Tributes to human rights lawyer Kevin Boyle


TRIBUTES HAVE been paid to one of the founders of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland and leading human rights lawyer, Prof Kevin Boyle, who has died.

Originally from Newry, Co Down, he was a lecturer in law in Queen’s University Belfast when he got involved in the civil rights movement. He served on the executive of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. As a member of People’s Democracy, he was present on the 1969 Burntollet march which was attacked by loyalists in one of the pivotal events of the Troubles. He later described the march as a “foolhardy affair”.

“He was one of the very first academic lawyers to get involved in human rights work,” said Michael Farrell, a fellow founding member of People’s Democracy and now senior solicitor with Free Legal Aid Centres and a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission. “He was involved in Ireland’s case against the UK in the European Court of Human Rights concerning the treatment of detainees.

“He set up the human rights centre in NUI Galway, and later the human rights centre in Essex University, both pioneering institutions. It is only when you look back at the 40 years of his career that you see the full importance of what he was doing.”

Labour Party president Michael D Higgins said: “I heard with great sadness of the passing of Kevin Boyle whose courageous leadership in the human rights movement has placed so many in Ireland in his debt.”

He said Prof Boyle had advised Mary Robinson when she was UN high commissioner for human rights. “I had the great privilege of working with Kevin Boyle as a colleague in NUIG where he was an inspiring figure and teacher on the importance of human rights in law. Those of us who knew him personally will feel the loss of a warm friend with a great sense of humour and enormous courage in bearing his illness.”

Dr Maurice Manning, president of the Irish Human Rights Commission, said: “I have learnt with great sadness of the death of Prof Kevin Boyle. Throughout his life, Kevin was a persuasive and tireless voice for human rights.

“From his work with the civil rights movement through to his engagement with a huge number of human rights causes of domestic and international concern, a common thread of a commitment to improving the lives of ordinary people is evident.

“He was one of the inspirational figures behind the original civil rights movement which sought progress and democratic reform in Northern Ireland through peaceful means.”