The long-awaited review of Ireland’s civil legal aid scheme has begun with the opening of a consultation for stakeholders.
The consultation, which will run from today until Friday 6 January, marks the first part of a multi-phase consultation process aimed at capturing a broad range of views across society.
Former chief justice Frank Clarke was appointed in June to lead a review group to make recommendations for the future of the civil legal aid scheme 40 years on from its establishment.
Speaking today, justice minister Helen McEntee said: “I recently announced a review of the civil legal aid scheme, for the first time in its more than 40-year history. Today’s consultation marks the first step in that process.
“In order to provide maximum benefit to those it was established to serve, within the finite resources available to fund legal aid, a robust, comprehensive review of the scheme is now timely.
“This review will allow for an assessment of how flexible and responsive the scheme is to the needs of those it is intended to serve.
“The consultation is aimed at academic and research institutions, NGOs, agencies and volunteer organisations. I would encourage as many groups as possible to participate and have their say on this important matter.”
Mr Clarke said: “Throughout my career I have striven to broaden access to justice across the Irish legal system. Ensuring that we have a fair and robust civil legal aid scheme is key to achieving this.
“I am delighted to chair the independent review group, which is made up of expert membership drawn from those who work with marginalised groups, legal practitioners, academics, Department officials and representatives from the Legal Aid Board.
“We will be considering a number of issues in the review, including eligibility for civil legal aid. This stakeholder consultation will be a valuable opportunity to hear from those most familiar with the scheme about its operation and potential for the future.”
Mrs McEntee added: “The group is here to listen and wants to hear from a full and varied range of voices on this crucial issue. While this phase is aimed towards specific stakeholder groups, a separate, forthcoming consultation will invite members of the public to have their say.
“Furthermore, the review group will, in the coming months, launch a third consultation specifically designed to enable hard-to-reach groups to contribute to the discussion and have their voices heard. I look forward to hearing what each group has to say.”
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