Attorney General says Ireland must always be on alert against threats to rule of law

Developments in other countries ‘extremely worrying’, Paul Gallagher tells Bar Council dinner

Ireland must always be on alert against threats to the rule of law given “extremely worrying” developments in other countries in that regard, the Attorney General has said.

While he believes Ireland is a “cohesive” country where there is a “great desire” among politicians, Government and the public service to genuinely support the public interest and make this a country that caters for all, “it’s important that continues”, Attorney General Paul Gallagher said.

He made the remarks during a brief address to the Bar Council’s annual dinner in the King’s Inns, attended by the Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell, other members of the judiciary, lawyers, politicians, public servants and others.

“We are living in a time when, in other countries, members of the Bar and the judiciary are being pressurised by politicians and being put under pressure not to provide a service they should be providing and which is essential to the public and to the rule of law,” the Attorney General said.

“Thankfully we don’t have that in this jurisdiction but we must always be on the alert because changes have taken place in other countries in the last 10 years that none of us ever imagined and threats to the rule of law have manifested themselves in a way that is extremely worrying.”

“Thankfully, in this country we are, I believe, a cohesive country in which there is a great desire amongst politicians and those who serve in Government and the public service to genuinely support the public interest and to make this a country that caters for all. It’s important that continues. The Bar plays a very important role in that sphere.”

His comments were made just days after the Chief Justice stressed the value of “a mature and robust and reasonably stable” system of justice at a time when developments in the United States, United Kingdom and eastern Europe showed the concept of a dispassionate and independent justice system upholding the rule of law “is more fragile and vulnerable than any of us might have imagined even a few decades ago”.

The Attorney General said he is “very proud” to be a member of the Bar which provides “a vital irreplaceable service in promoting access to justice here in supporting people who need legal support and providing specialist services that would not otherwise be available at national and local level”.

He thanked the outgoing chair of the Bar council Maura McNally, other outgoing members of the council and its staff for their work over the past two years. Barristers, especially junior barristers, experienced extreme difficulties over that time, he said, adding he hoped things have now moved on and that people “get a chance to flourish” at the Bar.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times