Profile of North's AG-apparent

 

The human rights lawyer earmarked to become Northern Ireland’s first Attorney General in 38 years has already proved he is not scared of putting a few political noses out of joint.

John Larkin QC may have been the DUP’s preferred choice for the job, but that did not stop him giving one of the party’s highest-profile figures both barrels during a court case last year.

Ian Paisley jnr, the son of former DUP leader Rev Ian Paisley, was in the firing line as the Mr Larkin prosecuted him for refusing to reveal the identity of a whistleblower to a government inquiry.

The former law lecturer said he did not want Mr Paisley to end up in jail because, he speculated, the North Antrim MLA was actively seeking a stint behind bars for publicity.

To emphasise his point, he drew a rather unfavourable comparison with Formula One supremo Max Mosley’s indulgences in sexual bondage sessions.

“Brandishing custody before Mr Paisley appears to be like brandishing a whip before Max Mosley,” he said, to laughs from around the court.

While those comments, which Mr Paisley strongly refuted, are unlikely to have an impact on his relationship with the party as he moves forward, the episode demonstrates the formidable character of the heir apparent.

Having worked for both Sinn Féin and the DUP, Mr Larkin (46), a Catholic from Belfast, enjoys the confidence of both camps.

Twice married, he was educated at St Mary’s Christian Brothers’ Grammar School near his home in the west of the city and went on to study law at Queen’s University.

In his youth he dabbled in politics when he joined the Alliance Party, but he soon concentrated his focus on his legal career. He was called to the Bar in 1986 and three years later was appointed Reid professor of criminal law, criminology and penal law at Trinity College, Dublin.

He returned to Northern Ireland in the 1990s to resume work in the courts. An expert in civil law, he specialised in administrative law, civil liberties and human rights, competition and constitutional law, defamation and judicial review.

If, as expected, he is invited to take up the new position as the government’s legal adviser, he will be the region’s first Attorney General since Basil Kelly’s term ended in 1972 when direct rule was imposed by London.

He will also be the first person to fill the post who is not an elected politician.

PA