Northern Ireland gets first ever female Chief Justice

Judge says she hopes her appointment highlights opportunities are open to all

Northern Ireland’s first Lady Chief Justice  Dame Siobhan Keegan. Photograph: Royal Courts of Justice/PA Wire

Northern Ireland’s first Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan. Photograph: Royal Courts of Justice/PA Wire

 

Northern Ireland’s first Lady Chief Justice has been sworn into office.

Dame Siobhan Keegan assumed the role following a ceremony in the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast on Thursday.

She paid tribute to her predecessor, Declan Morgan, who has retired after 10 years as Lord Chief Justice for Northern Ireland.

She said: “I know that today is an important day for women in the legal profession.

“I hope that my appointment highlights the opportunities open to all, young women and men alike, to progress in their careers, and that it offers some inspiration about what can be achieved.”

She added: “The legal system is intricately bound up with those it serves. I intend to actively and openly engage with all of those affected by the application of law in Northern Ireland and to represent our jurisdiction nationally and internationally.

“We have a strong tradition of excellence and high standards which I aim to maintain and enhance. I am looking forward to the undoubted challenge this new role presents.”

As a judge of the High Court she delivered the ruling earlier this year that the 10 people killed in the west Belfast shootings involving soldiers in Ballymurphy in August 1971 were “entirely innocent”.

She attributed nine of the 10 shootings to the British Army and said the use of lethal force by soldiers was not justified.

She was appointed a High Court judge in October 2015 and has served as vice chair of the Bar of Northern Ireland, chair of the Young Bar, chair of the Family Bar Association, chair of the Bar Charity Committee and was a long-standing member of the Bar Professional Conduct Committee.

She was appointed as a coroner in July 2017 and was presiding coroner for Northern Ireland from September 2017 to September 2020. - PA