Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill retires as High Court judge

Attorney General commends judge’s compassion, tenacity and high standards

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill was born in Galway but his family came to Dublin when he was aged 11. He graduated from University College Dublin and the King’s Inns and was called to the Bar in 1975. He became a senior counsel in 1986 and a High Court judge in 1999. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill was born in Galway but his family came to Dublin when he was aged 11. He graduated from University College Dublin and the King’s Inns and was called to the Bar in 1975. He became a senior counsel in 1986 and a High Court judge in 1999. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 21:55

The Attorney General has led warm tributes to Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill on his retirement as a High Court judge.

Máire Whelan, addressing the judge and a packed Court No Four at the Four Courts, praised his courtesy, compassion, “unfailing kindness”, tenacity, high standards and “seamless efficiency” during 15 years on the High Court bench.

He was “a realistic optimist” always prepared to believe in the goodness of others who was much loved and respected and would be much missed, she said.

Bar Council chairman David Nolan said Mr Justice O’Neill was a judge characterised by “generosity of spirit” and a “burning desire for social justice”, who would be particularly remembered by the Bar for never disagreeing with an advocate personally but rather with their arguments.

Law Society president John Shaw, chief registrar Kevin O’Neill and Brendan Ryan of the Courts Service also paid tribute.

In reply, Mr Justice O’Neill said he was immensely privileged to have served as a High Court judge and had experienced tremendous fulfilment in that role. His experience of other judicial systems showed the Irish system was “very much at the tope of the class” and it was a source of pride to be part of that.

Mr Justice O’Neill was born in Galway but his family came to Dublin when he was aged 11. He graduated from University College Dublin and the King’s Inns and was called to the Bar in 1975. He became a senior counsel in 1986 and a High Court judge in 1999.

He served on various boards and tribunals, including the Legal Aid Board and Employment Equality Tribunal. He also served as chairman of the Constituency Commission to revise constituency boundaries for parliamentary and European elections and chairman of the first Lisbon Treaty Referendum Commission.