PROFESSOR SIR NEIL MacCORMICK Q.C.
27 May 1941 – 5 April 2009
Hundreds of Foreign Lecturers “lettori” in Italian Universities received news of the death of Professor Sir Neil MacCormick on 5 April 2009.
A distinguished world class scholar in the field of jurisprudence, Neil MacCormick was approachable, affable and great fun to be near. As a member of the European Parliament, he championed the cause of “lettori” who were and are being denied equality of treatment – in flagrant breach of European Union single market rules.
Quick witted and humorous I remember sitting in the public benches of the European Parliament on 27 October 2007 watching him. The Italian politicians had been horse-trading all week in order to get the following clause into a resolution condemning Italy’s failure to uphold the law:
whereas the Italian Government claims that its obligations towards “lettori” have been fulfilled on the basis of its law No 236/95 that fully applies the principles of the Treaty
It being a Friday, all but one of the Italian members – to the fury of the parliament – had dogged off home for the weekend, thinking they had done the best they could in “damage limitation”
Quick as a flash, MacCormick tabled a one word amendment which was seconded and carried by the members at the Strasbourg Plenary:
whereas the Italian Government unconvincingly claims that its obligations towards “lettori” have been fulfilled on the basis of its law No 236/95 that fully applies the principles of the Treaty
The European Court of Justice subsequently annulled the offending law – but refused to impose fines of over 300,000 euros a day as requested by the Court’s own Advocate General, a decision which Neil told me was “mince” and which he followed up with a vigorous statement for the press.
Laughing all the way from the chamber we met up in the bar and enjoyed a bottle of bubbly, with Neil and his wife Flora.
I last saw Neil and Flora in at their home in Edinburgh in February when Neil was already diagnosed with terminal cancer. Still jovial and philosophical, he expressed his regrets that Italy had still not been brought to book.
He will be enormously missed by all those who knew him both in private and public life.
David Petrie, 7 April 2009