Mary Irvine

Mary Irvine (born 10 December 1956[1]) is an Irish judge who is the President of the Irish High Court, the first woman appointed to that role. She first was a Judge of the High Court between 2007 to 2014. She was a Judge of the Court of Appeal from 2014 to 2019 and served as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Ireland from May 2019 until becoming President of the High Court on 18 June 2020. She is an ex officio member of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.

Mary Irvine
President of the High Court
Assumed office
18 June 2020
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byMichael D. Higgins
Preceded byPeter Kelly
Judge of the High Court
Assumed office
18 June 2020
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byMichael D. Higgins
In office
5 June 2007  24 October 2014
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byMary McAleese
Judge of the Supreme Court
In office
13 May 2019  18 June 2020[nb 1]
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byMichael D. Higgins
Judge of the Court of Appeal
In office
24 October 2014  12 May 2019[nb 2]
Nominated byGovernment of Ireland
Appointed byMichael D. Higgins
Personal details
Mary Irvine

(1956-12-10) 10 December 1956 (age 64)
Clontarf, Dublin, Ireland
Spouse(s)Michael Moriarty (divorced)
Alma mater
  1. ex officio member from 18 June 2020
  2. ex officio member from 18 June 2020

She was nominated to become the President of the High Court in June 2020. In addition to being the first woman to hold that position, she is the first judge to have held four judicial offices.

Early life

Irvine was born to John and Cecily Irvine in 1956 in Clontarf, Dublin.[1][2] Her father was once deputy director of RTÉ.[3] She was educated at Mount Anville Secondary School, University College Dublin and the King's Inns.[4] She was an international golf player,[3] winning the Irish Girls Close Championship in 1975.[5]

Legal career

She was called to the Bar in 1978, and became a Senior Counsel in 1996.[6] She was the secretary of the Bar Council of Ireland in 1992.[7] She was elected a Bencher of the King's Inns in 2004.[4]

Irvine specialised in medical law,[4] appearing in medical negligence cases on behalf of and against health boards in actions.[8][9] She was a legal advisor to an inquiry into Deposit interest retention tax conducted by the Public Accounts Committee, along with future judicial colleagues Frank Clarke and Paul Gilligan.[10] She represented the Congregation of Christian Brothers at the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.[11]

Her practice also extended to constitutional law. As a junior counsel, she acted for the plaintiff in Cahill v. Sutton in 1980 in the Supreme Court with seniors Niall McCarthy and James O'Driscoll. The case established the modern Irish law of standing for applicants to challenge the constitutional validity of statutes.[12] She appeared with Peter Kelly to argue on behalf the right of the unborn in a reference made by President Mary Robinson under Article 26 of the Constitution to the Supreme Court in 1995 regarding the Information (Termination of Pregnancies) Bill 1995.[13]

Judicial career

High Court

Irvine was appointed as a Judge of the High Court in June 2007.[14][6][15] She was in charge of the High Court Personal Injuries list from 2009 to 2014 and subsequently became the second Chair of the Working Group on Medical Negligence and Periodic Payments, established by the President of the High Court.[16][17][4]

Court of Appeal

She was appointed to Court of Appeal on its establishment in October 2014.[6] Some of her judgments on the Court of Appeal reduced awards given by lower courts for personal injuries compensation.[18] She wrote "most of the key" Court of Appeal judgments between 2015 and 2017 which had the effect of reducing awards arising from subsequent actions in the High Court.[19]

She was appointed to chair a statutory tribunal to conduct hearings and deal with cases related to the CervicalCheck cancer scandal in 2019.[16] However following her appointment as President of the High Court in 2020, she was unable to continue with the position.[20]

Supreme Court

On 4 April 2019, she was nominated by the Government of Ireland as a Judge of the Supreme Court. She was appointed by the President of Ireland on 13 May 2019.[21] She wrote decisions for the court in appeals involving planning law,[22] the law of tort,[23] intellectual property law,[24] judicial review,[25] and chancery law.[26]

Irvine was appointed by Chief Justice Frank Clarke in 2019 to chair the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee of the Judicial Council.[18] The purpose of the committee is to review the levels of compensation issues in court cases arising out of personal injuries.[27] Minister of State at the Department of Finance Michael W. D'Arcy wrote a letter to congratulate Irvine on her appointment and outlined his views that personal injuries awards in Ireland should be "recalibrated". She responded to the letter by saying it was the not the Committee's duty to tailor its findings "in a manner favourable to any particular interest group".[28]

President of the High Court

Following a cabinet meeting on 12 June 2020, it was announced that she would be nominated to succeed Peter Kelly as President of the High Court.[29] A three person panel consisting of the Chief Justice Frank Clarke (later substituted by George Birmingham[30]), the Attorney General Séamus Woulfe and a management consultant Jane Williams reviewed applications for the position, before making recommendations to cabinet.[31] The President of the Law Society of Ireland welcomed her appointment, describing her as a "outstandingly able judge".[32] She is the first woman to hold the role.[33] As she was previously an ordinary judge of three courts, her appointment as President of the High Court made her the first person to have held four judicial offices.[34] She was appointed on 18 June 2020 and made her judicial declaration on 19 June.[35][36]

She took over as President in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Republic of Ireland. She issued guidelines for lawyers to negotiate personal injuries cases outside of court due to the backlog formed by delays in hearings.[37] She issued a practice direction in July 2020 that face coverings were to be worn at High Court hearings.[38] She criticised barristers and solicitors in October 2020 for not wearing masks in the Four Courts.[39]

In her first week as President, she presided over a three-judge division of the High Court in a case taken by a number of members of Seanad Éireann. The plaintiffs sought a declaration that the Seanad should sit even though the nominated members of Seanad Éireann had not been appointed.[40] The court refused the relief and found for the State.[41] She continues to sit in the Supreme Court following her appointment.[42]

Personal life

Irvine was formerly married to retired judge Michael Moriarty, with whom she has three children.[43]


  1. "Births". Irish Independent. 12 December 1956. p. 1.
  2. "Ex-RTÉ executive John Irvine dies". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  3. "Five called to Inner Bar". The Irish Times. 6 March 1962. p. 8.
  4. "Supreme Court of Ireland Annual Report 2019" (PDF). Supreme Court of Ireland. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  5. "Elm Park History". Golfing Ireland. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  6. "Justice Mary Irvine goes to the Supreme Court". Law Society Gazette. 3 April 2019. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  7. "On the move". The Irish Times. 21 February 1992. p. 30.
  8. "Cerebral palsy girl gets ?2.9m settlement". Irish Independent. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  9. "Doctor blames work stress for nervous breakdowns". Irish Independent. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  10. O'Halloran, Marie (12 October 1999). "Mitchell winds up inquiry". Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  11. Healy, Alison. "Legal team says it cannot make deadline". The Irish Times. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  12. Cahill v Sutton, [1980] IR 269 (Supreme Court of Ireland 9 July 1980).
  13. Re Information (Termination of Pregnancies) Bill, 1995, 1995 IESC 9 (Supreme Court 12 May 1996).
  14. "Annual Report 2007" (PDF). Judicial Appointments Advisory Board. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  15. "Appointments to the Court of Appeal". Department of the Taoiseach. 29 October 2014.
  16. "Government announces the establishment of an independent statutory Tribunal to deal with claims arising from CervicalCheck". Irish Government News Service. 19 December 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  17. "Report of Working Group on Medical Negligence - Module 2" (PDF). Department of Health. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  18. "Ms Justice Mary Irvine to chair Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee". Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  19. Keena, Colm (3 June 2019). "Many personal injury awards being reduced or dismissed". The Irish Times. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  20. Keena, Colm (16 July 2020). "Two of three CervicalCheck Tribunal judges no longer available". The Irish Times. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  21. "President appoints Justice Mary Irvine to the Supreme Court". President of Ireland. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  22. Friends of the Irish Environment Ltd v An Bord Pleanala, [2019 IESC 53] (Supreme Court of Ireland 26 July 2019).
  23. Kelly -v- Allied Irish Banks  , [2019 IESC 72] (Supreme Court of Ireland 8 July 2019).
  24. Diesel S.P.A. -v- The Controller of Patents & ors, [2020 IESC 7] (Supreme Court of Ireland 19 March 2020).
  25. Fagan -v- Dublin City Council, [2019 IESC 96] (Supreme Court of Ireland 19 December 2019).
  26. Malone -v- Allison, [2019 IESC 97] (Supreme Court of Ireland 20 December 2019).
  27. O'Donnell, Orla (28 November 2019). "Committee on personal injuries guidelines to meet". RTÉ News. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  28. Ryan, Philip (3 February 2020). "Judge warns minister to keep out of injury payout review". Irish Independent. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  29. Leahy, Pat (12 June 2020). "Ms Justice Mary Irvine to be nominated as President of the High Court". The Irish Times. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  30. Tighe, Mark (25 October 2020). "Chief justice Frank Clarke stepped back from Mary Irvine appointment, says Shane Ross". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  31. Carolan, Mary (11 May 2020). "Successor to President of the High Court must 'drive reform'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  32. "Law Society of Ireland welcomes nomination of Ms Justice Mary Irvine as new President of High Court". Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  33. "First woman nominated as President of High Court". RTÉ News. 12 June 2020. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  34. O'Donnell, Orla (19 June 2020). "New President of High Court makes declaration for role". RTÉ News. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  35. "Diary Appointment Of President To The High Court". Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  36. "Justice Mary Irvine to make her declaration on Friday". Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  37. Ryan, Órla. "President of High Court asks people to negotiate personal injury cases as pandemic causes large backlog". Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  38. "Face masks are not mandatory in English courts". Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  39. O'Donnell, Orla (15 October 2020). "Judge Irvine: Lawyers not complying with Covid measures". RTÉ News. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  40. Carolan, Mary. "New High Court president and two colleagues to hear action over Seanad". The Irish Times. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  41. "High Court rules first lawful meeting of Seanad must have 60 members". 29 June 2020. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  42. Carolan, Mary. "Supreme Court to rule later on 'important and difficult' climate case". The Irish Times. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  43. Leahy, Pat (2 April 2019). "Ms Justice Mary Irvine to be promoted to the Supreme Court". The Irish Times. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Peter Kelly
President of the High Court
June 2020–present