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Criminal barristers planning to down tools in May over ‘leprechaun legal’ aid

The strike is planned in response to low fees.

Barrister fees at the District Court are in the spotlight.© Getty Images/iStockphoto

Níall FeiritearSunday World

Irish criminal barristers are planning strike action this summer in response to a crisis in funding for legal aid.

The planned strike is due to the level of fees paid to barristers in the District Court which has reached ‘crisis point,’ according to legal news site, JURIST, and is scheduled to go ahead on May 2.

“The lack of funding has made Ireland the laughing stock of the EU and ‘leprechaun legal aid’ does not provide adequate funding,” barrister Darren Lalor said.

Mr Lalor believes the fault lies at the hands of the Government and those in charge of the purse strings.

“I fully support a withdrawal of services. The sooner the better. The Irish state has not taken steps to whatsoever to deal with its failure to bring Ireland into compliance with Rule of Law funding requirements,” said Mr Lalor.

He and another barrister, Luigi Rea, have both been campaigning on this topic. They argue that ‘the Irish State has neglected barristers practicing at District Court level by withholding the restoration of cuts imposed during the financial emergency.’

Barrister fee rates have remained unchanged since 2002.

The Irish Central Bank’s Governor, Gabriel Makhlouf, said on February 19 that financial growth in Ireland over the year was expected to be “more than treble growth in the overall EU.”

The campaigning barristers emphasize the need for the European Union Economic Commission to observe the growth in the economy and the essential services provided by barristers.

Lalor has asked the Commission to institute an inquiry into the matter and make provisions for the payment of emergency funding in Ireland.

This comes after barristers in Ireland gathered at entrances to courthouses countrywide last year to voice their concerns about fees.

Chair of the Council of the Bar of Ireland, Maura McNally, said at the time:

“In the district court, certain of those practitioners are being paid €25 - which isn’t even the minimum wage.

“If they’re lucky they might have two of those cases a day. You cannot force self-employed people to continue in a particular area of law and that’s the problem.

“60% of young barristers leave criminal law within the first six years. Our politicians have to ensure that there are going to be personnel there as part of the system to run cases, to prosecute them and to defend them.

“They will not have people there because you have young people who want to have normal lives and to buy houses like everybody else!” she exclaimed.

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