Democratic decay a key interest for new MLS Research Fellow

New research fellow Dr Tom Gerald Daly has hit the ground running since arriving at Melbourne Law School in March.

Daly is interested in democratic decay, and during his two-year fellowship at MLS he will be undertaking a comparative study of democratic decay.

“Democratic decay is the flipside of democracy-building,” he says. “One of the biggest problems that the law encounters is that there are often no clear moments or indicators where decay is very obvious.

“I’m trying to get my teeth into it and make a bit of sense of it.”

Originally from Ireland, Daly has spent much of his career working and researching in Europe. Although he had never been to Melbourne before, Daly was attracted to the MLS Postdoctoral Fellowship Program because of the unique research opportunity it provides.

“The beauty of the fellowship is that it is quite flexible. You get to start out with a fairly well-framed idea and you are given the freedom and the resources to develop it,” he says.

“You come in with a project that is in its early stages, but you are given the time to flesh it out.”

Daly is an emerging research and policy leader. He recently completed a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, which focused on what he saw as the excessive faith placed in constitutional courts and human rights courts as democracy builders.  That research will be published later this year as a book with Cambridge University Press.

Daly hopes that his research at MLS will build on the work of his PhD.

“I was talking about courts as democracy builders in my first project. Now I’m looking at public law more generally and how we use it to address democratic decay.”

One of the benefits of the fellowship is that it gives Daly the opportunity to spend up to six months of the two-year fellowship away for research purposes.

Later this year he will travel to Mexico, Brazil, Denmark, Poland, Sweden and the UK to discuss the policy implications of his research. For Daly, such “cross-comparative” global study provides invaluable insight that feeds into his academic work.

But the research component of Daly’s work is only half the story; the practical policy benefits of his research are another key focus. Having worked at the Council of Europe, the Supreme Court of Ireland and the Global Justice Academy, Daly is well-placed to identify the practical applications of his research.

“What I like about practical policy work is that it gives you a chance to really chew on the research you’ve done, and make decisions about what you think will be concretely useful,” he says.

“I don’t think it’s possible to do good policy if you are not doing rigorous academic work and vice versa, especially if you are doing comparative constitutional research.”

The importance Daly places on sharing ideas is demonstrated by his choice to share his own work with large audiences online.  Daly is active in the blogosphere as well as on Twitter.

“I really am anti-jargon. I think a good way not to use jargon is to write for wider audiences,” he says.

At a push, Daly describes himself as a ‘global public lawyer’, but wears multiple hats in his role at MLS. He is looking forward to the prospect of teaching as part of his fellowship and is already a member of the Constitutional Transformation (CT) Network.

“The CT Network is interesting for me is that they have a really nice marriage between rigorous academic work and policy work. It has an actual impact and tries to reach out to the rest of the world, especially the Asia-Pacific region,” he says.

“In doing so they can really provide help where it is needed.”

By Tess McPhail

Follow Dr Tom Gerald Daly on Twitter

Read Dr Tom Gerald Daly’s latest I-CONnect Blog Post

Find out more about the MLS Postdoctoral Fellowship Program