The Bar Council of Ireland has released a statement reiterating its code of conduct after Fine Gael alleged a Fianna Fail candidate’s legal work was a conflict of interest.
Media reports on Friday detailed how Fianna Fail candidate Jim O’Callaghan once acted as a barrister for Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams in a court action against a national newspaper in a defamation case.
Fine Gael allege that in taking the case, which began in 2015, before Mr O’Callaghan was elected to the Dail, Mr O’Callaghan had reflected his willingness to work with Sinn Fein in government.
Statement from the Council of The Bar of Ireland: The fundamental importance of an independent referral Barhttps://t.co/koQkeSGrWd— The Bar of Ireland (@TheBarofIreland) February 7, 2020
Mr O’Callaghan repeated on Friday morning on RTE’s Sean O’Rourke programme that “under no circumstances” was his party planning on going into government with Mary Lou McDonald’s party and that he was duty bound to represent Mr Adams, as barristers could not discriminate against who they represented on grounds of their politics or other factors.
Fine Gael’s Regina Doherty, who also appeared on the programme, repeatedly stated that Mr O’Callaghan had to “walk the walk as well as talk the talk”, and that it came down to a “matter of trust” on whether voters could count on Fianna Fail to reject Sinn Fein’s offer when trying to form a government after Mr O’Callaghan had “taken their coin”.
Mr O’Callaghan rejected the notion that representing Mr Adams was a conflict of interest, and noted he had also represented Fine Gael ministers and members of other parties during his long career in law before he was elected TD for Dublin Bay South.
Mr O’Callaghan said Ms Doherty had been “sent out by the Fine Gael press office” to defend the position just hours before the broadcast ban was put in place.
The Bar Council of Ireland released a statement, minutes before the broadcast moratorium ahead of polling on Saturday, echoing Mr O’Callaghan’s statements.
“It is the duty of barristers to be independent and free from any influence, especially such as may arise from their personal interests or external pressure, in the discharge of their professional duties as barristers,” the statement read.
“Barristers cannot discriminate in favour of or against any person availing, or seeking to avail, of the services of the barrister on the grounds of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, politics, religion, nationality, national or social origin, national minority, birth or other status.
“This is detailed in the Code of Conduct of The Bar of Ireland, to which all members of the independent referral bar are bound.
“It is in accordance with the provision that everyone is entitled to access to justice, which is central to trust in the Irish legal system and the rule of law.”