New portrait honours first women called to the Irish Bar

New portrait honours first women called to the Irish Bar

Artist Emma Stroude with the new portrait

A new portrait of Frances Kyle BL and Averil Deverell BL, the first women to be called to The Bar of Ireland, has been unveiled at the King’s Inns.

Artist Emma Stroud was commissioned to produce the portrait as part of the “In Plain Sight” initiative jointly launched by the Bar and the King’s Inns, which aims to celebrate the achievements and enhance the visibility of women who have demonstrated significant leadership, influence and contribution to legal practice and education.

Only three portraits of women barristers hung in the King’s Inns before yesterday. The initiative is seeking to address that under-representation through the commissioning of new portraiture that will hang in the Law Library and in the King’s Inns.

The double portrait in oil, now hanging in the Bar Room, is based on documentary material and research undertaken by the artist in close conjunction with historian Liz Goldthorpe, and Renate Ní Uigin and Mary Griffin of King’s Inns.

Owned by the Bar and funded in part by donations from its membership, the portrait has been provided on loan to the King’s Inns and may be loaned temporarily to other institutions in order to expand the impact and prominence of its subjects.

Maura McNally SC, chair of the Bar Council, said: “This will be a first of many portraits. As the King’s Inns is the centre for formation and training of barristers, the need for a more representative and contemporary reflection of the profession has been identified so that those passing through have a better understanding of the role that women have played and continue to play at the Bar.

“Emma Stroude’s treatment captures the dignity and determined nature of the two barristers, as they take that first step towards making history.”

Hugh Mohan SC, chair of the King’s Inns, said: “This initiative continues The Honorable Society of King’s Inns’ investment and commitment to the visual arts, as mode to communicate the heritage of the institution and profession, as well as its contemporary understanding.

“That we are only now commissioning a portrait of the first female barristers underscores the work that needs to be done in terms of a more representative portrayal of the profession. I look forward to seeing a continuation of this in the years to come.”

The unveiling was also attended by representatives of The Bar of Northern Ireland, including outgoing chairman Brendan Brady QC and treasurer Henry Toner QC. Frances Kyle called to the bar in Northern Ireland a week after calling to the Irish bar.

Mr Toner drew parallels between the In Plain Sight initiative and the Bar of Northern Ireland’s own recent initiative to photograph women QCs, whose portraits will be hung in the Inn of Court in Belfast later this year.

Artist Emma Stroude added: “The research I was supported to conduct as part of the In Plain Sight bursary was essential in informing my approach to the portrait because I learned both about the lives of the two women, and also how their achievements impacted so positively on women today.

“I felt a real responsibility to do a good job on their behalf, because when you present an image in this way, that is how a lot of people will remember them.

“For Averil and Frances to have their legacy commemorated in this way is wholly deserved and I am honoured to have been commissioned for the portrait.”

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