Campaign to defend rights lawyer…

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to defend Padraigin Drinan, one of NI’s best known human rights lawyers. While Padraigin Drinan may not have many unionist fans and has been a long-standing thorn in the side of the State, moves to close her office have obviously hit a nerve with those who have been helped by the diminutive lawyer. The organisers’ press release is below.

CAMPAIGN MEETING TO DEFEND PADRAIGIN DRINAN

WEDNESDAY 26TH JANUARY @7PM IN THE DUKE OF YORK BAR (off Donegall Street)

Many people will now be aware that Padraigin Drinan, the committed human rights lawyer is being shut down by the Law Society.

A campaign has now been launched by some of us who are deeply deeply concerned about the actions of the Law Society. We aim to pull together those who are clients of the office and those who have worked with Padraigin over the years and more importantly those who are committed to the same rights and freedoms and principles that Padraigin has been defending for the last thirty odd years.

This decisision to close Padraigin’s office is a disgrace and an indictment of a cowardly, vindictive body who have long had the knife out for the human rights solicitor.

Padraigin Drinan is a human rights lawyer with over 30 years experience. She is an excellent lawyer with an impeccable record of representing her clients. She has been involved in winning landmark human rights cases, campaigning for and winning major changes in legislation for women, the victims of sectarianism, the victims of racism, the victims of child abuse at the hands of the church, equality legislation, human rights legislation.

The reason that the Law Society have given for closing her down is that they received complaints about her administration. It defies belief to even the most gullible that a lawyer with a profile and the credentials of Padraigin is being shut down on a trumped up charge of “poor administration”. It is widely known that Padraigin has been the subject of more impromptu inspections by the Law Society over the years than anyone else. In the end when they could find nothing irregular about her accounts, her integrity, her representation of her clients, her staff or indeed anything else – they said she didn’t answer letters quickly enough. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so deadly serious.

For the past two weeks, since it was announced that she was being shut down, messages of support have flooded in from individuals and groups from all over the north, the Republic, the UK and the US. The Law Society has been flooded with complaints. Questions are rightly being asked as to the real motive of the Law Society.

Padraigin has been a thorn in the side of the establishment for years for every possible reason – all of them good ones. She is probably the last surviving solicitor who came to law through the struggle for civil rights in the 60s and 70s. Everyone else has been closed down. She has often been quoted as saying she became a lawyer after internment as it was the only way to see her friends.

She has never fitted the image that people hold of lawyers. She is far from rich and travels mainly by bus. She does not attend the sort of soirees that the legal fraternity throw. She is however a well known face at various campaign meetings to champion various causes. Her practice is run on a shoestring. Her office is herself and one other full time worker and two committed full time volunteers. She does not just believe that rights should be fought for in the courts. She has been at anti-war demonstrations in Shannon, Dublin, Belfast and Hillsborough. She has been there to protest and then usually had her services called on by people arrested at Hillsborough or people beaten by the police at the City Hall in Belfast. She has shared an anti-war platform in ! Belfast City Centre with George Galloway. She has done phone link ups with solicitors around the world about the human rights abuses in Guantanamo Bay. She is a contact for lawyers in the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip.

She has been a member of the Anti Racism Network from the beginning. When the South Belfast Group were threatened by the police and the solicitors for Homefinders to attempt to prevent a picket of Homefinders’ office for racist vetting, Padraigin closed her office early so that her and her staff could join the picket. For over a year she has appeared in the news and been pictured outside the NIHE saying that if the law wasn’t changed to allow emergency access to accommodation for immigrants then there would be a tragedy. That tragedy happened at Christmas when a young Ukranian woman lost both her legs. Her office has represented many of the victims of the racist attacks and been harsh critics of the police for not doing enough for the victims. She has represented numerous people in discrimination cases.

She has represented the Chinese Welfare Association for years who have publicly come out in support of her and raised concerns about what is happening.

Padraigin’s office handles dozens of immigration and refugee cases and did so even when it was not covered by Legal Aid and people could not pay. The office has successfully prevented a number of detentions and deportations over the years and highlighted the disgraceful practice of imprisoning asylum seekers.

Padraigin has represented the Rape Crisis Centre for years and has taken on the care system and the church on behalf of the victims of abuse. Rape Crisis have publicly voiced their support for her and asked probing questions of the Law Society.

She took over many of Rosemary Nelson’s cases after she was murdered, including representing the various resident’s groups opposed to loyalist parades. She also has a number of ongoing cases relating to state collusion in the killing of its citizens. This has often meant that she was labeled as a nationalist solicitor. She herself is very clear that it is never a question of religion or nationalism but a question of what is right and what is fair that drives her to take the sort of cases that she takes. There is little doubt that these cases in particular have led to the numerous threats to her life.

Her clients are catholic, protestant and other, they are women, men, black, white, indigenous, immigrant, gay and straight. What ties most of them together and what the law society have admitted to not liking is that they are mostly poor and that the work is often done for free. In an office that is overflowing with work you are more likely to be turned away if you have plenty of money as you will have no trouble finding a solicitor elsewhere. If you are poor you would have nowhere else to go and room will always be made to squeeze you in.

It is absolutely vital that a campaign is built to protect Padraigin Drinan’s practice. There is no-one in the legal profession left who has campaigned and worked so tirelessly to fight for the rights of the most oppressed and marginalised in our society.

The last number of years have seen attack after attack on civil liberties in the UK, Ireland and across the world. It is vital that someone who has made it her life’s work to fight for and protect those rights is not allowed to be closed down on trumped up nonsense in order to shut her up.

Please come to this meeting on Wednesday night and pass this message on to everyone on your e:mail list.

  • David Vance

    Maybe we should start a campaign to raise funds to pay for this so-called “Human Rights champion” (barf)to visit the victims of Saddam’s butchery, of Arafat’s anti-Semitic murderous mania, and all those other innocent victims of the other thuggish regimes she care oh-so-compassionately about. Pass the sickbucket, and congrats to the Law Society. Not your finest hour, Gonzo. We’ll deal with her on ATW later.

  • Alan2

    Seems she has rumpled quite a few feathers, some undoubtedly international ones too.

    The “establishment” needs to be kept on their toes and kept in check. I can`t say I agree with some of her positions but standing up for what you think is right is admirable and I unreservedly support her works with the Anti-Racists Network and the Chinese Welfare Association.

  • Keith M

    Can someone please tell me exactly what entles someone to be called a “human right lawyer”, or should I wait for delivery of my chuckie to english dictionary from http://www.armeliteinonehand.com?

  • davidbrew

    I don’t know her and have never had any dealings with her. To be honest,I don’t particularly like the Law Society either,and many smaller and rural solicitors believe the influence of larger Belfast based firms counts for more than they do but it is nonsense to suggest an ulterior motive on its part in this case.

    I find they are often slower to act in complaints than many people would like, and I do know that whatever the complaint was, there was a six month period given to sort it out. By all means support the campaign if you feel it appropriate, but less of the class war rubbish Gonzo. And no, I have nothing against a solicitor holding political views-even those clearly so contrary to my own.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    David V

    It’s a story, not an editorial, although her press release is obviously supportive of her. I think you know that my views and Drinan’s would hardly coincide on many matters. Fortunately, I can seperate the person from the politics.

    It’s a talent that has enabled me to follow your own blog with interest!

    The idea is to stimulate debate, and three posts in half an hour is a good enough start, so thanks for contributing.

  • David Vance

    Gonzo,

    I agree with you that you are indeed talented. I will say no more 😉

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Hold on a minute, DB – I didn’t write the press release!

  • Christopher Stalford

    Hilarious!

  • davidbrew

    Sorry Gonzo- blinded by the majestic sturm und drang of Mr Vance, I too missed your function as a humble promoter of debate.

  • mickhall

    Myself I feel Padraigin Drinan is worthy of support. In my experience when Lawyers who deal with ‘human rights’ cases are brought before the Law Society, more often than not there has been someone, often within government who has pulled strings to get the Law Society to go through their books with a fine tooth comb. Incidentally the same thing happens to those Doctors who treat drug addicts outside of the Drug Dependency Clinics mafia, accept it is the BMA who trawls through their files etc. The problem many of these Lawyers and Doctors have is they are often small businesses with a high work load and thus their paper work is often not as it should be. Ms Drinan I understand is a case to point, for the LS found little fault with her legal abilities, it was her business acumen that was lacking. Hence she has not been banned from Practising Law. The trouble is due to the type of work she does, which many of the larger firms simply will not go near, she may find it hard to find a Law Practice which will employ her. Sure such people can be an irritant at times, but they really are the backbone of any democracy worthy of the name and I find their dedication admirable.

    I suppose on the bright side, at least she was not slandered on the prodding of the RUC in the House of Commons and thus set up to be murdered like Mr Finucane.

  • armaghman

    The LS actions in this case is a classic case of the failure of self-regulation and the abuse of power.

  • davidbrew

    In my experience when Lawyers who deal with ‘human rights’ cases are brought before the Law Society, more often than not there has been someone, often within government who has pulled strings to get the Law Society to go through their books with a fine tooth comb.

    examples?

  • cg

    David just as a matter of interest but have you ever been brought before the LS 😉

  • mickhall

    David
    I could, but im not going to as this was not the main point of my post, however if you wish to look it up there is a case before the BMA at this very time concerning doctors who specialised in the type of work I mentioned. Are you suggesting self regulating organisation like the LS and BMA do not work on the old pals act, i.e. you scratch my back then ill scratch yours; and they are completely immune to government pressure?

  • davidbrew

    “I could, but im not going to as this was not the main point of my post”

    So then-no examples of “human rights” lawyers being nobbled by the government after all. Not one. Just fantasising based on antipathy to lawyers and the government. What a surprise.

    Amazingly enough , young cg, I’ve never had the pleasure of being up before the Society. And given your appalling understanding of criminal law as posted last week, I fear that you’ll never get the opportunity :0)

  • groucho

    I thought Pat Finucane had been well and truly “nobbled”. Defamed by a govt minister and murdered via state sanctioned agent.

  • mickhall

    “I could, but im not going to as this was not the main point of my post”

    So then-no examples of “human rights” lawyers being nobbled by the government after all. Not one. Just fantasising based on antipathy to lawyers and the government. What a surprise.

    David Brew,

    What a pompous individual you are, do you really suppose simply because you ask a question you have a god given right to a reply, I told you why I was not prepared to go down that road, but to amplify my point, you have been trying to divert this thread away from the difficulties of Ms Drinan, that is your right, but do not expect any help from me in doing so.

    Im sure im not the only one to find it odd that you seem to expect me to show you curtesy by replying to your question, whilst you yourself have no intention of acting in the same way towards me. In my eyes that makes you a hypocrite, sadly a common trait amongst many in your profession. Perhaps that is why you get so angry with those like Ms Drinan who do not display this characteristic.

  • cg

    “Amazingly enough , young cg, I’ve never had the pleasure of being up before the Society. And given your appalling understanding of criminal law as posted last week, I fear that you’ll never get the opportunity :0)”

    LOL

    I’m still waiting for my criminal law results but I felt I done ok, Case analysis on Stone & Dobinson and a problem question on Non-Fatal offences against the person 😉

    How did I exhibit an appalling understanding of Criminal Law, what you mean is I didn’t jump through hoops for your amusement.

    “I fear that you’ll never get the opportunity”

    Does this mean you genuinely hope I become a member of the legal profession 😉 LOL

  • James

    I cannot determine from the press release what the specifics of the complaint or complaints were. The Vance-lite style of the communique does not lend itself to the conveyance of fact. Did she dip into a trust account or some other no-no?

    My assumption here is that the Law Society is the same as the state Bar Associations here. What is the process for removal from the Society and was it followed in this case? Is there any further recourse or oversight?

    Were Nelson or Finucane ever subject to the same action with regards to the Law Society of Northern Ireland?

  • mickhall

    James,
    I believe the outcome was that she is allowed to continue to practice, but is not allowed to operate on her own, thus she must become an employee. There was no question of her dipping into client money, it was a case of her not doing her paper work and office admin competently. (in the LS opinion) If it was just a matter of dipping into someone’s trust fund, far from being up before the LS she would have been elected to its governing body as one of the boys. (only kidding David)

  • David Vance

    The campaign to celebrate her change of status has now officially opened on ATW.

  • Fraggle

    “”I fear that you’ll never get the opportunity”

    Does this mean you genuinely hope I become a member of the legal profession 😉 LOL

    Posted by: cg at January 25, 2005 05:31 PM”

    More likely he regrets that you’ll never be struck off.

  • cg

    “More likely he regrets that you’ll never be struck off.”

    LOL, you’re probably right Fraggle

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Cg,

    he’ll probably spend the rest of his life rueing that Douglas Hogg wont be in power when you get your finals.

  • cg

    “Cg,

    he’ll probably spend the rest of his life rueing that Douglas Hogg wont be in power when you get your finals.”

    LOL

  • James

    The Shill Thusly Warbled:

    “The campaign to celebrate her change of status has now officially opened on ATW.”

    Back to the chipper van witcha.

  • fair_deal

    I’m sorry but I must have an out of date dictionary since when was the defintion of hardline republican solicitor made to always mean human rights lawyer?

  • David Vance

    James,

    What’s so great about you is that you provide us all with such a laugh. You’re just sooo out there..aren’t you? BTW – what are you on?

  • davidbrew

    “What a pompous individual you are, do you really suppose simply because you ask a question you have a god given right to a reply, I told you why I was not prepared to go down that road, but to amplify my point, you have been trying to divert this thread away from the difficulties of Ms Drinan,”

    So then Mick, you put this down to a government conspiracy, citing evidence from your own experience. You’ve been asked to provide the evidence, that’s all. And you’ve been caught on- you don’t know any case of a “human rights” lawyer whose books have been gone through with a fine tooth comb.

    If that’s your opinion, fine, but don’t come on here with quasi-authoritative conspiratorial comments when you’ve nothing to back them up. We don’t have a God given right to a reply, but we are entitled to have someone claiming to have expertise to put up or shut up. And if , instead of doing so, you get in a huff and start abusing people who challenge you , you run the risk of being seen as….?
    ( big clue , Jim Carrey starred in this film , playing an obnoxious lawyer-how unrealistic)

  • davidbrew

    “My assumption here is that the Law Society is the same as the state Bar Associations here. What is the process for removal from the Society and was it followed in this case? Is there any further recourse or oversight?

    Were Nelson or Finucane ever subject to the same action with regards to the Law Society of Northern Ireland?”

    She hasn’t been removed from
    membership of the Law Society, James. It seems the usual procedures were followed-fortunately I’ve no direct experience. It’s quite right that the complaint seems to relate to office management, and that’s presumably why she’s not being disbarred, but simply can’t run her own office.

    So far as I know nothing involving either Mr Finucane or Mrs Nelson was ever referred to the Law Society, but certainly they were never prevented from practising on their own account.

  • davidbrew

    he’ll probably spend the rest of his life rueing that Douglas Hogg wont be in power when you get your finals.”

    by the time cg gets his finals, he might be!

  • mickhall

    David,

    You are at it once again, expecting me to do something you yourself refuse to do. No where did I put this law society inquiry down to a government conspiracy, what I wrote was the following, “In my experience when Lawyers who deal with ‘human rights’ cases are brought before the Law Society, more often than not there has been someone, often within government who has pulled strings to get the Law Society to go through their books with a fine tooth comb. Incidentally the same thing happens to those Doctors who treat drug addicts outside of the Drug Dependency Clinics mafia, accept it is the BMA who trawls through their files etc.” I then gave you an example of a group of Doctors who are before the BMA at this time and advised you to google it yourself.

    I went on to ask you, “Are you suggesting self regulating organisation like the LS and BMA do not work on the old pals act, i.e. you scratch my back then ill scratch yours; and they are completely immune to government pressure?” You failed to reply to my question.

    Am I an expert on the Law, no, Do I have experience of the above, Yes, due to the connections I once had with the organisation that is now called Liberty and was then known as NCCL. Plus the fact my partner worked in the legal profession all her life. … does this make me an expert, no, but it has given me an insight.

    Regards.

  • cg

    “by the time cg gets his finals, he might be!”

    LOL

    Don’t bet on it David

  • davidbrew

    Mick
    All I asked was for you to give examples of a serious allegation- and you gave none. You said someone had in YOUR EXPERIENCE pulled strings and you said this was OFTEN government. It now seems you may be referring to the English Law Society, which as you know is entirely separate. You should clarify whether you mean NI, and if so, at least clarify the ambiguity in your comment .

    It doesn’t help to accuse me of not answering questions when you only raise them to avoid a simple request for proof.

    If you want to hide behind the figleaf, let me rip it off by answering your question-

    Noone is completely immune from Government pressure, or inducement-certainly not the Law society which has to administer the laws made by the government, and many of whose members-like me, incidentally- depend largely on legal aid work for our livelihood. Quite what alternative you suggest to remove all government influence would be interesting, and unique in the world.

    I don’t have a problem with self regulation of professions up to a point-the legal aid system was much better when the Law Society administered the fund instead of beancrunchers. I’ve already repeated the view I have heard from some small firms and rural firms that their views sometimes seem to count for less than Belfast or commercial firms.

    I do have a problem with the idea that eveything is a government controlled conspiracy to stamp on courageous left wing lawyers who alone have consciences and care about human rights.Guess what- the rest of us do too. And if someone has not complied with Law Society standards then he should be penalised appropriately regardless of his distinguished record of public service – if you perceive it as such- but they should not be victimised for their views. And until someone gives us examples of this happening, we don’t have to believe that it does.

  • James

    “It’s quite right that the complaint seems to relate to office management, and that’s presumably why she’s not being disbarred, but simply can’t run her own office

    Is there a procedure in place whereby she can seek reinstatement and maintain her own practice once again?

  • mickhall

    David,

    You are correct in that I was alluding to the Law Society in England, if I misled anyone it was not intended. All I would say about your comments that many on the left believe only those with left politics care about human rights is this, When I was a young firebrand lefty I to held this view, yet with life’s experiences, I came to understand some on the left did not give a fig about human rights, whilst I met people whose politics were light years away from my own who cared about them passionately. However, I have noticed most people who care strongly about human rights, etc all have certain characteristic’s, one of which is whilst we recognise the necessity of governments, what ever their political complexion, one should not trust them blindly and thus give them free reign. And the checks and balances that are necessary in any Democracy worthy of the name, must be vigorously defended.

    All the best

  • davidbrew

    However, I have noticed most people who care strongly about human rights, etc all have certain characteristic’s, one of which is whilst we recognise the necessity of governments, what ever their political complexion, one should not trust them blindly and thus give them free reign. And the checks and balances that are necessary in any Democracy worthy of the name, must be vigorously defended.

    A big Amen to that mick!

    Is there a procedure in place whereby she can seek reinstatement and maintain her own practice once again?

    Posted by: James at January 26,

    some people are barred from practising on their own account for as period of years.I think there was no time limit in this case. I presume that she can either seek a judicial review, or perhaps can apply to have the ban overturned at some point in the future, but I don’t believe there’s an automatic review.