Timothy Sullivan (Irish judge)


Timothy Michael Sullivan (6 January 1874 – 12 May 1949) was an Irish judge who served as Chief Justice of Ireland from 1936 to 1946, a Judge of the Supreme Court from 1924 to 1946, President of the High Court and a Judge of the High Court from 1924 to 1936.

Timothy Sullivan
2nd Chief Justice of Ireland
In office
1 December 1936  1 June 1946
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byDouglas Hyde
Preceded byHugh Kennedy
Succeeded byConor Maguire
Judge of the Supreme Court
In office
12 May 1924  1 June 1946
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byTim Healy
President of the High Court
In office
14 February 1924  1 December 1936
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byTim Healy
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byConor Maguire
Judge of the High Court
In office
10 February 1924  1 December 1936
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byTim Healy
Personal details
Born
Timothy Michael Sullivan

(1874-01-06)6 January 1874
Phibsborough, Dublin, Ireland
Died12 May 1949(1949-05-12) (aged 75)
Foxrock, Dublin, Ireland
Resting placeGlasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, Ireland
NationalityIrish
Political partyFine Gael
Spouse(s)Maeve Healy (m. 1913; d. 1949)
Relations
Alma mater

He was born in Dublin in 1874, the third son of Timothy Daniel Sullivan, a prominent Home Rule Party MP and Lord Mayor of Dublin and his wife Catherine Healy. Through his sister Anne who married Dr. Thomas Higgins, he was the uncle of Kevin O'Higgins and great-uncle of another Chief Justice, Tom O'Higgins. His mother was a sister of Timothy Michael Healy, the first Governor-General of the Irish Free State, and Sullivan in turn married their daughter Maeve.[1] He was called to the Bar in 1895.

In 1913, Sullivan married his cousin Maeve Healy, daughter of Timothy Healy. Maeve was an artist who painted the well-known portrait of her husband in his judicial robes.[2] They had no children. His strongly nationalist background made him acceptable to the new Government of the Irish Free State as a member of the new judiciary and accordingly, in 1924, he was appointed President of the High Court; in 1936, on the death of Hugh Kennedy he was appointed Chief Justice of Ireland and served until he reached retirement age in 1946.

His most notable judgment was the upholding by the Supreme Court in 1940 of the Constitutionality of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill which allowed for indefinite detention of suspected IRA members. An apparently casual remark of Sullivan that he was giving judgment "for the majority" caused controversy and led to the Second Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland 1941 providing for a single judgment only in such cases. There was further controversy in the 1960s when an academic claimed that Sullivan had "packed" the Court in favour of the Government by persuading James Creed Meredith to step down in favour of Conor Maguire. The claim seems to be unfounded: Sullivan was a firm believer in judicial independence, and in any case by 1940 any political sympathies he had were with the Opposition, not the Government.[3]

His cousin Maurice Healy in his celebrated memoir "The Old Munster Circuit" [4] portrays Timothy as a kindly, serious young man; Mr. Justice MacKenzie in his memoir "Lawful Occasions" [5] recalled the much older Sullivan, then Chief Justice, as "an old-fashioned Irish gentleman, quiet living".

References


  1. Ferguson, Kenneth ed. King's Inns Barristers 1868-1968 Kings Inns Dublin 2005
  2. Ferguson King's Inns Barristers 1868-1968
  3. Hogan, Gerard (2000) " The Supreme Court and the reference of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill 1940, Irish Jurist 35:257
  4. Michael Joseph Ltd. London 1939
  5. Mercier Press Dublin 1991
Legal offices
Preceded by
Hugh Kennedy
Chief Justice of Ireland
1936–1946
Succeeded by
Conor Maguire