Belfast solicitor who came to the fore as the Troubles began

Paschal O’Hare – Born: March 25th, 1932 Died: July 10th, 2013

Pascal O’Hare solicitor who brought significant life experience to his profession.

Pascal O’Hare solicitor who brought significant life experience to his profession.

 

Paschal O’Hare, who has died in his native Belfast, was one of the new breed of energetic Northern solicitors who came to the fore with the start of the Troubles. He brought significant life experience to his profession, having served in the American army and, among other jobs, worked in a car factory. He was for a time a leading member of the SDLP. He was elected to an assembly in 1982, but did not take his seat, in line with then SDLP policy.

In the early 1970s he established himself as a leading defence solicitor. He represented republicans; a significant number of loyalists; and many ordinary people caught up in the chaos of the times. Even members of the RUC sought him out when in trouble.

He had opened his first office in north Belfast one Monday morning after a weekend of serious rioting. At the time a conviction for rioting carried a mandatory jail sentence. Dozens came that day, and he successfully defended many.

Politically, he was a man of strong nationalist views who rejected physical force. In the late 1970s he was seen as one of the SDLP’s most able operators on the ground. As well as the 1982 assembly, from 1977 to 1985 he served on Belfast City Council. At the time, the council and city were much more polarised than today.

Despite this, O’Hare won respect from political opponents. After council meetings, O’Hare alarmed many by often driving fiery loyalist George Seawright home. Seawright was expelled from the DUP for calling Catholics “Fenian scum” and proposing: “Taxpayers’ money would be better spent on an incinerator and burning the lot of them. Their priests should be thrown in and burnt as well.”

O’Hare left active politics because he felt the party’s support of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement was a move away from a united Ireland.

O’Hare was in his late 30s when he qualified as a solicitor. He was born in March 1932, the youngest of 13 children to Arthur O’Hare, a printing worker from Newry, and his wife Mary (née McDonagh), a Co Donegal woman. The family initially lived in west Belfast, but soon moved to the north of the city.

After education with the Christian Brothers, he left school at 16 to work as a clerk in a solicitor’s office. In his 20s he emigrated to the US. He worked at various jobs, including in a car factory. He was conscripted into the army, serving in Texas and Germany. While in the US, he married Eileen, also from Belfast.

In 1964 he returned to Belfast, and to work as a solicitor’s clerk. He studied at night to become a solicitor, qualifying in 1969, just as the Troubles erupted. He is survived by his wife, Eileen, his daughters Eileen and Paula sons Kevin, John, Patrick and Paschal, his sisters Kathleen, Sheila and Anna and brothers Paul and Gerald.