The Irish law on adverse possession
: The case for a qualified veto system

  • Una Woods

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This doctoral thesis argues for the reform of the Irish law on adverse possession. It explains why the doctrine, in its current state, fails to confer adequate protection on the owner against the dangers of losing title to an adverse possessor and it illustrates how the law permits 'undeserving' adverse possessors to acquire title. The analysis of the law is conducted by relying on doctrinal and empirical research methodologies. Although a number of reform options are considered, this thesis makes the case for the introduction of a qualified veto system of adverse possession which would govern land that has been registered in the Land Registry and also unregistered land.

This reform would permit the owner of land to veto an adverse possession application unless the applicant qualifies under one of the exceptions formulated to the proposed scheme which are designed to preserve the operation of the doctrine for certain 'deserving' adverse possessors. Adverse possessors who enter possession pursuant to an informal or a defective title, or adverse possessors of boundary land which they believe to be their own, would be entitled to be registered as owners, regardless of an objection by the owner. In
formulating these exceptions, the thesis examines the modern role played by adverse possessions in resolving different types of land law disputes, its suitability as a remedy and, where appropriate, the challenges involved in introducing a qualification to the veto system. The introduction of a veto system of adverse possession would also permit abandoned land to be brought back onto the market. While the thesis is devoted primarily to an examination of the Irish law in this area, it also engages in a comparative analysis of discrete aspects of the law in a number of other common law jurisdictions, namely England and Wales, Canada, Australia and the United States

Date of AwardJul 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorNorma Dawson (Supervisor) & Heather Conway (Supervisor)

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