Bar marks centenary of Ireland’s first woman barristers

Bar marks centenary of Ireland's first woman barristers

Averil Deverell

The Bar of Ireland has announced a number of initiatives to mark the centenary of Frances Kyle and Averil Deverell becoming Ireland’s first woman barristers.

Ms Kyle and Ms Deverell were the first women to be called in both Ireland and Britain, and Ms Deverell was the first woman on both islands to practise as a barrister.

To mark today’s centenary, the Bar has commissioned the restoration of Ms Deverell’s grave in her native Greystones, Co Wicklow, and unveiled a public graphic installation at its Church Street building in Dublin.

A commemorative edition of the Bar Review includes a range of perspectives and updates on gender equality and ongoing initiatives.

The Bar has also launched a campaign to improve the visual representation of women role models by commissioning a portrait to hang at the King’s Inns. This follows last year’s installation of a portrait of Ms Justice Mary Laffoy.

Maura McNally SC, chair of the Bar Council, said: “One hundred years on from the calling of these women to The Bar and Averil Deverell’s trailblazing legal career, we are reminded more than ever of their invaluable work and contribution to The Bar, as well as the wider justice field.

“Following Deverell’s forty-year career and at the time of her passing in 1979, women still represented only 10 percent of the Bar and only one female Senior Counsel. While progress has been made, this centenary reminds us and prompts us that there is more work to be done in achieving gender balance in the legal more gender balance in the legal profession.

“This diversity will help make the profession a mirror of society – hearing and welcoming voices from all – which will lead to better administration of the legal system, and greater access to justice.”

She added: “Today, 37 percent of the Bar are female and 44 percent of new entrants this year are female. Although 67 senior counsel members are female, this represents just 17 percent of all senior counsel.”

Ms Deverell studied law in Trinity College Dublin and later in the King’s Inns. She was the second woman called to the bar in 1921 after Frances, alongside 18 men, one of whom was her twin brother, Captain William Deverell, and the first woman to practise at The Bar of Ireland.

At the Bar, Averil Deverell became a campaigner for gender equality and worked tirelessly to promote the view that women were equally competent to carry out the same work as men. She remained active in her career, practising for over 40 years, appearing in many cases and giving numerous written opinions on tangled legal subjects.

She later became known as ‘Mother of the Bar’, mentoring a number of women lawyers and continuing to advocate gender equality in the profession.

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