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Appointments to the Circuit Court


At its meeting yesterday, 19 November 2014, the Government nominated Judge Eugene O’Kelly, Mr. Francis Comerford, BL, Ms. Karen Fergus, SC, Ms. Melanie Greally, BL, Mr. John Hannan, BL, Ms. Karen O’Connor, BL, and Ms. Elma Sheahan, BL for appointment by the President to the Circuit Court.

The vacancies on the Circuit Court arise from the retirement of the Hon. Mr. Justice Matthew Deery on 30 September 2014, the appointment of the Hon. Mr. Justice Alan Mahon to the Court of Appeal on 29 October 2014 and the appointment of five serving Circuit Court Judges to the High Court on 30 October 2014.
The Government has taken the necessary steps to formally advise President Higgins of the nominations in accordance with constitutional procedure.

In addition, on 21 October 2014, the Government agreed in principle to nominate Her Hon. Judge Margaret Heneghan for appointment by the President to the High Court, once a vacancy arises on that Court with the retirement of Judge Daniel Herbert in November. The Government today agreed in principle, to nominate Mr. Gerard O’Brien, Solicitor for appointment to the Circuit Court by the President to fill the vacancy that will arise on that court with Judge Heneghan’s appointment to the High Court.

Note for Editors
Under section 17 of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 (as amended by the Court of Appeal Act 2014), procedures in respect of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board do not apply in respect of judicial appointments where a sitting judge is nominated for appointment. The remaining nominations for appointment follow the receipt of lists of suitable candidates from the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board.
The five serving Judges of the Circuit Court appointed to the High Court on 30 October 2014 were the Hon. Mr. Justice Carroll Moran, the Hon. Ms. Justice Mary Faherty, the Hon. Mr. Justice Tony Hunt, the Hon. Mr. Justice Raymond Fullam and the Hon. Ms. Justice Carmel Stewart.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly

  • Educated: University College Galway, University College Dublin, University College London and the Law Society of Ireland
  • Enrolled as a Solicitor: 1981
  • Wide experience in criminal law and civil litigation
  • Former president of the Clare Law Association
  • Appointed as a Judge of the District Court in April 2012 and assigned to District No. 13

Mr. Francis Comerford, BL

  • Educated: University College Galway and the King’s Inns
  • Called to the Bar: 1985
  • Practises on the Western Circuit with wide experience in many areas of law including criminal, land law, personal injuries and family law
  • Previously lectured in various law courses, in particular the law of evidence, at UCG

Ms. Karen Fergus, SC

  • Educated: University College Dublin and the King’s Inns
  • Called to the Bar: 1991
  • Called to the Inner Bar: 2006
  • Practises in civil litigation, mental health tribunals, disciplinary inquiries and family law
  • Member and Chairperson (2010) of the Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal: July 1997 to March 2012
  • Legal chairperson of the Mental Health Tribunals: July 2010 to date 
  • Member of the Health Committee, a disciplinary committee established under the Pharmacy Act 2007: July 2010 to date:
  • Member of the legal team to the Investigation Committee of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse: March 2004 to May 2009

Ms. Melanie Greally, BL

  • Educated: University College Dublin and the King’s Inns
  • Called to the Bar: 1991
  • Practises mainly in criminal law and extradition, including applications under the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003
  • Appointed to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution’s panel of prosecution Counsel for Dublin: 1997

Mr. John Hannan, BL

  • Educated: University College Galway and the King’s Inns
  • Called to the Bar: 1995
  • Practises mainly in tort (including personal injuries), equity and property, employment appeals and other tribunal work and is also an accredited mediator
  • Appointed a Presiding Officer under the Garda Discipline Regulations 1997

Ms. Karen O’Connor, BL

  • Educated: Trinity College Dublin and the King’s Inns
  • Called to the Bar: 1993
  • Practises mainly in criminal law with experience in Extradition and Judicial Review
  • Involved in the establishment of the Irish Criminal Bar Association and held the position of Press Officer for one year
  • Involved in setting up the Dublin 7 Educate Together National School and sat on the Board of Management for three years

Ms. Elma Sheahan, BL

  • Educated: University of Limerick and the King’s Inns
  • Called to the Bar: 1996
  • Experience in personal injury litigation, including medical negligence, judicial review, non jury and commercial litigation
  • Reporter for the Irish Reports: 1997 to 2003
  • Legal chairperson of the Mental Health Tribunals: 2009 to date
  • Legal Adviser to the Residential Institutions Redress Board: March 2007 to July 2014

Mr. Gerard O’Brien, Solicitor

  • Educated: University College Dublin
  • Enrolled as a solicitor: 2003
  • Principal Solicitor in Gerard O’Brien Solicitors, practising in family law, conveyancing, personal Injuries, mental health and judicial review: 2006 to date
  • Appointed State Solicitor for North Tipperary: 2012 
  • Founder / Director of Phoenix Productions Youth Musical Theatre Group