Pioneer of human rights litigation in North

Eamon McMenamin: October 8th, 1959-December 22nd, 2013


Eamon McMenamin, who has died aged 54 in his adopted home of Belfast, was a pioneer of civil litigation on human rights issues in the North.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s McMenamin was the specialist lawyer in litigation against the security forces. He secured damages for dozens of plaintiffs injured by plastic bullets.

One of his most high-profile cases was that of Sean Downes, an unarmed civilian from Belfast. Television cameras filmed Downes’s death in 1984, at the hands of a policeman who fired a plastic bullet at close range. McMenamin successfully represented the family.

He settled some of the first cases involving victims of collusion, such as persons targeted by Brian Nelson, a British army agent and intelligence chief of the UDA. He won settlements for persons falsely arrested and while some of his clients were prominent Republicans, most were ordinary civilians.

Great personal risk
The nature of this work placed him under threat. He was a partner in Madden and Finucane when the UDA murdered Pat Finucane, one of its principals, in February 1989.

Not all his cases were linked to the Troubles. He represented some victims of the 1989 Kegworth disaster, when 47 people were killed in the crash of a London-Belfast aircraft.

In all he did, McMenamin was a perfectionist. He was known to work throughout the night on cases and despite many being controversial, opposing lawyers respected him and found him reasonable to work with.

Eamon Patrick McMenamin was born in Dublin in October 1959, second of four children to Paddy McMenamin and his wife Kay (née McKenna), both natives of Co Tyrone. He was educated at the Marian College in Ballsbridge: then, when the family moved to Castlederg, Co Tyrone, at the Christian Brothers’ Grammar School in Omagh. Afterwards he studied law at UCD.

As well as studying law, he boxed and won an Irish Universities’ championship. He was a useful Gaelic footballer and moved on to being a referee.

From the late 1980s he became a knowledgeable art dealer and collector.

Finucane murder
Pat Finucane’s murder deeply affected McMenamin. Chronic ill-health forced him to cease work as a solicitor some years ago when he still had a huge contribution to make.

He is survived by his father Paddy, partner Val (Pattie), children Kathleen, Dermot and Sean, their mother Aileen, sister Bernie and brothers Brendan and Colm. He was predeceased by his mother, Kay.