‘Shocking’ that just three portraits of women lawyers hang in King’s Inns

More portraits of women ‘vital’ 100 years after first female judges called to Bar

One hundred years after women were first called to the Irish Bar, just three portraits of pioneering female judges hang among portraits of dozens of men in the home of the Irish Bar.

The Bar of Ireland and the King's Inns hope their In Plain Sight campaign to raise funds to commission portraits of more women lawyers and judges will help change that situation.

“It is shocking there are so few portraits of women despite the numerous influential women in law,” said Bar of Ireland chair Maura McNally.

“The Bar and King’s Inns are promoting this campaign because it is vital that such women are acknowledged, celebrated and represented on a par with their male counterparts.”

Ms McNally, who has made greater female participation and representation in the legal profession a key theme of her term, noted that 100 years have passed since Frances Kyle and Averil Deverell became the first women to be called to the Bar in Ireland and the UK.

Deverell, who studied law at Trinity College Dublin and the King's Inns, was also the first woman on both islands to practice as a barrister. Women now comprise 37 per cent of the Bar here, but only 17 per cent of senior counsel are women.

The three existing portraits of women in the King's Inns are of former chief justice Susan Denham, who remains the only woman to have been appointed chief justice here; Ms Justice Mella Carroll, who in 1980 became the first woman to be appointed a judge of the High Court here; and Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, a retired Supreme Court judge who also chaired the Citizens' Assembly between 2016 and 2018.

Ms Justice Laffoy presided over the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse from 1999 until she resigned from that post in 2003. She is currently president of the Law Reform Commission.