Judge John Cooke an ‘exceptional man’ who never lost sense of fairness, funeral told

Late High Court justice believed purpose of law is ‘to treat everyone fairly and ensure voice of everyone is heard’

John D Cooke, a retired judge of the High and European Courts, was an "exceptional" man who never lost "a basic sense of fairness" whether as a judge or a human being, his funeral Mass was told.

In a eulogy, Fergus Kaiser, a nephew of the judge, said his uncle believed the purpose of the law is “to treat everyone fairly and to ensure the voice of everyone is heard”.

Mr Kaiser recalledthat when he was aged nine, his uncle, then president of Dublin Zoo, arranged for him and other child relatives to get to see and hold a baby chimpanzee at the rear of the animal's glass enclosure.

As a child, he was very conscious other children outside the enclosure could see this and of their sense of exclusion, Mr Kaiser said. His uncle was also clearly conscious of this and arranged for the baby chimpanzee to be brought outside where it could be handled by the other children, he said.

“I will remember him as an exceptional man and one of the best uncles any nine-year-old could ask for.”

Judge Cooke (78) who had cancer, died at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Dublin on Friday. His sister Eleanor predeceased him last October.

The eulogy was delivered to a packed congregation at the Church of the Holy Cross, Dundrum, Co Dublin. The chief mourners were the judge’s wife Sally, children Catherine and David, his sister Frances, brother Richard and extended family. His grandchildren escorted his plain wooden coffin to the altar as the hymn ‘Morning has Broken’ was sung.

Fr John Bracken, who celebrated the Mass, said the judge had been variously described as a family man who was full of fun, hard working and intelligent, someone who gave generously of his time and whose faith was important to him.

The Taoiseach was represented by his aide de camp, Commandant Claire Mortimer and the congregation included many serving and retired members of the judiciary and lawyers. Among them were the Chief Justice Donal O'Donnell, Court of Appeal President George Birmingham and Attorney General Paul Gallagher.

The Supreme Court representation included Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, Ms Justice Marie Baker, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan and Mr Justice Brian Murray. Three retired Chief Justices, Frank Clarke, John Murray and Ronan Keane attended as did retired Supreme Court judges Fidelma Macken, Maureen Harding Clark, Nial Fennelly and Mary Finlay Geoghegan.

Judge Cooke practised as a barrister for some 30 years, mainly specialising in European and competition law. He served from 1996 to 2008 as a judge of the European Court of First Instance, now the General Court of the European Union, a constituent court of the Court of Justice of the EU. He was the longest serving Irish national member of the European courts.

Judge Anthony Collins, Advocate General at the European Court of Justice, represented the CJEU at the funeral Mass. Judge Colm MacEochaidh, of the Court of First Instance, was present as was Aindrias O Caoimh, a judge of the High Court and of the European Court of Justice until his retirement in 2015.

Judge Cooke was appointed to the High Court from 2008 to late 2013. The congregation included several serving High Court judges, including Ms Justice Niamh Hyland and Ms Justice Teresa Pilkington, as well as some retired High Court judges including Kevin O'Higgins, Bryan McMahon, John Hedigan and Kevin Cross.

Former Attorney Generals Dermot Gleeson and Harry Whelehan were also in attendance as was Frank Daly, the former chairman of the National Assets Management Agency.

Judge Cooke was appointed in 2017 as the sole member of the commission investigating NAMA’s €1.6 billion disposal of its Northern Ireland assets, known as Project Eagle. Earlier this year, the judge circulated draft findings to relevant parties who had until June 30th to respond. The Government is to consider the appointment of a new chairman.