Ireland barristers set to strike over Criminal Legal Aid fees News
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Ireland barristers set to strike over Criminal Legal Aid fees

Irish barristers have scheduled another in a series of protests regarding pay in relation to Criminal Legal Aid cases. The campaign, entitled “A Celebration of Failure 2” will take place outside the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin on July 14. The purpose of this event, which follows similar demonstrations in March and April 2022, is to “again mark the failure of the Irish State to honour its rule of law obligations in criminal legal aid funding.”

One of the main issues raised is that Criminal Legal Aid fees were reduced during the 2008 Recession, and these have not since been reversed, resulting in fees that are, “around the same level as they were in 2002.”

Although the Bar Council of Ireland has not revealed whether it will take part in the protests, Helen McEntee, the Minister for Justice, recently discussed the issue of criminal legal aid fees, emphasising, “I see no good reason why those in the legal profession are left waiting for crisis-era reductions to be restored, while public and civil servants have had their pay restored.”

A petition was signed in June 2022 in response to this pay issue, by 88 Senior Counsel and 182 Junior Counsel, to the then Minister for Justice. The petition sought specific reliefs for barristers, including changes to the payment claims system, the payment mechanism, and the “immediate full and long overdue unwinding of cuts to rates of pay for criminal legal aid services.”

The issues regarding pay, which the Irish Times reported can be as low as €25 ($27) per day, has been publicly recognised by the Bar of Ireland. Their recent Budget 2024 report recorded that two-thirds of criminal barristers leave practice after just six years at the Criminal Bar due to pay and conditions. They highlighted the impact that this will have on the profession and access to justice, arguing, “There is a loss of valuable experience and talent that cannot be easily replicated or replaced – this is a loss to both the individual, the State and the administration of justice.”