Dublin sheriff behind many high-profile asset seizures

Obituary: Brendan Walsh pursued Michael Lynn and Bernard McNamara

Brendan Walsh: a keen mountainer, he had scaled the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and the Vajolet Towers

Brendan Walsh: a keen mountainer, he had scaled the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and the Vajolet Towers

 

Brendan Dermot Walsh
Born: February 15th, 1942
Died
: February 9th, 2018

Brendan Dermot Walsh, who has died of cancer at the age of 75, was Dublin city sheriff from 1995 to 2012. It was a position that attracted headlines, as in the case of the fugitive solicitor Michael Lynn, whose assets, including a well-stocked cellar of expensive wine, he seized on behalf of creditors.

Walsh was regularly in the news following the economic crash, featuring in several high-profile seizures of the assets of failed property developers, including the art collection of Bernard McNamara. On one occasion he was forced to return a 7-Series BMW after it transpired that it belonged to the wife of a developer.

Unsurprisingly, Walsh cautioned against a rush to wide-scale debt forgiveness for borrowers struggling to pay debts during the downturn. He warned that it would be wrong to introduce legislation that is unfriendly to people who are entitled to be paid the money they are owed.

Apart from recovering debts, as sheriff he was also responsible for overseeing general elections, byelections and referendums throughout the city area and was the returning officer who announced the winning candidates in Dublin when votes were counted.

He loved the cut and thrust of elections and was opposed to the planned introduction of electronic voting in 2002. Having presided over many a recount battle at election time, he knew that even a few votes could be vital and was unconvinced of the merits of the electronic system as a substitute for a paper trail.

In spite of the demands during one particularly exhausting recount, which according to one estimate went on for 90 hours in the 1997 election, he felt certain there was a future for traditional voting methods.

He and Mary Robinson fought the Josie Airey case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights – and won. It was a landmark victory

In 1983 he was appointed vice-chairman of the Rent Tribunal and helped to modernise that Victorian area of law. Since the 1970s he had been registrar of notaries and brought it up to date. For many years he had been involved on the committee of the Solicitors’ Benevolent Association.

Educated at Blackrock College, he then qualified as a solicitor and entered his father’s legal firm. Following the death of his father he renamed the business in his own name as Brendan Walsh and Partners. The practice merged with Mullany Solicitors and Maxwells to form Mullany Walsh Maxwells. His daughter, Cara, is a partner in the firm.

Noted in the legal profession for his independence, he volunteered in the late 1970s to represent the Cork woman Josie Airey and sought free legal aid for her at a time when the government would grant it only in criminal cases. With Mary Robinson as counsel, they fought the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights – and won. It was a landmark victory, as Airey had not been able to get a legal separation from her violent husband.

Walsh was a keen cyclist and experienced mountaineer. He had scaled the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and the Vajolet Towers. Having climbed most of the mountains in this country, he was in charge of mountain rescue for all of Ireland from 1963 to 1968 and was the first person to co-ordinate and organise co-operation between the emergency services and mountaineering clubs.

His wife, Ruth, is also an outdoor person, and they did a cycling and sailing tour of the Outer Hebrides in the late 1980s. In 2016 they celebrated 50 years of marriage.

He is survived by Ruth, daughters Sinéad, Cara and Afric, son Oisín, brothers Rory, David and Johnny, sister Margaret, and grandchildren.