Belfast Telegraph

'Outstanding advocate' Michael Lavery held in high esteem by legal profession

Obituary

Michael Lavery QC
Michael Lavery QC

Former leading barrister Michael Lavery QC, who died last week at the age of 84, was noted not only for his outstanding ability in legal matters, but also for his friendly personality and his help for younger lawyers.

A colleague said: "He was highly-respected for his ability as an advocate, and he was also a friendly and affable colleague who was very approachable.

"He was a larger-than-life character and a bon viveur who regularly dined with his colleagues on Friday afternoons in Belfast when the business of the courts had ended for the day.

"He was a literary person with at times a lyrical approach to his advocacy, and a good sense of humour.

"He was also a modest man who carried his considerable gifts lightly."

Another younger lawyer said: "Michael always had time for young people at the Bar.

"He was a self-deprecating man with a great sense of humour, but he also had a strong spine, a passion for what he did, and a great sense of fairness.

"His sad passing should be a time for reflection for us all."

Born in 1934, Charles Michael Lavery studied law at Queen's University Belfast and Trinity College Dublin.

He was called to the Bar in 1956 and went on to become a QC in 1971.

He was an advocate in many high-profile cases during his career of more than six decades. He represented some of the families of the Bloody Sunday victims at the Saville Inquiry, and on one memorable occasion he clashed sharply with the former British Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.

Under intense questioning, Sir Edward condemned as "obscene" a suggestion that he had been more interested in the UK's role in Europe than in the murders in Northern Ireland.

In a strong exchange lasting nearly an hour, Sir Edward told Mr Lavery that he objected strongly to his attitude and the tone of his questioning.

A former chairman of the Bar Council, his high standing in the profession was confirmed by tributes from top legal figures at the weekend.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan described him as one of the outstanding advocates of his generation.

"His skilful, persuasive style was enhanced by his powerful intellect, and an appropriate level of humour. It made him very effective. Despite the success he achieved in his profession, he was always to the fore in promoting the interests of young lawyers and providing assistance and encouragement to all he encountered," Sir Declan said.

"His passing will be deeply mourned by the profession."

Current Bar chairman Sarah Ramsey said: "Michael remained in active practice until 2017, and he was the Father of the Bar until his retirement.

"He was much-loved and highly respected.

"His immeasurable contribution to the Bar throughout his long career will endure, and he will be fondly remembered by us all.

"On behalf of the Bar, I would like to express our deepest condolences to his family and friends."

The father-of-five was predeceased in 2008 by his German-born wife Dr Anneliese Lavery, who was a well-known GP in west Belfast for more than 40 years.

Requiem Mass for Mr Lavery will be held tomorrow at noon in St Brigid's Church, Derryvolgie Avenue, Belfast, followed at 2pm by burial at Roselawn Cemetery.

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