Law firm behind European Court ruling on child abuse honoured for its role

The Cork-based firm

Ernest J Cantillon

has been recognised for its work in securing a landmark European Court of Human Rights ruling on childhood abuse in the Irish education system



The firm received the special merit award at the recent Irish Law Awards for the legal challenge mounted by Louise O'Keeffe in her attempt to hold the State responsible for the abuse she suffered as a nine-year-old at Dunderrow National School in Cork.

After Ms O'Keeffe failed to secure a favourable ruling in Ireland, the European Court finally agreed to hear her arguments in 2012 even though the Supreme Court had given its view that not all legal domestic avenues had been exhausted.

In its judgment, the court found Ireland to be in breach of two Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

This related to Article 3, which prohibits “inhuman and degrading treatment” and Article 13, setting out the right to an effective remedy.

The successful action had wider reaching implications for the State, through the Department of Education, which has set about the process of examining what other similar cases exist with the assistance of the State Claims Agency.

Elsewhere, the Bar Council's Human Rights Award was presented to a number of barristers for their pro-bono work on behalf of the victims of the Magdalene Laundries.

There was recognition for a lifetime of services to the industry for “father of the bar” Maurice Gaffney SC (97) who had been practicing law for nearly six decades.

Law firm of the year was awarded to William Fry and the sole practitioner, principal law firm of the year was presented to Marion Campbell Solicitors.

The legal website of the year went to McCarthy & Co; litigation case of the year was presented to ByrneWallace and the pro-bono/public interest lawyer or team of the year was won by KOD Lyons.

The banking, finance, restricting and insolvency lawyer or team of the year award was presented to Beauchamps Solicitors and the criminal lawyer or legal team award was taken by Michael J Staines Solicitors.

The finalists were selected by a panel of 20 legal experts, chaired by solicitor Dr Eamonn G Hall.

“Lawyers of all hues play an influential role in the lives of all who live on the island of Ireland,” he said.

“Lawyers must remember they serve their fellow man and woman. That is why we celebrate the service of the dedicated law firms and individual lawyers who have been acclaimed as having demonstrated in an exemplary manner exceptional achievements in the law during 2013.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times