Tributes to Mr Justice Alan Mahon as he departs Court of Appeal

Co Offaly native, who chaired planning tribunal, to be new Defence Forces ombudsman

Ireland would be well on the road to becoming a “more open and transparent society” with capacity to investigate allegations of wrongdoing more speedily if the planning tribunal’s recommendations had been implemented, the president of the Court of Appeal has said.

Mr Justice George Birmingham made the comments when paying tribute to Mr Justice Alan Mahon, a former chairman of the tribunal, on his departure from the Court of Appeal to take up the position of Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, a non-judicial position.

Mr Justice Mahon (64), from Tullamore, Co Offaly, was called to the Bar in 1976, became a senior counsel in 1988 and was appointed a judge of the Circuit Court in April 2002.

Just six months later, he was appointed a judge of the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments and became chairman of that tribunal in 2003. It reported in 2012.


In October 2014, he was appointed a judge of the newly established Court of Appeal. Last April, the Government recommended him for appointment to the new position of Ombudsman for the Defence Forces for a three year term, with effect from next month.

On Friday, warm tributes were paid to Mr Justice Mahon by Mr Justice Birmingham, the Attorney General Seamus Woulfe and by representatives of the Bar Council, Law Society, Director of Public Prosecutions and Courts Service.

Mr Justice Mahon’s wife Anne Marie, daughter Rebecca, and sons Robert and Simon attended as did many members of the judiciary, legal profession and court officials.


In his reply to the tributes, Mr Justice Mahon said he was very proud to have served as a member of an independent judiciary, a role of immense importance in a democratic state.

He thanked his colleagues, staff and friends, saying he wanted to particularly thank his wife for her “unrelenting love and support” and his children. His beloved son Ross, who died recently following an illness, remains forever in the family’s thoughts, he said.

Mr Justice Birmingham said Mr Justice Mahon’s commitment as planning tribunal chairman to ascertain and reveal the truth was a “truly remarkable act of public service”. While some of those before the tribunal did not welcome the attention, the chairman had pursued his mandate with a “dogged determination”.

The tribunal report contains a “very important chapter” concerning future reforms in relation to political donations, lobbying, an enhanced role for the Standards in Public Office agency and for expanding the definition of corruption. It also outlined the need for future public inquiries to have powers to compel people to attend for interview.


Had those been implemented, Ireland would be “well on the road” to becoming a more open and transparent society with capacity to investigate allegations of wrongdoing “in a more expeditious manner”.

In his remarks, the Attorney General thanked the judge, on behalf of the government and people, for his many years of dedicated service to the administration of justice in the state.

The judge had been described as a meticulous lawyer who, in his role as planning tribunal chairman, had cut through the “obfuscations” of the planning process, he said.

While people complain about tribunals, they remain “the best method we have” to ascertain the truth about difficult and controversial matters in this State.

The tribunal’s final report had “very important” and continuing political repercussions but reform of planning regulation takes time as the system is “very slow”, he added.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times