Ireland’s oldest barrister dies aged 100

Colleagues say Maurice Gaffney, who was called to the Bar in 1954, a ‘brilliant’ lawyer

Warm tributes have been paid to the late Maurice Gaffney SC who, at 100,  was Ireland’s oldest practising barrister. Colleagues said he was a ‘brilliant’ lawyer and ‘natural gentleman’. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

Warm tributes have been paid to the late Maurice Gaffney SC who, at 100, was Ireland’s oldest practising barrister. Colleagues said he was a ‘brilliant’ lawyer and ‘natural gentleman’. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

 

Colleagues of the late Maurice Gaffney SC, who was Ireland’s oldest practising barrister, have paid tribute to a “brilliant” lawyer and “a natural gentleman”.

Mr Gaffney, who died peacefully on Thursday at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, was 100 years old and had practised for 62 years.

He was a teacher before being called to the Bar in 1954 and became senior counsel in 1970.

Among his most important cases was the DPP v O’Shea, which considered whether a jury’s verdict could be appealed. The court came down in favour of his argument that it could in the case concerned. The law was later changed in response to the ruling.

Speaking to The Irish Times earlier this year, Mr Gaffney was enthusiastic about his continued work at the Bar.

“Age doesn’t come into it and so I don’t age,” he said.

Paul McGarry SC, chairman of the Council of The Bar of Ireland, described Mr Gaffney as a “brilliant constitutional and criminal lawyer” who had many successes in important cases in the High and Supreme Courts.

“Above all, Maurice was a wonderful colleague and a natural gentleman,” he said.

“His drive for excellence and determination, his can-do spirit and his commitment to the Bar will inspire and stay with us always.”

He said Mr Gaffney was universally loved, as well as being universally admired.

“He was unfailingly kind to junior colleagues in the Law Library and was always available with advice and the benefit of his wisdom,” Mr McGarry said.

He extended his sympathies to Mr Gaffney’s family.

“We will miss him greatly,” he added.

Colleagues and friend took to social media to express their sympathies.

Advocate

The King’s Inns described Mr Gaffney as “a dedicated advocate and a beloved colleague”. The UCD School of Law, where he achieved his Bachelor of Arts in 1939, expressed condolences.

Colm Dwyer SC said he was sorry to hear of the death of “the Gaffer” and described him as “father of the Irish Bar” and “a real gentleman”.

And barrister Matthew Holmes said he would always remember Mr Gaffney’s advice to him on running cases, which was “to copy Napoleon”.

Mr Gaffney is survived by his wife, a son and daughter, three grandchildren and extended family.

He will repose at home from 2.30pm on Saturday, with removal to St Patrick’s Church, Monkstown, at 4.30pm.

Funeral Mass will be held on Monday morning at 10am followed by burial in Kilternan Cemetery, Ballycorus Road. The family have requested that donations, if desired, should be made to the Capuchin Day Centre.