High Court president Ms Justice Mary Irvine to retire in July

First woman to be appointed to role to step down after two years

The president of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, has told her colleagues she will retire at the end of July.

The first woman to be appointed as president of the High Court, Ms Justice Irvine took up the role in June 2020.

Now aged 65, the judge has consistently said she intended to serve between two to three years in the role and those close to her are not surprised at her announcement on Friday to a meeting of her High Court colleagues of the departure in late July at the end of the next court term.

Speculation is already rife about who will succeed Ms Justice Irvine to the third most senior position within the judiciary.

Among the names being mentioned is High Court judge Mr Justice Denis McDonald.

Other names featuring in speculation include the Court of Appeal's Mr Justice David Bairnville, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, Mr Justice Maurice Collins and Ms Justice Caroline Costello.

Ms Justice Irvine took up the High Court presidency at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and has had to steer the courts through a difficult time, involving speedy adaptation to remote court hearings, a development that was not welcomed in some quarters of the profession.

Awards slashed

She chaired the committee of the Judicial Council which drafted the guidelines slashing awards for mainly minor personal injuries. The guidelines prompted controversy within some sections of the judiciary but were eventually adopted by a majority vote of the Council in March 2021.

The judge has championed the cause of more judges for the High Court and was publicly critical of the delay in ensuring extra judges were on the bench ready to hear cases at the start of the new legal year last October.

She has secured an additional five High Court judges and more appointments may be approved after the Judicial Resources Planning Group reports later this year.

Ms Justice Irvine runs the High Court’s wardship list involving managing the affairs of some of the State’s most vulnerable people. Her successor will face the challenging task of ensuring an orderly discharge of some 2,000 wards from wardship in the three years from June next when the Assisted Decision Making Capacity Act is due to be fully commenced.

Born in Dublin, Ms Justice Irvine was called to the Bar in 1978 and became a senior counsel in 1996. She specialised in medical law and represented plaintiffs and defendants in medical negligence cases.

Appointed a judge of the High Court in 2007, she held that position until 2014 when she became a judge of the Court of Appeal. She served as a judge of the Supreme Court from May 2019 until she took up the position of High Court president on June 18th, 2020.

Sources close to the judge say she is looking forward to retirement and to spending more time with her family, particularly her granddaughter.