Helen McEntee: Barristers shouldn’t have to mount legal aid protests

Helen McEntee: Barristers shouldn't have to mount legal aid protests

Pictured: Helen McEntee speaking at The Bar of Ireland chair's dinner

Helen McEntee has pledged her support for fee restoration in a well-received speech to barristers — saying she does not “want to see a situation where barristers feel the need to protest on the steps of the Criminal Courts of Justice”.

Speaking for the first time at The Bar of Ireland’s annual chair’s dinner, hosted by Sara Phelan SC, Mrs McEntee said she could see “no good reason why those in the legal profession are left waiting for crisis era reductions to be restored, while public and civil servants have had their pay restored”.

The justice minister added: “It is very much on my agenda for the upcoming budgetary process and my discussions with [public expenditure minister Paschal] Donohoe. I hope you are reassured that I will do my utmost to support you all in your work.”

Mrs McEntee returned to her seat amid a standing ovation after a speech in which she addressed a range of issues for the legal sector, including the appointment of additional judges — which she reminded practitioners was “on the condition of certain reforms and efficiencies having been implemented”.

However, her explicit reference to protests which have taken place outside the CCJ raised eyebrows among guests.

In May, dozens of barristers gathered outside the CCJ and some other courthouses to show their continued displeasure at legal aid rates which have not been updated in over two decades. Similar events took place in March and April last year.

Darren Lalor BL, one of the protest organisers, who practises in the District Court, told Irish Legal News that escalation was in order.

“I feel it is time to bring in the unions to sort this out,” he said. “The Bar of Ireland has not done what needs to be done, and any attempt by them to bring about change has been ignored.

“Justice on the cheap continues. Helen McEntee is well aware of the situation.”

“I am calling on the chair of The Bar of Ireland to call on all barrister for a complete withdrawal of their services. Many barristers are sick and tired of Bar Council surveys and meetings that just go nowhere.”

Mr Lalor has previously called for a further protest outside the CCJ on Friday 14th July.

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