Big turn out to hear from some of most successful lawyers in the country
The Embassy of Ireland recently brought together some of the most successful Irish lawyers working in London to lead a discussion of the obstacles facing women working in law.
The panel of speakers included Angela Rafferty QC of Red Lion chambers, the current chair of the Criminal Bar Association who has appeared in many of the most high profile, sensitive and complex criminal cases in this country, High Court judge Mrs Justice Dame Maura McGowan QC, General Counsel to Diageo Siobhan Moriarty and Trinity College law professor Senator Ivana Bacik.
In the course of the discussion the speakers acknowledged that – in this centenary year of Irishwoman Countess Markievicz becoming the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons – the obstacles faced by women in the legal profession in this country have improved somewhat compared to a decade or two ago, it still has some way to go to match some of the firsts achieved in Ireland.
Until quite recently, in Ireland the Garda Siochana was led by a female Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan, and the positions of Chief Justice, Attorney General, Chief State Solicitor and Minister for Justice were held by Susan Denham, Máire Whelan, Eileen Creedon and Frances Fitzgerald.
Claire Loftus is Ireland’s director of Public Prosecutions, Marie Cassidy is Chief State Pathologist and the President of the District Court is Rosemary Horgan. In Averil Deverell and Frances Kyle became Ireland’s first female barristers – the first time anywhere in the world that women were admitted to the Bar.
Two years later Ms Mary Dorothea Heron was admitted to the roll of solicitors to become the first female woman solicitor in Ireland.
In 1947 Ms Frances Moran took silk two years before any female QCs were appointed in England. She never actually practised at the Inner Bar. In 1963 Ms Justice Eileen Kennedy became Ireland’s first woman judge. Ms Justice Mella Carroll in 1977 was the first woman to practise at the Inner Bar and, in 1980, the first to become a judge of Ireland’s High Court.
In more recent years Irish Supreme Court judge Fidelma Macken became the first woman judge of the European Court of Justice. And, of course, lawyers Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, successively, became President of Ireland.
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