It’s often said that the Four Courts is not a place for children, but sometimes their presence there is necessary, as in the case of 11-year-old Joseph Moloney who turned up in the Four Courts in May 1924 to give evidence in his claim against Mayo County Council. Moloney had found an unlocked box of gelignite belonging to the Council’s building contractor in a field near Barrett’s Forge, Irishtown, Foxford in March 1953. He then lit the tail of one piece of gelignite, held it with both hands and waved it in circles in the air. It exploded and blew off both his forearms.
The Irish Independent of 13 May 1954 gives a touching vignette of events following the settlement of Moloney’s claim for £7500:
“When the court proceedings were over, Joseph Moloney, who is a boy of fine physique, amused himself with his younger brother John (10), playing hide and seek in the new revolving doors erected in the approaches to the Law Library, while his mother was in conversation with her legal advisers. Barristers hurrying to and from the courtrooms paused to allow the game proceed, as the handless boy pushed the doors round and round with his arms.”
The revolving doors off the Square Hall, installed in 1937, were once upon a time a notable feature of the Four Courts building. More about their installation here.
We often think of personal injuries actions as a gravy train for lawyers and opportunists, but they also provide a crucial public function of protecting the individual against the negligence of others. Who could expect an 11-year-old-boy of 1954 to resist an unlocked box of gelignite?
I hope Mr Moloney went on to have the best of lives despite his injuries!