NI Law Society defends solicitor disparaged by MP

NI Law Society defends solicitor disparaged by MP

Gavin Booth (right)
Credit: Mal McCann

The Law Society of Northern Ireland has called for an end to “attacks on lawyers” after North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr made disparaging remarks about Belfast solicitor Gavin Booth in the House of Commons.

During a debate on the controversial Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, Mr Paisley called Mr Booth a “shameful snake-oil salesman” and questioned his legal qualifications, despite him being a qualified solicitor and a partner in Phoenix Law.

The DUP MP also referred to Mr Booth’s work representing the family of Colum Marks, who was shot dead by an RUC officer in Downpatrick in 1991, describing proposed legal proceedings as “vindictive” and offensive.

Colum Eastwood, SDLP MP for Foyle, challenged Mr Paisley after his remarks to be “very careful in his language”.

He added: “The last time that solicitors were named in this House, we ended up in a very bad and dangerous place. I would just ask him to be very careful about his language, because we can never go back to those days, and people in this House should not be giving licence for that.”

Mr Paisley subsequently repeated his disparaging comments about Mr Booth.

Chris Hazzard, the Sinn Féin MP for South Down, said Mr Paisley’s comments “and the inferences made are dangerous and hark back to darker times”.

“MPs should not be hiding behind parliamentary privilege to engage in commentary of this type,” he added.

In a statement, the Law Society of Northern Ireland said: “The Law Society reiterates its call for attacks on lawyers made in relation to this bill to cease immediately.

“Solicitors provide vital support to victims and survivors of the Troubles to access truth and justice and should not come under attack for doing their jobs.”

Mr Booth, who was previously featured as our Lawyer of the Month for October 2022, told Irish Legal News: “Lawyers act on their clients’ instructions. We take instructions from clients without fear or favour.

“We will not apologise for representing our clients and would invite Mr Paisley to make his comments in public.”

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