The Right to Work in Irish Law

Irish Jurisprudence Society Trinity Term Series 2018

26 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2018 Last revised: 16 Dec 2018

Date Written: April 26, 2018


The right to work has attracted great attention in legal and philosophical circles in recent years in Europe and elsewhere. This paper contributes to discussions concerning the philosophical justification for the right to work, and its legal existence and scope, by providing an Irish perspective. The paper first provides a philosophical justification for the existence of the right to work which is consistent with the Irish Constitutional order through the lens of a republican conception of freedom as non-domination. It then analyses the ‘right to earn a livelihood’, the right to work in Irish law in detail. I argue that the right to work emerged as a response to dominant trade unions, but has since developed into a residual liberalisation tool for professions and areas of heavily regulated economic activity. I suggest that, in the context of the growing institutionalisation of employment and labour law, the right to earn a livelihood will nonetheless continue to perform this residual role in emerging areas of relevance and dispute.

Keywords: Right to work, freedom as non-domination, individualisation, institutionalisation

Suggested Citation

McCormack-George, Dáire, The Right to Work in Irish Law (April 26, 2018). Irish Jurisprudence Society Trinity Term Series 2018. Available at SSRN: or

Dáire McCormack-George (Contact Author)

School of Law at Trinity College, Dublin ( email )


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