Ms Justice Mary Irvine to be nominated as president of the High Court

Irvine will be the first woman to lead the High Court in the history of the State

Ms Justice Mary Irvine is to be formally appointed to the post of president of the High Court following the Cabinet’s decision. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine is to be formally appointed to the post of president of the High Court following the Cabinet’s decision. File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

 

The Government is to nominate Ms Justice Mary Irvine to be the president of the High Court, one of the most senior judicial positions in the State.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan brought the nomination to Friday’s Cabinet meeting, where it was approved by Ministers, sources confirmed. She will now be formally appointed to the post by President Michael D Higgins, in succession to Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

Ms Justice Irvine, who will be the first woman to hold the post, is currently a judge of the Supreme Court, having been appointed to the State’s highest court last year from the Court of Appeal (COA), where she had served as a judge since the courts establishment in 2014. Prior to that she had served as a judge of the High Court since 2007. As president of the High Court, she will remain an ex-officio member of the Supreme Court.

Though it is the third most senior judicial post after the chief justice and the president of the COA, the presidency of the High Court is in many ways the most influential role in the courts system.

Highly regarded

Ms Justice Irvine will be responsible for the operation of the High Court system, where the vast bulk of important court cases are heard, and for the allocation of judges to particular lists. She is extremely highly regarded by practising lawyers, legal sources say.

Ms Justice Irvine, whose father was a senior RTÉ executive, was born in 1956 in Clontarf, Dublin and was educated at Mount Anville secondary school, UCD and the King’s Inns. She was an international golf player and won the Irish Girls Close Championship in 1975.

Called to the Bar in 1978, she became a senior counsel in 1986 and specialised in medical negligence cases.

In 1995, she appeared with Peter Kelly SC – before he had gone on to become president of the High Court – to argue on behalf of the unborn when then president Mary Robinson referred the Information (Termination of Pregnancies Bill) to the Supreme Court to determine its constitutionality.

When serving as a High Court judge, she was in charge of that court’s personal injuries list from 2009 to 2014 and also chaired the Working Group on Medical Negligence and Periodic Payments, established by the president of the High Court in a bid to secure a legislative basis for payments to plaintiffs with catastrophic injuries to ensure those would meet their lifelong care needs.

Damages claim

As a judge of the COA, she authored a number of that court’s judgments reducing the damages awarded in personal injury cases. She wrote a COA judgment rejecting a woman’s damages claim over a symphysiotomy procedure and co-authored a judgment which reduced to €250,000 a €10 million libel award made by a High Court jury against mining company Kenmare Resources to its former deputy chairman Donal Kinsella.

In 2019 she was appointed by Chief Justice Frank Clarke to chair the personal injuries guidelines committee of the Judicial Council, which is reviewing issues concerning the levels of compensation paid in personal injury cases.

Also last year, she was appointed to chair the statutory tribunal set up to process claims by woman affected by issues at the State’s Cervical Check screening programme. The tribunal has been postponed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

She has three children with her former husband, High Court judge Michael Moriarty.