I first met Kevin Boyle in 1981. ‘Met’ is a rather grandiose term to use for an interaction which involved one question from a master’s student in a large crowd to an academic whose effortless presentation to the Cambridge Irish Society had already dazzled, enthused and intellectually intimidated all those present. I do not remember what the theme of the talk was, much less my question or the answer that was given, but I do vividly recall the style of the man: fluent, charming, intelligent, engaging and – perhaps above all these to my mind – committed. Here seemed to be a new way to do law: get on top of all the stuff, the cases, the statutory provisions, the complex scholarship – all the ramparts with which law protects itself from external scrutiny – and then deploy them not to mystify and stifle the people, but rather to empower and therefore to enrich them. Years later, when we were both serving on the same British-Irish Association committee, I have another strong image: of Kevin Boyle and me wandering up and down some college quad, with him lecturing me sternly but with great sympathy about an intellectual cul-de-sac I was motoring up (maybe it was Herbert Marcuse), which he had reversed out of, spotting the dangers, 20 or so years before. All said in the nicest possible way, enthusiasm taking the place of pomposity or of any sense of superiority. I could have been anyone as Kevin Boyle recalled his dalliance with the extreme left, his intellectual growth, his belief in the possibility of practical action to build a better world not through the defeat of law or its subversion, but through this valuable use that could be made of it, in the right hands.