First female Attorney General a 'smart and able advocate'


PROFILE MÁIRE WHELAN:THE FIRST female Attorney General in the history of the State is Labour’s financial secretary and a member of the party for almost 30 years.

Máire Whelan SC hails from Kinvara in Co Galway and was greatly influenced by her county colleague and former Labour minister, Michael D Higgins, from early adulthood.

At UCG (now NUI Galway), she studied in Mr Higgins’ sociology and political science class before turning her interest to the law.

Mr Higgins last night described her as an inspired choice for the post.

“She is absolutely brilliant, a rare combination of clear thinking and efficient delivery,” he said. She was also “a person of great charm and good humour”.

Over the years, Ms Whelan has provided legal advice to Labour on a variety of issues, from the planning requirements of moving office to the complexities of new legislation governing the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

Ms Whelan (49) has written the legal textbook on Nama and is regarded as an expert on property law, conveyancing and children’s rights, all key areas for the new Government.

Called to the Bar in 1985 and made senior counsel in 2005, she has operated a mixed practice, including family law, based in the Law Library in Dublin.

A former chairwoman of the Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac), she has also served on the Property Registration Authority.

She studied in London and holds a qualification in international law.

Her appointment is likely to leave rival contenders disappointed, but one legal colleague described her last night as “an extremely smart and able advocate” who would make a “strong” Attorney General.

Ms Whelan is married to barrister Bernard McCabe, who practices on the Dublin, eastern and midlands circuits and they live in Dublin 4.

As Attorney General, she is likely to be kept busy by the new Government’s ambitious legislative programme, which include referendums on children’s rights and on Dáil reform.

The continuing banking and fiscal crisis is also likely to raise complex legal challenges.