Four Courts
The Four Courts in Dublin is the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

's main courts building. The Four Courts are the location of the Supreme Court
Supreme Court (Ireland)
The Supreme Court of Ireland is the highest judicial authority in the Republic of Ireland. It is a court of final appeal and exercises, in conjunction with the High Court, judicial review over Acts of the Oireachtas . The Court also has jurisdiction to ensure compliance with the Constitution of...

, the High Court and the Dublin Circuit Court
Circuit Court (Ireland)
The Circuit Court is an intermediate level court of local and limited jurisdiction in the Republic of Ireland which hears both civil and criminal matters. On the criminal side the Circuit Court hears criminal matters tried on indictment with a judge and jury, except for certain serious crimes...

. The building until 2010 also formerly was the location for the Central Criminal Court.

Gandon's Building

Work based on the design of Thomas Cooley
Thomas Cooley (architect)
Thomas Cooley was an English architect who came to Dublin from London after winning a competition for the design of Dublin's Royal Exchange in 1768. He built several public buildings in Dublin in the neoclassical style...

 for the Public Records Office of Ireland
National Archives of Ireland
The National Archives of Ireland is the official repository for the state records of the Republic of Ireland. Established by the National Archives Act 1986, it came into existence in 1988, taking over the functions of the State Paper Office and the Public Record Office of Ireland. The National...

, began in 1776. After his death in 1784 renowned architect James Gandon
James Gandon
James Gandon is today recognised as one of the leading architects to have worked in Ireland in the late 18th century and early 19th century. His better known works include The Custom House, the Four Courts, King's Inns in Dublin and Emo Court in Co...

 was appointed to finish the builing, which we recognised today as the Four Courts. It was built between 1786 and 1796, while the finishing touches to the arcades and wings were completed in 1802. The lands were previously used by the King's Inns
King's Inns
The Honorable Society of King's Inns , is the institution which controls the entry of barristers-at-law into the justice system of Ireland...

. The building originally housed the four courts of Chancery, King's Bench
Court of King's Bench (Ireland)
The Court of King's Bench was one of the senior courts of common law in Ireland. It was a mirror of the Court of King's Bench in England....

, Exchequer
The Exchequer is a government department of the United Kingdom responsible for the management and collection of taxation and other government revenues. The historical Exchequer developed judicial roles...

 and Common Pleas
Court of Common Pleas (Ireland)
The Court of Common Pleas was one of the senior courts of common law in Ireland. It was a mirror image of the equivalent court in England...

, hence the name of the building. A major revision in the court system in the late nineteenth century saw these courts merged into a new High Court of Ireland, but the building has retained its historic name. This courts system remained until 1924, when the new Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

 introduced a new courts structure, replacing the old High Court of Ireland, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
thumb|200px|The Four CourtsThe headquarters of the Irish judicial system since 1804. The Court of King's Bench was one of the original four courts that sat there....

 and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland
Lord Chancellor of Ireland
The office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland was the highest judicial office in Ireland until the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. From 1721 to 1801 it was also the highest political office of the Irish Parliament.-13th century:...

 with a new Supreme Court of Justice
Supreme Court of the Irish Free State
The Supreme Court of the Irish Free State was the state's Court of Final Appeal. It was created in Article 64 of the Irish Free State Constitution. It was presided over by a Chief Justice...

 presided over by the Chief Justice
Chief Justice of Ireland
The Chief Justice of Ireland is the president of the Supreme Court of Ireland.Under Constitution of Ireland, the Chief Justice of Ireland also occupies several positions ex officio, these include;* A possible judge of the High Court....

 and a High Court of Justice, presided over by the President of the High Court. In 1961 the words "of justice" were dropped from the names of both courts when they were belatedly re-established consequent upon the enactment of the 1937 Constitution
Constitution of Ireland
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Irish state. The constitution falls broadly within the liberal democratic tradition. It establishes an independent state based on a system of representative democracy and guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected...


Destruction in Civil War

The Four Courts were seized by Commandant Ned Daly's 1st Battalion during the Easter Rising
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

 in 1916. They survived the bombardment by British artillery that destroyed large parts of the city centre.
On 14 April 1922 they were occupied by Republican forces led by Rory O'Connor
Rory O'Connor (Irish republican)
Rory O'Connor was an Irish republican activist. He is best remembered for his role in the Irish Civil War 1922-1923, which led to his execution.-Background:...

 who opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty
Anglo-Irish Treaty
The Anglo-Irish Treaty , officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the secessionist Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of...

. After several months of a stand-off, the new Provisional Government attacked the building to dislodge the rebels, on the advice of the Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Army
Irish Army
The Irish Army, officially named simply the Army is the main branch of the Defence Forces of Ireland. Approximately 8,500 men and women serve in the Irish Army, divided into three infantry Brigades...

, Michael Collins
Michael Collins (Irish leader)
Michael "Mick" Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance and Teachta Dála for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the...

. This provoked a week of fighting in Dublin. In the process of the bombardment the historic building was destroyed. Most dramatically however, when the anti-Treaty contingent were surrendering, the west wing of the building was obliterated in a huge explosion, destroying the Irish Public Record Office
National Archives of Ireland
The National Archives of Ireland is the official repository for the state records of the Republic of Ireland. Established by the National Archives Act 1986, it came into existence in 1988, taking over the functions of the State Paper Office and the Public Record Office of Ireland. The National...

 which was located at the rear of the building. It has been alleged that the Republicans deliberately booby-trapped its priceless Irish archives, which were stored in the basement of the Four Courts. Nearly one thousand years of irreplaceable archives were destroyed by this act. However, the insurgents, who included future Taoiseach
The Taoiseach is the head of government or prime minister of Ireland. The Taoiseach is appointed by the President upon the nomination of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas , and must, in order to remain in office, retain the support of a majority in the Dáil.The current Taoiseach is...

 Seán Lemass
Seán Lemass
Seán Francis Lemass was one of the most prominent Irish politicians of the 20th century. He served as Taoiseach from 1959 until 1966....

 denied this accusation and argued that while they had used the archive as a store of their ammunition, they had not deliberately mined it. They suggest that the explosion was caused by the accidental detonation of their ammunition store during the fighting.

Reopened 1932

For a decade, the old courts system (until 1924), then the new Free State courts system, was based in the old viceregal apartments in Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle off Dame Street, Dublin, Ireland, was until 1922 the fortified seat of British rule in Ireland, and is now a major Irish government complex. Most of it dates from the 18th century, though a castle has stood on the site since the days of King John, the first Lord of Ireland...

. In 1932, a rebuilt and remodelled Four Courts was opened again. However, much of the decorative interior of the original building had been lost and, in the absence of documentary archives (some of which had been in the Public Records Office and others of which were among the vast amount of legal records lost also), and also because the new state did not have the funds, the highly decorative interior was not replaced. Two side wings were rebuilt further from the river to undo the problem caused by excessively narrow footpaths outside the building. However, that change, and the removal of chimney-stacks, has removed some of the architectural unity and effect planned by Gandon in 1796.

Though in the early 1990s, the then Chief Justice suggested building a new purpose-built building to house the Supreme Court, leaving the other courts in situ, the Supreme Court remains in the Four Courts.

Criminal Courts move

The Criminal Court of Justice
Criminal Court of Justice (Dublin)
The Criminal Courts of Justice is the principal courts building for the criminal courts in the Republic of Ireland. It is on Parkgate Street, near the Phoenix Park....

 opened in January 2010, with criminal trials being held there since. The Four Courts will be used for civil cases.

External links

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