The President of the High Court, the Attorney General and leading members of the legal profession have paid tribute to Mr Justice Paul Gilligan on his retirement from the bench.
He steps down having served on the Court of Appeal and High Court for over 15 years, including a lengthy spell as the judge in charge of the busy Chancery Division, where he dealt with high-profile cases such as Apollo House, claims against the State by the McBrearty family, and the lead action concerning pyrite damage to homes.
He was also elected President of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary in 2012.
During his two-year stint, he assisted judges in Bosnia-Herzegovina to set up a judicial council which had proven difficult following the Dayton Agreement which ended the war in the former Yugoslav republic.
During his career as a barrister, he represented clients including RTÉ, broadcaster Gay Byrne, The Irish Press, as well as the late Taoiseach Charles Haughey appearing at the McCracken Tribunal.
Leading the tributes in a packed Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, president of the High Court, praised Mr Justice Gilligan as “a credit to judges generally”, especially for his handling of the difficult chancery list during the recession, and in “post-recession Ireland”.
He had dealt with difficult cases, and at times had been the subject of abuse which no judge should have to endure, Mr Justice Kelly said.
Mr Justice Gilligan’s handling of the Apollo House occupation had earned him the “rarest of accolades”, namely “praise from the media for having an imagination and for using his imagination”.
Attorney General Seamus Woulfe SC said Mr Justice Gilligan’s handling of the chancery list was a good reminder, “in these days of competing outrage”, of the fundamentals of fairness and waiting to hear from the other side.
Paul McGarry SC, chairman of the Bar Council, said the judge was “a classic example of what a judge should be”.
Other tributes were paid by Law Society chairman Michael Quinlan; Courts Service CEO Brendan Ryan; Garda Inspector Stephen Keane; and Court of Appeal chief registrar Geraldine Manners.
Remaking on his 47 years as both a barrister and a judge, Mr Justice Gilligan thanked his wife, their family and all those gathered in the court for their support during his career.
He also thanked Ian Barclay, who worked with him as his usher for many years, who he said is “the best project manager I have ever encountered” and was a huge assistance in the running of Court 3.
Aodhan O Faolain, Ireland International News Agency Ltd.