… and a new barrier broken. Not only will Mrs. Justice Susan Denham be the first woman to lead the Supreme Court, she will also be Ireland’s first Protestant Chief Justice (that the latter point is less remarkable than the former illustrates that a lot has changed in Ireland in the last 30 years). The soon-to-be Chief Justice’s appointment does not come as a surprise: she has always been very well-regarded and, having been appointed in 1992, is the longest serving member of the Court. Generally regarded as quietly activist on a Court that is more or less ideologically inscrutable (but in practice conservative in recent years), the appointment may give a more liberal direction to the Irish Supreme Court. Two of the most senior Irish law officers are now female. With the recent change of government Ireland also got its first female Attorney General, Máire Whelan SC.
One of the new Chief Justice’s first tasks will be to smooth relations between the government and the judiciary which have been ruffled by a proposed referendum to facilitate the reduction of judicial pay, due to take place in the autumn.
(PS: I am open to correction on this, but I believe Mrs. Justice Denham may also have broken through a somewhat more difficult glass ceiling by being the first Chief Justice to graduate from Trinity College Dublin and not University College Dublin, from whence the vast majority of her predecessors and current colleagues have graduated. There’s hope for us all…).