George Birmingham

George Martin Birmingham (born 3 August 1954) is an Irish judge who has served as President of the Court of Appeal since April 2018 and a Judge of the Court of Appeal since October 2014. He previously served as a Judge of the High Court from 2007 to 2014, Minister of State for European Affairs from 1986 to 1987 and Minister of State for Youth Affairs from 1982 to 1986. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin North-Central constituency from 1981 to 1989.[1]

George Birmingham
President of the Court of Appeal
Assumed office
4 April 2018
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byMichael D. Higgins
Preceded bySeán Ryan
Judge of the Court of Appeal
Assumed office
24 October 2014
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byMichael D. Higgins
Judge of the High Court
In office
5 June 2007  24 October 2014
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byMary McAleese
Minister of State for European Affairs
In office
13 February 1986  21 January 1987
TaoiseachGarret FitzGerald
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Minister of State for Youth Affairs
In office
16 December 1982  13 February 1986
TaoiseachGarret FitzGerald
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byEnda Kenny
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1981  June 1989
ConstituencyDublin North-Central
Personal details
George Martin Birmingham

(1954-08-03) 3 August 1954 (age 66)
Clontarf, Dublin, Ireland
Political partyFine Gael
Alma mater

Early life

Birmingham was born in Dublin in 1954. He was educated at St. Paul's College, Trinity College, Dublin and King's Inns, where he qualified as a barrister.[2] He was called to the bar in November 1976.[3]

His early legal career involved representing clients in commercial,[4] criminal,[5] and labour law matters.[6]

Political career

First elections

Birmingham was elected to the national executive of Fine Gael in December 1976.[7] He proposed a successful motion at the 1978 Fine Gael Ardfheis for the party to seek a referendum on divorce.[8] He was first elected to office in 1979, topping the poll in his ward to become a Fine Gael member of Dublin Corporation for Raheny.[9] He was first elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1981 general election as a Fine Gael TD for the Dublin North-Central constituency.[10] He was competing against Charles Haughey, Vincent Brady and Noël Browne.[11] He was the Fine Gael spokesperson for urban affairs in 1982.[12]

Minister of State

Between 1982 and 1987, he served as a Minister of State under Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald. He was first appointed a Minister of State for Youth Affairs at the Department of Labour in December 1982,[13] with additional duties at the Department of Education from December 1983.[14] In 1983 in the Dáil, he defended the wording of the then proposed Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland on behalf of the government, specifically to ensure that the Supreme Court of Ireland could not discover an unenumerated right to abortion.[15]

In February 1986, he transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs to become Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs and Development Co-operation. He was replaced as Minister of State for Youth Affairs by Enda Kenny.[16] The government at the time considered created a cabinet-level rank of Minister for European Affairs for Gemma Hussey to coordinate EEC affairs, but instead opted to appoint Birmingham to a Minister of State position. Some EEC business was delegated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to Birmingham.[17] He travelled to Lusaka later that year for discussions with the African National Congress.[18]

Return to opposition

Fine Gael lost power following the 1987 general election, but he was reelected to the Dáil despite he and constituency colleague Richard Bruton only achieving 24% of the vote combined.[19] He was appointed Fine Gael spokesperson for Labour by Alan Dukes in 1987 and subsequently Education in 1988.[20][21] He proposed that injunctions restraining strikes should be not be held ex parte and that unofficial strikes should be banned.[22] In March 1988 he introduced the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill 1988, an unsuccessful private members' bill, into the Dáil, to change the time limits for personal injuries.[23]

Birmingham lost his Dáil seat at the 1989 general election.[10]

Legal career

He resumed his career as a barrister in 1989, becoming a Senior Counsel in 1999.[2] He practised extensively in criminal law, prosecuting on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.[24] He represented injured fans in relation to the Lansdowne Road football riot.[25] He appeared for the DPP in the trials of Michael McKevitt in the Special Criminal Court in 2003 and Linda and Charlotte Mulhall in 2006.[26][27]

He served as chairperson of the Censorship of Publications Appeals Board.[28] He was appointed to chair the Advisory Group on Criminal Law and Procedure in 1996 by Minister for Justice Nora Owen.[29]

Birmingham was the sole member of the Commission of Investigation into the Dean Lyons case.[30] He conducted a preliminary investigation for the government prior to the Ferns Report into allegations of clerical sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ferns.[2]

Judicial career

On 3 May 2007, it was announced that he had been selected to become a High Court judge. He became a Judge of the High Court in June 2007.[31]

In October 2014, he became one of the first appointees as Judge of the Court of Appeal on its establishment.[32]

President of Court of Appeal

On 24 April 2018, the Government of Ireland nominated Birmingham to be President of the Court of Appeal.[33] As President of the Court of Appeal, he is an ex officio member of the Supreme Court of Ireland.[2]

Birmingham's attracted nomination political controversy,[34][35] in light of his time as a Fine Gael TD and Minister of State during the 1980s.[36]

In 2018, he noted the difficulty posed to the court in not having enough judges to hear appeals.[37] There was a change in legislation in 2019 to increase the number of judges in order to speed up the appellate process, increasing the number of Court of Appeal judges to fifteen.[38]


  1. "George Birmingham". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  2. "Supreme Court Annual Report 2019" (PDF). Supreme Court of Ireleand. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  3. "Six women among 36 called to Bar". The Irish Times. 19 November 1976. p. 14.
  4. "Liquidator appointed to building firm". The Irish Times. 11 April 1978. p. 12.
  5. "Conviction and sentence quashed". The Irish Times. 15 July 1978. p. 8.
  6. "Unfair dismissal claim against horse trainer". The Irish Times. 15 August 1980. p. 11.
  7. "FG national executive". The Irish Times. 15 December 1976. p. 6.
  8. Kennedy, Geraldine (22 May 1978). "Ard Fheis calls for referendum on divorce issue". The Irish Times. p. 1.
  9. Coughlan, Denis (24 March 1981). "Three Bs make it for FG in north Dublin". The Irish Times. p. 7.
  10. "George Birmingham". Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  11. Murtagh, Peter (28 May 1981). "Jobs an issue in Stardust constituency". The Irish Times. p. 12.
  12. "Mixed schools pledge vt FG". The Irish Times. 13 December 1982. p. 15.
  13. "Keating omission causes surprise". The Irish Times. 17 December 1982. p. 1.
  14. Walsh, Dick (14 December 1983). "Labour portfolio for Quinn in Cabinet shuffle". The Irish Times. p. 1.
  15. "Dáil Éireann debate". Oireachtas. 23 February 1983. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  16. "Dáil Éireann debate". 13 February 1986. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  17. Cooney, John (15 February 1986). "Taoiseach wanted Hussey in new Euro Ministry". The Irish Times. p. 1.
  18. "Irish Minister meets ANC in Lusaka". The Irish Times. 13 September 1986. p. 5.
  19. "Remarkable result, says Birmingham". The Irish Times. 19 February 1987. p. 7.
  20. "Bruton is deputy leader as Dukes names new team". The Irish Times. 27 March 1987. p. 1.
  21. "Dukes stamps authority on FG with new front bench". The Irish Times. 1 September 1988. p. 1.
  22. "FG proposes unofficial strike ban". The Irish Times. 28 October 1987. p. 6.
  23. "Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill, 1988: First Stage. – Dáil Éireann (25th Dáil) – Thursday, 3 Mar 1988 – Houses of the Oireachtas". 3 March 1988. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  24. "Manslaughter trial opens in Dublin". RTÉ News. 8 October 1999. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  25. "English FA will challenge findings of inquiry into Lansdowne Road riot". The Irish Times. 21 January 1997. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  26. "McKevitt trial hears evidence in Dublin". RTÉ News. 18 June 2003. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  27. "Sisters on trial over Dublin canal death". RTÉ News. 12 October 2006.
  28. "Written Answers. - Membership of State Boards. – Dáil Éireann (27th Dáil) – Tuesday, 3 Oct 1995 – Houses of the Oireachtas". 3 October 1995. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  29. Oireachtas, Houses of the (5 March 1997). "Written Answers. - Working Groups and Committees. – Dáil Éireann (27th Dáil) – Wednesday, 5 Mar 1997 – Houses of the Oireachtas". Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  30. "Dean Lyons Commission of Investigation". Department of Justice and Law Reform. Archived from the original on 20 December 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  31. "Annual Report 2007" (PDF). Judicial Appointments Advisory Board. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  32. "Appointments to the Court of Appeal". Department of the Taoiseach. 29 October 2014.
  33. "George Birmingham named president of Court of Appeal". The Irish Times. 24 April 2018.
  34. "Government row erupts over top judicial appointment". The Irish Times. 25 April 2018.
  35. "Judicial tensions flare up again". The Irish Times. 25 April 2018.
  36. "Former Fine Gael TD named President of the Court of Appeal". Irish Examiner. 24 April 2018.
  37. "Court of Appeal president struggling to find 'three judges to speak English, let alone Irish'". Irish Legal News. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  38. "Seven new judges". Retrieved 20 June 2020.