Case Summary: Cahill –v- Sutton [1972] IR 269


Republic of Ireland

Where the Plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of the statute of limitations yet was not directly affected and was effectively arguing a third party's case, the Supreme Court refused standing.


The Plaintiff challenged legislation which barred plaintiffs from issuing a claim for personal injury over three years after the event, on the ground that the absence of a saver allowing time to run from date of knowledge infringed the constitutional right to sue. Yet the Plaintiff had been aware of her injury throughout the relevant statutory timeframe.


The Supreme Court refused standing.


The Plaintiff sought to vindicate the constitutional rights of a hypothetical third party. O'Higgins CJ famously reasoned that if the Courts were to entertain challenges to the validity of legislation by people whose rights were not affected, the Courts would become the "happy hunting ground of the busybody and the crank". Even were the Plaintiff's challenge successful, it would not avail her, as she had been aware of her injury throughout the relevant statutory timeframe.

Points of note

The judgment makes clear that rules of standing are not set in stone and may be subject to expansion or qualification, for example where someone is not in a position to assert adequately their constitutional rights. This reasoning has subsequently been applied in The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Ireland) Limited -v- Diarmuid Coogan & Ors, Defendants [1988] IR 734 and Irish Penal Reform Trust Limited & Ors -v- the Governor of Mountjoy Prison & Ors [2005] IEHC 305.

Sustaining Partners