Judge a former garda noted for swift, informed decisions

Judge Martin Nolan asked telling questions of witnesses that went to the heart of the case

Judge Martin Nolan: seldom gives the impression that he relishes legal argument.  Photograph: Collins Courts.

Judge Martin Nolan: seldom gives the impression that he relishes legal argument. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Fri, Apr 18, 2014, 01:00

Judge Martin Nolan, a former garda and barrister, was appointed to the Circuit Court bench on the nomination of a Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrat coalition in May 2007.

He joined An Garda Síochána in 1979 and remained a member of the force until 1989, when he went to Kings Inns to study for the Bar.

Originally from Wexford (he represented the county at minor level in Gaelic football), he had a mixed barrister’s practice, mainly on the southeastern circuit, for more than 15 years. Judge Nolan, who is in his mid-50s, made headlines last year when he jailed a food importer for six years for not paying €1.6 million in garlic taxes.

Plain-speaking and to the point, Judge Nolan takes quick decisions, and rarely gives the impression that he relishes legal argument. He is personable and sharp on the facts of a case, and at several stages in the Anglo trial he asked telling questions of witnesses that ended up going to the heart of the case.

Judge Nolan showed no inclination to stretch out the trial; the jurors looked nonplussed when he asked if they’d like to come in to deliberate on a Saturday.

The judge’s occasional fencing with defence barrister Michael O’Higgins was a feature of the trial. Early on, O’Higgins sought to have Judge Nolan recuse himself from the case because the judge had, during a pretrial hearing, expressed an opinion on the issue of legal advice and O’Higgins felt this was prejudicial.

At one point in the latter stages of the trial, the judge interrupted O’Higgins, saying: “I find it hard to stop you making the same point over and over again.” O’Higgins told the judge he took exception to this. “I’m not interested in getting involved in a verbal argument, because there are very few winners in a verbal argument with you,” replied the judge.

O’Higgins said the judge was “making it personal”, adding: “This actually isn’t personal to me.”