Solicitor told by Law Society ‘no comment’ face masks could be a breach of regulations

Dundalk lawyer informed in 2020 after masks became obligatory in certain areas

A criminal defence solicitor was told by the Law Society of a possible breach of advertising regulations after having face masks made with the words "no comment" on them.

The letter was issued in 2020 after it became a requirement for people to wear face masks in certain areas.

It is understood Ciarán Mulholland of Mulholland Law in Dundalk, Co Louth, was told he might be in breach of advertising regulations and that he might be bringing the profession into disrepute.

The note was issued to Mr Mulholland after it received a complaint from another solicitor, according to sources close to the Law Society. It wrote to the Dundalk solicitor asking him to respond to the accusations.

The matter was resolved when Mr Mulholland, who runs a busy criminal defence practice, undertook not to have any more masks printed and to remove a social media post featuring the masks.

‘Nothing to say’

The Law Society received the complaint after Mulholland Law posted a tweet showing the newly printed masks. Some featured the words “no comment” while one featured a Irish Tricolour and the words “faic le rá” meaning “nothing to say”.

It is understood the masks were being issued to clients of the law firm. Mr Mulholland declined to comment when contacted this week, as did a spokeswoman for the Law Society.

Solicitors and barristers are the subject of strict advertising regulations. However it is common for law firms, including large multinational firms, to distribute merchandise featuring their branding.

These include pens, umbrellas and, more recently, face masks.

It is not clear what action the Law Society could have taken if it did pursue disciplinary action. Since December 2020, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority has taken over responsibility for enforcing solicitor advertising regulations.

Covid protocols

Mr Mulholland had the face masks printed up after President of the High Court Mary Irvine issued a strongly worded letter criticising the lack of adherence to Covid protocols in court.

She said she had received several complaints about barristers and solicitors not wearing face masks in court buildings.

“This is not just happening in Dublin, it is happening throughout the country. And it is disappointing to hear from some members of Courts Service staff who have asked barristers to comply with these requirements, that they have, on occasion, received a dismissive or aggressive response,” the judge said.

Several months earlier, Ms Justice Irvine had issued a practice direction that face masks should be worn in court except when giving evidence or addressing the court.

Around the same time, the Garda Ombudsman received several complaints from members of the public about gardaí not wearing face masks in confined spaces, including in interview rooms.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times