Head of Irish Penal Reform Group to become President’s new adviser

Liam Herrick has been director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust since 2007. Photograph: Eric Luke

Liam Herrick has been director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust since 2007. Photograph: Eric Luke


A human rights specialist with a long record in equality and legal reform will be announced as President Michael D Higgins’s new special adviser this week.

Liam Herrick has been the director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust since 2007 and previously worked in a senior role with the Irish Human Rights Commission. A law graduate of University College Cork, he has also worked with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Law Reform Commission.

When contacted yesterday, Áras an Uachtaráin would not comment on the matter. The Irish Times understands from a separate source that the appointment is imminent.

Mr Herrick will succeed Mary van Lieshout, also an experienced human rights campaigner, who quite the position in November, midway through her three-year contract. Her salary of €103,000 exceeded the guidance threshold of €83,000 for speical adviser salaries.

At the time, sources attributed her departure to difficulties in gaining access to the President and referred to her having to go through Kevin McCarthy, an executive assistant to President Higgins. At the time, sources at the Áras specifically refuted any suggestions there were any obstacles to gaining access to the President among a very small and cohesive team.

Ms van Lieshout drew a line under the events some days later when she issued a statement saying she “was privileged to have the experience of working in Áras an Uachtaráin.

“In order to pursue other interests, I decided to end the assignment and have now taken up a role in overseas development,” she said, having taking up a position with aid agency GOAL.

“I departed Áras an Uachtaráin on very amicable terms with everyone,” she added.

It is not yet known what Mr Herrick’s salary will be or the duration of his contract. President Higgins was elected in October 2011 and his term will run until the autumn of 2018.