Louth student wins Law Society’s new legal essay competition

Louth student wins Law Society's new legal essay competition

Saorla McDonagh Sharkey

Louth transition year student Saorla McDonagh Sharkey has been named winner of the Law Society of Ireland’s inaugural National Gráinne O’Neill Memorial Legal Essay Competition.

The competition invited 1,500-word essays on the topic “The law and social media: striking a balance between freedom of expression and responsible usage”.

Of the more than 80 essays submitted by students from 38 schools across 14 different counties, Saorla, of St Vincent’s Secondary School in Dundalk, Louth, won the top award.

Saorla’s essay won a €1,000 prize, trophy and shield for her school. The judges commended her essay’s “unique approach” as she “carefully put a spotlight on social justice issues to enhance the critical debate of the competing rights”.

Richard Hammond SC, chairperson of the Law Society’s education committee, said: “This competition aims to encourage young people to engage with the law and consider their own legal rights, how the law impacts society. This competition aims to inspire students’ learning and develop their creativity in an engaging way.

“We were delighted to welcome our student finalists, their parents, guardians, and teachers, to the home of the Law Society of Ireland at Blackhall Place to celebrate their achievements.”

Saorla added: “I am delighted to be awarded first prize at the Gráinne O’Neill essay competition. It’s very special that I could attend the event with my parents. The competition opened my eyes further to the world of law and the balance of legal rights and it has definitely inspired me to consider a career in law.

“I would like to thank my teachers, especially Mr Thompson for encouraging me always in English and Mr Henry my TY Coordinator. I am proud to represent my Secondary school St Vincent’s Dundalk.”

Hari Chandana Parimkayala, of Loreto Secondary School, Wexford, was awarded second place and Michael Kerley of De La Salle College, Dundalk, Co Louth, came third.

Four merit certificates were awarded to Huriyah Baqer of Loreto Secondary School, Balbriggan, Dublin; Carys Hudner of Moville Community College, Donegal; Saoirse Reilly of The High School, Dublin; and Eimear McCarthy of Coláiste na Toirbhirte, Bandon, Cork.

The Gráinne O’Neill Memorial Legal Essay Competition honours the life and legacy of the late Judge Gráinne O’Neill, who became the youngest judge in Ireland on her appointment to the District Court in 2014. She died in 2018 following a period of illness.

The competition was initiated by Mr Justice Keenan Johnson of the Circuit Court, in collaboration with the Midland Solicitors’ Bar Association, in 2019. This is the first year the competition invited entries from transition year students across the country.

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