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Gerry Adams' former lawyer Barra McGrory pens eulogy to founding member of DUP Desmond Boal

By Rebecca Black

Published 19/05/2015

Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory
Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory

Gerry Adams' former solicitor has paid a touching tribute to a leading QC - a founding member of the DUP - as one of his great heroes.

Desmond Boal died last month at the age of 85 following a long and distinguished legal career.

Barra McGrory, now Director of Public Prosecutions, described him as the greatest Irish barrister since Edward Carson.

He said Mr Boal's courtroom skills were "legendary" and admiringly said he "applied them indiscriminately for clients of all persuasions to ensure that the rule of law applied for the benefit of all".

Mr McGrory described Mr Boal as a man of "deep intellect", and "a great friend".

He described a number of anecdotes including one of how during long trials, Mr Boal would decamp to the Europa Hotel, and even occasionally invited a homeless person in for a slap-up meal.

"Indeed, others who fell on hard time were the recipients of Desmond's humanity and generosity," he wrote in a piece published in the Irish Times.

Mr Boal was originally from Londonderry. He represented the Shankill constituency from 1960 to 1971 as a then-Official Unionist MP in the Stormont Parliament, and later settled in Holywood.

He was often critical of the unionist leadership, and particularly so of Captain Terence O'Neill, who attempted to foster positive cross-border relationships and reach out to the nationalist minority in Northern Ireland.

Mr Boal remained in the party and was also a powerful critic of subsequent unionist leaders James Chichester-Clark and Brian Faulkner.

However, in 1971 he resigned from the Unionist Party and joined with Rev Ian Paisley to form the DUP. He was the first chairman of the DUP. But following disagreements with Mr Paisley, Mr Boal resigned from the party in 1974.

It was in the courtroom that Mr Boal distinguished himself most, featuring in many of the most high-profile criminal trials during the Troubles and was a much sought-after defence advocate.

Mr McGrory recalled how during the lengthy supergrass trials, Mr Boal was able to cross-examine upwards of 30 defendants often accused of serious crimes without looking at notes.

He also fondly recalled what he termed Mr Boal's "wicked sense of humour", which included him "famously untying the shoe laces of a colleague while on his feet addressing a court, and retying the shoes together so that he would fall over if he moved an inch".

Mr McGrory reflected on Mr Boal's thirst for knowledge of other cultures, which he said took him to remote parts of the world, from the Amazon jungle to Tibetan monasteries where he "spent many weeks in contemplation".

Mr Boal had been a long-term friend of Mr McGrory's solicitor father PJ, and his son recalled how touched he had been to see him at the funeral in Donegal.

He had been taken under the great lawyer's wing, and commented: "He saw in me a young lawyer who was inspired by his own love of advocacy and commitment to the common law."

One example of this was given as when Mr McGrory had been asked to represent a Royal Irish Ranger facing criminal charges in Germany. He said Mr Boal encouraged him to present the case himself, and later flew over to help him.

"When it emerged that the young soldier had a rare form of epilepsy and that his only option was a medically and legally complex psychiatric defence Desmond cleared his busy list and travelled with me to Germany where we spent a week, successfully as it turned out, defending the soldier before a military court martial. He never once raised the issue of fees," Mr McGrory recounted.

He concluded the tribute by writing: "I for one will miss his company and wisdom greatly."

The late Desmond Boal QC
The late Desmond Boal QC

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