NI: Women appointed as High Court judges in Northern Ireland first

Denise McBride and Siobhan Keegan
Pictured (l-r): Denise McBride QC and Siobhan Keegan QC

Two women have been appointed as High Court judges in Northern Ireland, making them the first-ever women to hold the senior judicial posts.

Denise McBride QC and Siobhan Keegan QC were sworn in by the Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan today, replacing two judges who were elevated to the Court of Appeal during the Summer.

The appointments follow increased scrutiny of gender equality in the judiciary across the UK. Sir Declan, speaking in 2012, said it was important to “lever change” on the representation of women within the justice sector.

The Equality Commission of Northern Ireland has previously said that women are “underrepresented in the highest offices of the judiciary”.

Speaking after the new appointments, Sir Declan said: “Ms Denise McBride QC and Mrs Siobhan Keegan QC are excellent lawyers and meritorious appointments and I am confident they will serve as members of the judiciary for the benefit of the community as a whole.

“Since assuming the role of Lord Chief Justice and chairman of NIJAC, I have promoted a number of initiatives aimed at ensuring that the judiciary is as reflective as possible of the community, while at the same time emphasising that the merit principle should never be compromised.

“I will continue to encourage our most talented practitioners to put themselves forward for appointment, safe in the knowledge that merit will always be the overriding consideration.

“These appointments are a clear demonstration that diversity and merit go hand in hand.”

Ms McBride graduated from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in 1988 and was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1989. She was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2011 and served as vice chair of the Bar Council between 2012-14.

Mrs Keegan graduated from QUB in 1993 and was called to the bar in 1994. She was appointed QC in 2006 and replaced Ms McBride as vice chair of the Bar Council in 2014.

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