Cavan solicitor Eirinn McKiernan says she is “honoured” after being appointed to the bench as a judge of the District Court last week.
The current president of the Cavan Bar Association, and local mother-of-two, received her nomination by the president to the District Court, Judge Rosemary Horgan, before being signed off by Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD.
Ms McKiernan is one of five new judges appointed, filling the vacancy which arose following the untimely death of the late Judge Gráinne O’Neill from Athlone.
One of eight siblings to parents Frank and Margaret, the Lacken-native is the first local legal representative to be called to the bench since Cormac Dunne was appointed as a judge of the District Court in 2002.
“I’m honoured and delighted,” Ms McKiernan told the Celt. “Charles Flanagan, Minister for Justice called me called me last Tuesday (July 10) to inform me. I wasn’t expecting it, so it was quite a shock.”
Ms McKiernan is a solicitor with over 20 years’ experience, starting off in 1999 when she began working in Smith Foy and Partners in Dublin, the senior partner of which, the late Kevin Smith has family connections to Con Smith’s bar in Butlersbridge.
Ms McKiernan remained there until returning to work in Cavan establishing her own practice in 2006 at Ashe Street, Cavan Town.
“It will be a big change, it will certainly be challenging, but it will be nice,” says Ms McKiernan, who will be officially sworn in at a ceremony towards the end of this month.
It’s expected Ms McKiernan will be placed as a movable judge, initially in Dublin, until a permanent vacant position opens up as she is officially assigned.
“I’ve been receiving calls from everybody. It has been wonderful really. Everyone is so delighted. [Judge] Cormac Dunne was the last appointment, so it doesn’t come around too often, so I’m very proud and hopefully I’ll fill the position well.”
She adds: “The Cavan Bar is wonderful group of people. There is great collegiality among members and everyone is made to feel welcome. I will be sad leaving Cavan.”
Welcoming the appointments last week Minister Charlie Flanagan TD said the appointments underline the Government’s commitment to ensuring vacancies in the courts are filled in a timely manner to ensure access to justice. Since 2016 there have been 39 judicial appointments – with 14 judicial appointments in 2016, 16 in 2017 and 15 to date in 2018.
The nominations were made by the Government after it received lists of suitable candidates from the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, and ahead of new legislation which sets up a new commission to recommend judges for nomination by the Government.
There has been calls to reform the way judges are selected with accusations levelled in the past that politicians have appointed “their friends” as judges for years. Judges, meanwhile, have strongly rejected these criticisms, most recently repeated by Independent Alliance member and Minister for Transport and Tourism, Shane Ross.
In his statement, Mr Flanagan noted the “good progress” made in the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, currently before the Seanad.