NUI Galway law lecturer, Donncha O’Connell, has been appointed by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, TD, to the new Legal Aid Board.
Announcing the membership of the new Board yesterday, Mr Shatter said: “I am delighted to announce this new Legal Aid Board. In the last four years there has been a considerable increase in demand for legal services and this coincides with the downturn in the economy. Evidence internationally has pointed towards a greater need for access to legal services in areas such as family law, debt and employment during times of economic stress and Ireland appears no different in this regard. This has inevitably created huge pressures for the Board and its capacity to deliver legal services within a reasonable period of time. There are many challenges ahead for this new Board, including piloting, early in 2012, a somewhat different approach to the provision of legal services by way of an attempt to ensure that every applicant for legal aid gets an appointment within a period of three or four weeks.
In November of this year, I also announced the formal integration of the Family Mediation Service with the Legal Aid Board and the functions of the Legal Aid Board have now been extended under Part 16 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act to include a family mediation service. The Board is also, in taking a range of other measures, keeping all of its services under review with a view to ensuring that its resources are used as efficiently and effectively as possible.
I am confident that the new Board members will all bring their considerable skills and expertise to the work of the Legal Aid Board and that their presence on the Board will ensure that it continues to operate as innovatively, efficiently and effectively as it has always done, in what is, a much more difficult economic environment than at any time in its history.”
O’Connell was the Dean of Law at NUI Galway from 2005-2008 and he continues to teach European Human Rights and Constitutional Law in the School of Law. He has extensive experience on European human rights bodies having served as the Irish member of the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights established by the EU Commission in 2002 and as the senior Irish member of FRALEX, the legal expert group that advised the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights based in Vienna.
He spent the academic year 2009-2010 as a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights LSE and is the editor of the Irish Human Rights Law Review published annually by Clarus Press.
Donncha was the first full-time Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) from 1999-2002 and he has, in the past, been a board member of the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) Ltd and Amnesty International-Ireland. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the London-based NGO, INTERIGHTS – The International Centre for the Legal Protection of Rights. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), a project of FLAC.