Tributes paid to Mr Justice Michael Moriarty on retirement

Attorney General thanks judge on behalf of the State for his 31 years of public service

 Mr Justice Michael Moriarty. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Mr Justice Michael Moriarty. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

The Attorney General has led tributes to Mr Justice Michael Moriarty as he sat for the last time on Monday as a High Court judge.

Attorney General Seamus Woulfe extended thanks on behalf of the State and the people for the judge’s 31 years of public service, including the “difficult and thorny” task of chairing what became known as the Moriarty tribunal from 1997 to 2010.

The tribunal concerned certain payments to politicians and its inquiries focussed on the financial affairs of the late taoiseach Charles Haughey and former Fine Gael government minister Michael Lowry. Issues addressed by it included the circumstances of the award in 1996 of the State’s second mobile phone licence to Esat Digifone, a company of businessman Denis O’Brien.

Mr Woulfe said chairing the tribunal had partly presented a “poisoned chalice” and the years involved were long and, he was sure, “difficult” for Mr Justice Moriarty.

An Irish Times article of 1998 had correctly concluded nobody in the legal profession could be found to say, either on and off the record, a “bad word” about Mr Justice Moriarty, he added.

Addressing the packed court, Mr Justice Moriarty warmly thanked his family, friends and colleagues and said he was “overwhelmed” by the kindness and solidarity shown to him.

‘Inspirational’

The 71-year-old judge, who was called to the Bar in 1968, recalled when the late Ms Justice Mella Carroll was the “sole standard bearer” for a female judiciary and said it was “wonderful” and “inspirational” to see so many gifted and accomplished women judges, who had “dynamised” the High Court and other courts.

Born in Belfast, Michael Moriarty later moved with his family to Dublin and was educated in Blackrock College, UCD and the King’s Inns. He became a senior counsel in 1982 and was appointed chairman of the Employment Appeals Tribunal in 1986 and a judge of the Circuit Court in 1987. He chaired the Lord Mayor’s Commission on Crime which reported in 1994 and also chaired the Catholic Youth Council for six years.

In 1997, just a year after his appointment to the High Court, he was appointed chair of the Moriarty tribunal.

As a barrister, Mr Justice Moriarty specialised in criminal law and several who paid tribute to him, including Ursula Fernee of the Probation Service, noted his strong support for the probation service and “unfailing belief” in the capacity of offenders to change.

Paul McGarry SC, on behalf of the Bar Council, said the judge’s career on the bench represented “remarkable” public service. He was a “shining example” of what a judge should be, combining “fearless integrity and uncompromising independence” as underlined by his landmark judgment of April 2016 concerning suspended sentences.

Tributes were also paid by Law Society President Michael Quinlan; Supt Anne Markey on behalf of the Garda; Elisha D’Arcy on behalf of the Courts Service; Moriarty Tribunal registrar Siobhán Hayes and by High Court Chief Registrar, Kevin O’Neill.

The judge’s wife Doreen Delahunty, along with his previous wife, Ms Justice Mary Irvine of the Court of Appeal, and his three adult children, Mark, Claire and Aoife, were among the attendees at the farewell ceremony. A large number of serving and retired judges and members of the legal profession also attended.