Accomplished solicitor and champion bridge player

Ciara Burns obituary: born September 11th, 1972 – died April 31st, 2017

Ciara Burns

Ciara Burns


Ciara Burns, who has died suddenly in her native Downpatrick, excelled in two very different fields. As a solicitor she was one of the North’s leading civil practitioners. She was also one of Ireland’s top bridge players, a winner of most domestic titles who represented the country in several internationals.

Her death came at a time when her legal career had blossomed. Two years ago, she moved to the Portadown practice of GR Ingram as head of civil litigation and was involved in several major personal injury cases. As a solicitor she combined three gifts – she had a remarkable breadth of legal knowledge; she could pick up information very quickly; and she was a people person, with a warm personality and an infectious laugh. Thus she put clients at their ease. She treated all the same, from judges to the client who had just walked through her door.

Chess prodidy

Outside her professional career, she had begun as a chess prodigy, winning the Irish junior championship at 15. Then she turned to bridge. By her mid-20s she was a leading player. Her talent for the game was natural: unlike other players, she never read a book on it. She had a great ability to read a game.

She set a precedent in Irish bridge when she was formally warned for laughing during the Camrose Cup competition, the game’s home international championship.

In the world of bridge she had wide-ranging abilities. Unusually for a top player, she was an excellent administrator. She was the youngest ever president of the Northern Ireland Bridge Union, and then the Irish Bridge Union. In her first year as Northern president, she increased union membership by 25 per cent.

She lived all her life in Downpatrick, where she was born in September 1972, one of two children of Hugh and Anne Burns. She was educated at St Brigid’s Primary School, Downpatrick; Assumption Grammar school, Ballynahinch; and Queen’s University, Belfast.

She is survived by her mother Anne and brother Paul.