.no man held individual propertysave his household goods, and each held onlythe right of usufruct over his strip of
of Ireland the freepopulation lived
in immensewooden buildings
they lived and fed incommon, seated on long benches, and all thefamilies of the district slept there upon bedsof reeds.
One can see immediately that thewriter is using the words "tribe", "clan","tribal domain", "district" and "population':equivocally, leading to great confusion. Almostevery part of this passage is incorrect or verymisleading.We might ignore Boissonade's errors exceptthey are typical of many other secondarysources including the
whose editor Eileen Power, incidentally,translated Boissonade's work into English in1927. Worse yet, this translation was reprintedas a Harper Torchbook in 1964 and circulateswidely in American colleges, perpetuatingerrors dating back more than
years.Even when native Irish authors like lawyerDaniel Coghlan attempted to write
systematicdescription of land law under the ancient lawtracts, his work was described by a scholarlyreviewer as "inaccurate and unreliable, of little~alue''.[~1Despite nearly
years of persistentand rewarding scientific study of the Irish lawtracts by professionally competent philologistsand jurist-historians, a recent historical workappeared which ignores all that has been pub-lished on the'problem of Iristi land law in theancient law tracts, and in a chapter entitled"Celtic Communism" repeats all the inaccura-cies of Joyce[SlUnder these circumstances, conscious of myown lack of knowledge of the Irish language,and keenly aware of the shoals that await thehistorian who is not expert in this highlyspecialized field of study, I have deliberatelyavoided all reliance upon authorities who areno! themselves trained in Irish language andhistory. 1 am not presenting a coherent syste-matic review of the lrish law of property; I ampresenting a review of what the most compe-tent Irish scholars of the last half century havediscovered since they applied modern scientificphilological and historical standards of criti-cism to the ancient Irish law tracts.My survey of the literature indicaies that(1) private ownership of property played
crucial and essential role in the legal and social'institutions of ancient Irish society;
that theIrish law as developed by the professionaljurists-the brehons-outside the institutionsof the State, was able to evolve
extremelysophisticated and flexible legal respqnse tochanging social and cultural conditions whilepreserving principles of equity and the pro-tection of property rights;
that this flexibilityand development can be best seen in the develop-ment of the legal capacity and rights of womenand in the role of the Church in assimilating tonative Irish institutions and law;
that theEnglish invasion, conquest and colonization inIreland resulted in the gradual imposition ofEnglish feudal concepts and common law whichwere incompatible with the principles of Irishlaw, and resulted in the wholesale destructionof the property rights of the Irish Church andthe lrish people.Irish law is almost wholly the produet of aprofessional class of jurists called
orbrehons. Originally the Druids and later the
or poets were the keepers of the law, butby historic times jurisprudence was the profes-sional specialization of the brehons who oftenwere members of hereditary brehonic familiesand enjoyed a social and legal status just belowthat of the kings. The brehons survived amongthe native lrish until the very end of a free Irishsociety in the early 17th century. They wereparticularly marked for persecution, along withthe poets and historians, by the English authori-ties. The statutes of Kilkenny (1366) specificallyforbade the English from resorting to thebrehon's law, but they were still being mentionedin English documents of the early 17th ceniury.l61The absence from the function of law-makingof the Irish kings may seem startling.
were not legisiators nor were they normallyinvolved in the adjudication of disputes unlessrequested to do so by the litigants.
king wasnot a sovereign; he himself could be sued and a