Vincent Grogan SC

Mon, Sep 22, 1997, 01:00

The recent, sudden passing of Vincent Grogan at the age of 82 has left a void in many areas of Irish life. After a distinguished academic career at O'Connell Schools, University College, Dublin (where he was Auditor of the Literary and Historical Society) and King's Inns, culminating in the award to him of the John Brooke Scholarship, he was called to the Bar in 1937 and was admitted to the Inner Bar in 1966. He practised as a barrister until he entered the Office of the Parliamentary Draftsman in 1943.

Vincent had a quick, clear and resourceful mind, great powers of application and the capacity to grapple with complex proposals and ideas and think them through, eliminating woolliness, froth, and jargon passing for thought. He could express their essence accurately and concisely in plain, elegant English. In short, he was a born draftsman. He rose quickly through the ranks and, in 1957, became Director of the Statute Law Reform and Consolidation Office. He had found his role. He was to remain in that position for most of the rest of his civil service life. After his formal retirement, he continued, almost to the end, drafting legislation for the Government. Over that long period, he left his mark on the statute book to an extent probably unequalled by any other lawyer in the public service.

Vincent was responsible for the drafting of many of the measures resulting from the remarkable flowering of law reform in the Department of Justice beginning in the late 1950s. In this he was inspired by the learning and enthusiasm of another gifted lawyer in the State service - the late and unique Roger Hayes who was in charge of law reform in that Department. In the early days, the political will and the drive underlying the work of those men and necessary to get it through Cabinet and Parliament was provided by Mr Haughey. The Civil Liability Act and the Succession Act, both familiar to all lawyers, are examples of that work.

Vincent quickly built up a wide reputation and his services were in demand abroad. At the request of the Governments of Ghana (where he was admitted to the local Bar), Swaziland and Botswana, he worked as a constitutional and legislative draftsman in those countries for short periods. From 1973 to 1975, he was a director in the Directorate General for Competition Policy in the European Commission.

He also found time to lecture on taxation law to students of the (then) Incorporated Law Society of Ireland from 1955 to 1970 and to produce books and articles on a variety of legal subjects. His voice became a familiar one on "the wireless". He contributed a column to the Irish Catholic in which he wrestled weekly with the legal problems of its readers and he published an account in that paper of a journey he made to Rome by bicycle in the Holy Year 1950, emulating Hilaire Belloc.

Busy though his professional life was, the exceptional energy of the man, coupled with his warm humanity and desire to help the underdog, led him to take an active part in many charitable extra mural activities. In pre-free legal aid" days, he participated in a legal advice service run by the Society of St Vincent de Paul. For a period, he was director of the Samaritans, having been instrumental together with Canon Billy Wynne (who brought them to Dublin) in securing their full acceptance in this country. He helped to establish Africa Concern (now known as Concern) in order to provide famine relief for Biafra and travelled there on its behalf. He was a member of the Board of the Coombe Hospital for over 30 years and was Supreme Knight of the Knights of St Columbanus from 1966 to 1969. He brought to those activities, as well as considerable gifts as an organiser and public speaker, a wit, cheeriness and friendly informality that seemed to lighten the burden of his fellow workers.

His "spare time" was devoted to his beloved family but, incredibly, there was still some time to work on his golf handicap at Elm Park, where he was a member for many years.

Vincent will be much missed, not only by his family, to whom deepest sympathy is offered, and his friends, but also by his colleagues in the different spheres in which he worked and the many people who were fortunate enough to come into contact with him through his charitable and other wide-ranging interests.

May he rest in the peace he so richly deserves.