Judges, barristers, solicitors and court services staff turned out in force in Cork yesterday to pay warm and fond tributes to their colleague, barrister Jane Anne Rothwell, who died in October at the age of just 41.
Ms Rothwell’s husband Steven O’Neill, her parents John and Parfrey, other relatives and friends sat in a packed Courtroom No 2 at the Washington Street Courthouse to hear “Father of the Cork Bar”, Don McCarthy BL, lead the tributes.
Mr McCarthy described the late Ms Rothwell, who practiced mainly in family law in Cork and Kerry, as "vivacious and outgoing" and said she had greatly contributed as Secretary of the Munster Circuit. She was hugely involved in organisation Bar trips to Europe to see how the law operated elsewhere.
He said her talents were in tremendous organisational skills, which she extended beyond law to an extremely successful tenure as Chair of the Cork Midsummer Festival. and her legal colleagues would miss her deeply as with her death "a light has gone out in the Bar room".
Solicitor Gerard O'Flynn of the Southern Law Association told the gathering, which was presided over by Judge Sean O'Donnabhain, Judge Gerard O'Brien and Judge Brian O'Callaghan of the Circuit Court, that the late Ms Rothwell was "a great colleague who was highly respected".
“Jane Anne was vibrant, energetic, honourable, hard-working and diligent and always fought the good fight, never leaving a stone unturned in her efforts to win a case for her client. She lived her all-too-short life to the full . . . she is fondly thought of and remembered by her peers and is widely loved.”
Powers of persuasion
Barrister James Duggan BL speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Cork Grocers Club, recalled fondly how she used her powers of persuasion to become "the first lady member of Cork Grocers Club," a club that was established as a gentleman's club in 1862. "A feisty woman," he observed.
Mary Crowley, on behalf of the Court Service, said Ms Rothwell seemed to have been in a hurry to achieve so much in her short life and would be warmly remembered by court staff in both Cork and Kerry who would miss her friendliness and charisma.
Registrar Martin O’Donovan said the late Ms Rothwell was an excellent barrister and “a livewire who had a word for everyone” and he joked that the hearts of registrars sank when they saw her entering the courtroom “fully geared up for battle – we knew there would be no settling the case.”
Judge Sean O’Donnabhain recalled how it was in Courtroom No 2 that she had presented her last case and while it was not a case where they had their “usual jousting”, she had everything in order in terms of her proofs as was her practice but little did he realize what she was facing at the time.
“She faced her illness with a dignity, a courage and with a cheerfulness . . . everybody is faced with adversity but she, in the manner in which she deal with her situation, transcended that adversity and is an example to us all - she is somebody we can learn from as we look back at her vibrant life.”