Belfast Telegraph

It's Strictly legal! Lawyers head for the dance floor to raise money for Tiny Life charity

By Amanda Ferguson

They're more used to dressing in wigs and dark gowns.

But tonight, prominent figures from Northern Ireland's legal profession will cast their usual court attire aside in favour of colour, sequins and tassles.

The lawyers are putting their best foot forward to take part in 'Strictly Legal', a fundraising event for the charity Tiny Life. So far more than £25,000 has been raised for the charity which supports premature and ill babies and their parents.

Belfast's Europa Hotel is the venue for this evening's fierce competition of Latin and ballroom entertainment, organised by the Law Society of Northern Ireland. It will see 11 couples compete to be crowned the king and queen of the dance floor in a contest mimicking the popular BBC television series.

Tiny Life is of special significance to Law Society president Arleen Elliott, a solicitor from Holywood, as her nephew Jasper died a few months after he was born prematurely in 2013.

"My twin brothers Gavin and Neil were born prematurely with holes in their hearts and various complications," she said.

"My nephew then was born similarly premature but he had complications with a cystic hydroma. They did an operation but he didn't ultimately survive.

"My brother and his wife got a lot of support from Tiny Life and I have to say for the time Jasper was in the Royal Victoria Hospital they really were amazing."

Some 650 tickets have been sold for tonight's event.

Arleen says the lawyers, who started weekly classes with Belfast dance teacher Alan Clarke in January, are being "horrendously competitive".

"I have really enjoyed the craic," she said. "There has been a real sense of camaraderie. The competition adds that extra spice. There is lots of strategic thinking going on about how to maximise votes.

"Anything to get the edge!"

The money raised will go toward family support services at Tiny Life, whose patrons include actor Jamie Dornan, former Northern Ireland football international David Healy and former Ulster Rugby star Paddy Wallace.

Valerie Cromie from Tiny Life said Strictly Legal funds would be a big boost to its work.

"The Strictly Legal dancers are absolutely fantastic," she said.

"It has included everybody from the interns in the Law Society to barristers and the top of the legal profession. The whole team effort has been incredible and the funds will go to family support and lots of people will benefit from volunteers, breast pumps and family activity groups."

For more about Tiny Life visit To donate visit,

Alphy and Attracta

Attracta Wilson, from the Departmental Solicitor’s Office, is partnered with Alphy Maginness, the director of legal services in the Business Services Organisation. Alphy has been so busy rehearsing he hasn’t had time to ask his brother, SDLP politician Alban Maginness, for tips on canvassing for votes.

Alphy said: “It has been a really enjoyable experience.

“It has been great fun and it is a fantastic charity. There has been friendly rivalry and great banter.”

Attracta said: “It is my first foray into the dance world and probably my last.

“But it has been very, very good fun training every week.

“It has been a laugh. We’re the couple to beat!”

Paul and Imelda

Imelda McMillan, a senior partner with O’Reilly Stewart, will be dancing with solicitor Paul Dougan, from John J Rice & Co.

Paul said: “Everyone is hugely competitive. Secret practising, private lessons, nobody tells anybody anything. We are seeing some things at the dress rehearsal for the first time ever. No props for us. Ours is just purely talent.”

Imelda said: “I have really enjoyed the experience. I’ve been doing different things to raise funds like making Frozen dresses, bake sales and a frock swap. We have raised loads of money which is the important bit. It will make a difference to children’s lives.”

Belfast Telegraph


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