Paul Gallagher (barrister)

Paul Gallagher SC (born 20 March 1955[1]) is an Irish barrister who is Attorney General of Ireland since June 2020, having previously held the position from 2007 to 2011. During his first term as Attorney General, there was a period of significant economic difficulty in the Republic of Ireland, causing him to advise on the bank guarantee scheme, the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency and the Troika programme.

Paul Gallagher

29th Attorney General of Ireland
Assumed office
27 June 2020
TaoiseachMicheál Martin
Preceded bySéamus Woulfe
In office
14 June 2007  9 March 2011
Preceded byRory Brady
Succeeded byMáire Whelan
Personal details
Born (1955-03-20) 20 March 1955 (age 66)
Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland
Spouse(s)Bláthna Ruane
EducationCastleknock College
Alma mater

He has led a successful career as a barrister outside of Government. He has frequently appeared in the Irish courts on matters involving commercial and constitutional law.

Early life and education

Gallagher was born in Tralee in 1955 and grew up in Day Place.[2] He received his primary education at CBS Tralee and secondary education at Castleknock College.[1]

Gallagher obtained a BCL from UCD in 1975 and completed a BL degree in the King's Inns in 1976. He returned to UCD to receive a B.A. in history and economics, graduating in 1978. He received an LLM degree from the University of Cambridge in 1979, where he was a member of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.[1]

Early career

Gallagher returned to Ireland to be called to the Bar in 1979. He was called on the same day as his predecessor as Attorney General, Rory Brady.[3] He became a senior counsel in 1991.[4]

He became a Bencher of the King's Inns in 2005 and he served as vice-chairman of the Bar Council from 1995 to 1996.[5][1] As a barrister, he has maintained a practice with a broad expertise including in public law, European Union law, commercial law and competition law.[5][6]

Prior to becoming Attorney General, he had appeared in many significant cases. He represented the state in Zappone v. Revenue Commissioners in its opposition to the attempt by Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan to have the legal status of their Canadian marriage recognised for tax purposes.[3] He represented Fitzwilton in its challenge to the Mahon tribunal and a challenge by Carroll's of tobacco legislation.[3] Some of his other clients have included Larry Goodman,[7] the owners of the Jeanie Johnston,[8] Microsoft,[9] Aer Rianta,[10] Eircom,[11] and Michael McDowell.[12]

In 1996, he appeared with the then Attorney General Dermot Gleeson for the state in a case taken by Des Hanafin seeking to have Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, permitting divorce, declared to be unconstitutional.[13] Following a reference made by President Mary McAleese under Article 26 of the Constitution of Ireland in 2000, Gallagher was appointed by the Supreme Court of Ireland to argue against the constitutionality of the Planning and Development Bill 1999.[14] He appeared for the Attorney General (with Gleeson and Gerard Hogan) in another reference made by President McAleese regarding the Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2004.[15]

In the area of defamation law, he appeared for Irish newspapers who were being sued for defamation by Ian Bailey, arising out of death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.[6] He also successfully acted for Bertie Ahern in an action taken against businessman Denis "Starry" O'Brien.[16]

He represented Fyffes against DCC plc in an unsuccessful action High Court on an allegation of insider trading which lasted for 87 days.[6] He appeared again for Fyffes in an appeal to the Supreme Court of Ireland in 2007, after his appointment as Attorney General. He continued to act for the company as he said he was under a "professional obligation".[17] The court overturned the decision of the High Court, finding that the chairman of DCC plc had held inside information.[18]

Attorney General 2007–2011

He was nominated to the post of Attorney General by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on 14 June 2007 and renominated by Brian Cowen on 6 May 2008.[1] His appointment was unusual at the time as he had not been politically involved with either of the coalition parties Fianna Fáil or the Green Party.[6] His role involved providing legal advice to the Government of the 30th Dáil and supervising all legislation promoted by the government.[19] In his capacity, he attended meetings of the cabinet.[20] He was said to be in the office from 7am until 7pm, taking a 15-minute lunch-break. He was noted as being "impressive public speaker".[3]

He supervised the drafting of the Defamation Act 2009. The criminal of offence of blasphemy was required by the Constitution of Ireland which he "designed to be impossible to prosecute".[21] In 2009 he advised the government that it could not impose a pension levy on the Irish judiciary.[22]

His time as Attorney General overlapped with the Post-2008 Irish banking crisis and the Post-2008 Irish economic downturn.[19] In the midst of significant market turmoil,[23] Gallagher was among those present on the morning of 30 September 2008 advising the Irish government on its decision to guarantee the liabilities of Ireland's largest banks. He was the only member of the government to be present, aside from the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan.[20] He also provided legal advice on the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency.[3]

He advised the government on legal matters arising out of it seeking emergency funding from the ECB, the Eurogroup and the IMF leading to the Economic Adjustment Programme for Ireland.[24] He told an Oireachtas inquiry into the banking crisis in 2015 that he advised the government that it could legally default on €14 billion of bonds, but the government at the time said it was not acceptable to the international partners.[25]

Gallagher attended three successive meetings of the Bilderberg Group between 2010 and 2012.[26]

Upon the election of a new government in March 2011, Gallagher was replaced by Máire Whelan.[27] He received severance pay of €81,886.16.[28]

Between government

Gallagher resumed his practice as a barrister in 2011. He repeatedly appeared in cases taken by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, the state-owned entity established to succeed Anglo Irish Bank, upon concluding his first term as Attorney General.[29][30] He represented the Oireachtas in proceedings taken by Angela Kerins in the High Court and subsequent appeals from as far as the Supreme Court.[31] He acted for the State in an appeal taken by Graham Dwyer to the Supreme Court, the man convicted of the murder of Elaine O'Hara, regarding the applicability of the Data Retention Directive.[32]

He has appeared in the European Court of Justice in significant cases with an Irish dimension. He appeared for Facebook in a data protection case in 2019 and Ireland in an action taken by the European Commission in the EU illegal State aid case against Apple in Ireland.[33][34]

He is an adjunct professor at UCD and a member of its School of Law's Development Council.[35] He is also a fellow of the International Society of Barristers and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.[5]

Attorney General 2020–present

Negotiations between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party for a new government resulted in the role of Attorney General being rotated over the term of the government, with Fianna Fáil selecting the first Attorney General.[36] Gallagher returned to office as Attorney General on 27 June 2020.[37][38]

Personal life

Gallagher is married to another barrister, Bláthna Ruane with whom he lives in Ballsbridge.[6] They have three sons, all of whom also studied law.[39]


  1. "Summary Resume Of Attorney General Paul Gallagher SC". Attorney General. Archived from the original on 8 March 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2020.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. "Tralee man appointed as Attorney General". Radio Kerry. 16 June 2007. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  3. Coulter, Carol (2009-06-27). "Brilliance under fire". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
  4. "Attorney General". The Irish Times. 15 June 2007. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  5. Healy, Alison (15 June 2007). "New Cabinet: the ins . . . . . . and outs". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  6. Carolan, Mary (12 June 2001). "Court told of alleged fraud at meat group". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  7. "Court fixes date for hearing on Kerry famine ship". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  8. "High Court claim settled". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  9. "Aer Rianta is given leave to amend judicial proceedings". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  10. Carolan, Mary. "Eircom secures court stay on cost cuts". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  11. "McDowell says council breached planning acts". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  12. "Man shot in house at Tallaght". The Irish Times. 12 January 1996. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  13. "Proposed Planning Bill arbitrary and unfair, court told". The Irish Times. 25 July 2000. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  14. In the matter of Article 26 of the Constitution and in the matter of the Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2004, [2005 IESC 7] (Supreme Court of Ireland 16 February 2005).
  15. "How O'Brien's lies were exposed". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  16. "AG to act for Fyffes in court appeal". The Irish Times. 16 June 2007. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  17. "DCC's Flavin bows to pressure and quits". RTÉ News. 27 May 2008. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  18. "Paul Gallagher S.C." Leaders in Law. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  19. "Tralee barrister had key role in banking talks". The Kerryman. 20 January 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  20. "Former justice minister who introduced blasphemy law backs repeal of constitutional ban". Irish Legal News. 26 October 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  21. McGee, Harry. "Judges cannot be forced to take pay cut, says Ahern". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  22. "Government Bank Guarantee". RTÉ Archives. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  23. "Paul Gallagher – Former Attorney General | Report of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis". Oireachtas. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  24. "'Irish taxpayers could have been spared €14bn'". 18 July 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  25. Reilly, Gavan (2 June 2012). "What are the Bilderberg Meetings - and what's Michael Noonan doing there?". Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  26. McDonald, Dearbhail (10 March 2011). "Top lawyers welcome appointment of first ever female AG". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  27. Reilly, Gavan (6 January 2013). "Former junior ministers share €64,000 severance payout for 2012". Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  28. Healy, Tim; McDonald, Dearbhail (31 May 2011). "Quinns claim €2bn Anglo loans used to manipulate share price". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  29. O'Donnell, Orla (19 March 2019). "High Court told Quinn Group used as 'personal bank'". RTÉ News. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  30. "Govt spent over €426k on barristers' fees defending Angela Kerins cases". 27 August 2019. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  31. "'Enormous amount' at stake in State's Dwyer phone data appeal". Irish Independent. 17 December 2019. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  32. "Another day in court for EU-US data privacy tensions". diginomica. 10 July 2019. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  33. Mongáin, Colm Ó (19 February 2020). "Ireland appeals ECJ state aid ruling against Luxembourg". RTÉ News. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  34. "UCD Development Council". Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  35. Kelly, Fiach. "Broad outline of Cabinet emerges as issues remain unresolved". The Irish Times. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  36. "New Cabinet due to be unveiled at Convention Centre". RTÉ News. 27 June 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  37. "Statement by the Taoiseach, Michéal Martin TD, Announcement of Government". Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  38. "'Top student' tells of delight". Irish Independent. 13 August 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Rory Brady
Attorney General of Ireland
Succeeded by
Máire Whelan
Preceded by
Séamus Woulfe
Attorney General of Ireland