. I was pleased to accept the invitation, as much to experience the city from a law office as from a desire to become a solicitor per se. So I became apprenticed to my father, in the mediaeval tradition of the profession which still persists to some degree in Dublin, and perhaps elsewhere. One day in October that year I walked with him from our office in Georgian Clare Street across the city to the eighteenth century neoclassical Four Courts to attend in the Supreme Court the ceremony which marks the opening of the Michaelmas law term and the start of a new legal year. The clerk sits beneath the Chief Justice; beneath the clerk sit the solicitors, their backs to the judge, facing the court. Many of the oldest and most senior barristers were in court for the occasion, wearing their wigs and black gowns. We were facing them. Some saluted my father. All of them together could have been employed as extras in Fellini’s Roma, which was released at about that time. Behind the Four Courts there is a less prestigious building, the Bridewell, where prisoners are held overnight pending their appearance in the adjacent District Court. A granite stone above the door bears the motto: Fiat Justitia, Ruat Coelum. Let justice be done, though the sky fall. For many years I believed this motto came from Juvenal’s sixth satire, which I had read at university. It is a brilliant, pithy legal phrase, a challenge really, which has the satitist’s bite to it – like sed quis custodiet custodes ipsos? Who will guard the guards themselves (Sat 6)? Or Prima est haec ultio, quod se iudice nemo nocens absolvitur. The chief punishment is this: that no guilty man is acquitted in his own judgement (Sat 13). The motto above the Bridewell in Dublin is of ancient provenance, but obscure origin. Fiat justitia, pereat mundus was the motto of Ferdinand of Germany. Jeremy Taylor, the seventeenth century English moralist, believed Saint Augustine had said it. I now think it was carved over the Bridewell when it was built in 1901 because the great Lord Mansfield said it in 1768 when he reversed the sentence of outlawry passed upon John Wilkes for publication of The North Briton: “We must not regard political consequences, how formidable…



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