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The first autumn study trip of the Center for Public Law, which lasted from the 13th to 18th of October, focused on comparing the democratic and constitutional systems of Hungary and Ireland. Meetings and discussions with university professors, researchers, practicing lawyers and public officials allowed participants to deepen their understanding of key fundamental rights issues related to the questions of referendums, abortion, marriage, euthanasia, migration, freedom of expression in the online space, hate speech, and child protection. They also learned about the culture and history of Ireland, which has a great impact on how Irish people view these fundamental issues. In the context of Irish constitutional policy, the functioning of the Irish courts and the role of case law was also addressed.
On the trip’s first day in Dublin, Conor Casey, a constitutional lawyer and former MCC guest lecturer, showed the group around the campus of alma mater, Trinity College. In addition to academic activities, the students also learned about various sports such as rugby and hurling, as well as student life, events, and student associations at the university. In the National Gallery of Ireland, they visited an exhibition of contemporary Irish paintings as well as other major Irish and European works of art. The group then visited Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin's oldest working Christian church, which today belongs to the Church of Ireland. A permanent exhibition in the basement of the cathedral gave an insight into the conflicts between the communities of Catholic and Protestant backgrounds that have played a major role in shaping the country's identity. To round off the day, students went to an authentic Irish pub where they had the opportunity to watch a football match between the national teams of Hungary and Serbia, as well as an Ireland-New Zealand rugby match.
The next day, the exploration of Irish culture and history continued with history of Irish emigration, which played a pivotal role in Ireland's history. At The Irish Emigration Museum, voted one of Europe's best museums, an interactive exhibition introduced the students to the legal, political, and historical processes that shaped the country's destiny. In the afternoon, the group learned about the making of one of Ireland's most famous products at the Guinness Brewery, where Hungarian Ganz machines were still in operation in the early 20th century, and which are still on display in the exhibition hall.
On the trip’s third day, the MCC group visited Leinster House, home to one of Europe's oldest functioning bicameral parliaments, the Oireachtas. During the tour of the upper and lower houses of parliament, students gained a wealth of information on the workings of Irish parliamentarianism. The visit was followed by a working lunch with Jeffrey Egan, a staff member of the Parliament, who, as a member of a Senator’s cabinet, also answered questions from the group on Irish politics. After this visit to the Parliament, the students returned to Trinity College, where they were shown the famous Book of Kells (9th century psalter) and visited the old library building which for centuries has served as a national archive. The group then met with constitutional law professors at Trinity College’s School of Law. In a two-hour seminar, Prof. Gerard Whyte and Rachael Walsh presented the fundamental aspects and features of the Irish constitutional system. Constitutional amendment by referendum, the functioning of citizens' assemblies, as well as the constitutional issues related to the Good Friday Agreement and the legal aspects of the Irish language were discussed.
On the next day, students visited the Four Courts, the center of Irish legislation and seat of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the Dublin Circuit Court. James Rooney, a practicing barrister, and lecturer at Trinity College, gave a tour of the building and spoke about the role and career of lawyers, the bar exam system, and the place of Anglo-Saxon common law in the Irish legal system.
After the meeting, the group also attended a hearing at the Supreme Court, where a Pakistani refugee's deportation appeal was heard by a panel of five judges. For several members of the group, this was their first courtroom experience. Afterwards, head of MCC’s Center for Public Law, Dr. Márton Sulyok, discussed with the students the lessons learned from the case, the main arguments presented by the litigants, and the fundamental differences compared to Hungarian procedures. After a short lunch break, the group visited Dublin Castle, an impressive site of Irish administration, which, for centuries, served as the seat of the Governor of Ireland during British Rule and later that of the Governor General of the Free State of Ireland. The grandiose building still hosts major state events, including the inauguration of the Irish President.
The study trip’s program continued at the Irish media authority, Coimisiún na Meán. The two-hour meeting was hosted by Director Andrew Robinson, Patrick Goodlife, and Elizabeth Farelly, both Heads of Department. At the meeting, the Authority officials outlined the responsibilities of the recently reorganized government body and the challenges of taking over the responsibilities of the predecessor Broadcasting Authority, as well as issues related to the application of EU legislation, in particular the Digital Services Regulation (DSA), and campaigns to raise media awareness in Ireland. Further issues raised during the discussion included the production and funding of Irish-language media content, cooperation with international tech giants based in the country, as well as aspects of child protection and the fight against hate speech. The day ended with an evening meeting with Independent Conservative Senator Rónán Mullen. The meeting discussed current issues in Irish politics, the work of independent senators, the composition of the Irish parliament, which is organized on a "corporative" basis, and the country's role in international conflicts.
On the last day of the study trip, the students traveled to the campus of University College Dublin, another leading law school in Ireland, where the participants were welcomed by the researcher Somsubhra Banerjee and members of the FIAT research team. During the one-and-a-half-hour seminar, participants discussed the findings of the FIAT (Foundations of Institutional Authority) interdisciplinary research project, in which Dr. Márton Sulyok had previously participated as an external expert. The research examines and measures trust in constitutional institutions in different countries. During the interactive presentation, the students learned about the methodological challenges of international comparative constitutional law research and modelled a focus group discussion on the research chapter on Hungary.