State paid barristers €10.2m in fees last year

Sat, Apr 7, 2012, 01:00

FIVE LAWYERS each received fees of more than €250,000 last year through their work for the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, new figures show.

According to the figures, €10.2 million was paid in fees in 2011 to barristers acting in the civil courts on behalf of Government departments and other State authorities.

Last year’s payout represents a 42 per cent fall in fees on 2008, when €17.7 million was paid.

The figures for last year show that one barrister, Emily Farrell, received €408,868 from the office.

One of the top earners last year was Robert Barron, who received €222,942. Mr Barron recently represented the Minister for Justice in the Supreme Court when Ian Bailey successfully appealed his extradition to France in connection with the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Another high earner is David Keane who received €192,711. Last year, he represented RTÉ in the Fr Kevin Reynolds libel case.

In a written Dáil response to Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “Management of the expenditure in relation to counsel fees from 2008 out-turn to 2011 out-turn has seen a reduction in spend of 42 per cent. The office will continue to tightly control expenditure in this area.”

The figures show that six of the 10 top earners last year also appeared in the list of top 10 earners in 2010, when €12.3 million was paid. In 2009, barristers got €16.1 million from the office.

Over the past five years, the figures show barristers have received a total of €71.6 million from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office for Government work.

In a statement, the office said: “In 2011, the office of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor’s Office put arrangements in place to increase the number of junior and senior counsel briefed by the State.

“These arrangements are designed to ensure an equitable distribution of State work to counsel and to avoid situations where a small number of counsel earn very large sums from the State.”

A portion of the work involves representing Ireland before the European Court of Justice and the figures show that €10,877 was spent on travel last year.

While there was a drop in counsel fees last year, separate figures, provided to Mr O’Brien by the Taoiseach, show that payments by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office under the Attorney General’s scheme increased by 55 per cent from €2.62 million to €4 million. This scheme facilitates access to the courts in certain cases, due to lack of means.

Eileen Creedon was appointed Chief State Solicitor in January. The salary had fallen to €197,361 following a voluntary pay cut of €22,931 in 2009, the Taoiseach pointed out in his Dáil reply.


Top 10 payments to counsel by Chief State Solicitor’s Office (including VAT) in 2011:

Emily Farrell BL €408,868

David Conlan Smyth BL €317,069

Siobhán Stack BL €296,079

Anthony Moore BL €286,683

Sara Moorhead SC €272,730

Robert Barron SC €222,942

Patrick McGrath BL €220,865

David Keane SC €192,711

Róisín Lacey BL €189,404

Feichin McDonagh SC €184,179