Conference Report: ISCL Belfast 2010

The second annual conference of the Irish Society of Comparative Law took place in Belfast this weekend and was a successful and well-organised affair leaving all involved with many interesting ideas and themes to take home.

After some necessary annual business of the Society the conference opened on Friday afternoon with a keynote address from Prof. Tom Zwart (Utrecht) surveying the 'Good, the Bad and the Ugly' of modern comparative law. He spoke on two main themes which were firstly, the extent to which it is possible for judges to make use of the scholarly output of comparatists in all fields and secondly the role that a cultural rather than a purely legal discourse plays in comparative studies. This lecture was made all the more interesting for the presence of a member of the Northern Irish High Court, Mr Justice Hart, who bookended the lecture with his own experiences and reflections and in doing so provided an invaluable 'real world' view on Prof. Zwart's themes.

The main body of the conference was held on Saturday 6th March with over 40 presenters comprising 16 panels of papers. As always some of these panels were more cohesive than others in thematic aim but the quality of all was clear. Diverse topics ranging from modern views on legal hybridity, to European equality legislation, lesion in French and English law to gender justice in Chile were all on show with many forming the starting point for discussions throughout the day. ETL staff members took part in seperate panels with Thomas Thiede speaking on personality rights and Colm McGrath presenting on comparative medical malpractice.

Of particular interest was a final plenary session on the teaching and study of comparative law with 4 well regarded comparative scholars taking the lead with personal reflections on the theme. The ensuing discussion reflected well the unique nature of comparative legal studies amongst the other subjects on offer in many law schools but also the precarious nature of a subject that has so many diverse facets that it can at times struggle to be defined as a single subject at all.

This was a stimulating conference and marks a happy first anniversary for the ISCL. Comparative lawyers of all shades can but hope that the Society continues to meet the high bar that it has set for itself as a spearhead for promoting comparative law both throughout Ireland and beyond.

More details about the Society can be found [here]

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