Brehon Law: The Senchus Mór

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

The Senchus Mór, is the foundation text of the most sophisticated law tradition in Europe of a thousand years ago. The body of law as a whole is often called “Brehon Law” but is properly called Fenechus, which means “that which relates to the Feine” the free classes that formed the main body of Irish society.

And the authors of the Senchus were

Laeghaire, Core, Dairi, the hardy,
Patrick, Benen, Cairnech, the just,
Rossa, Dubhthach, Ferghus, with science,
These were the nine pillars of the Senchus Mór.

Its legendary beginning is associated with a conference in the year 438 A.D. involving St Patrick and Laegaire Mac Neill, High king of Ireland. The King ordered the collection of the old laws and appointed nine learned persons, named above, to revise them.

After three years work they produced a new code, mainly by altering all laws that clashed with Christian doctrine. In…

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