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President Michael D. Higgins hosts reception to mark the centenary of the calling of the first women to the Bar

Date: Wed 3rd Nov, 2021 | 17:30

President Michael D. Higgins has this afternoon hosted a reception at Áras an Uachtaráin to mark the centenary of the calling of the first women to the Bar in Ireland.

On 1 November 1921, Frances Kyle and Averil Deverell were called to the Bar, the first women to achieve this either in Ireland or Britain. In the year of her call to the Bar, Frances Kyle achieved first place in her Bar examinations, while Averil Deverell was the first woman to practise as a barrister on either island.

To mark the centenary, President Higgins today welcomed a number of prominent women who have served in the Law in Ireland to Áras an Uachtaráin, including the President of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine; the President of the Circuit Court, Judge Patricia Ryan; retired Judges of the Supreme Court, and Ms Justice Fidelma Macken; the first female Attorney General and Judge of the Court of Appeal, Ms Justice Máire Whelan; and the Chair of the Council of the Bar of Ireland, Ms Maura McNally S.C..

Speaking at this important centenary event, President Higgins said:

“One hundred years ago, Frances Kyle and Averil Deverell broke new ground by allowing society to envision a legal system that would comprise diverse and different faces. Across that century many women, including so many of you here today, have taken up that baton and played their role in moving us towards a day when women working at all levels within the legal profession, or indeed any profession, will be the norm and not the exception. 

I thank and commend you for your profound contribution towards the creation of a better and fairer society for all our people.

Let us today also resolve to aspire towards a time when the legal profession of barrister will be a truly diverse one, with a greatly expanded perspective and empathy as it reflects a society enriched by individuals from many different backgrounds, cultures and traditions – a society in which so much is possible and can be imagined.”

During the period 1921 to 1973, just 100 women were called to the Bar in Ireland, though many of those who were called made extremely significant contributions both to Irish Law and to wider Irish society. The number of women called to the Bar has greatly increased in the decades since, and in the legal year 2020/21 the percentage of new female members reached 50% for the first time.