A review of the civil legal-aid scheme is to begin shortly to assess how well it facilitates access to justice for those on low incomes, the justice minister has announced.
The review group will be chaired by retired Chief Justice Frank Clarke, pictured, along with legal practitioners, academics, department officials, Legal Aid Board representatives, and poverty activists.
Gathering the views of those who have unmet legal needs will be part of the work, with a review of eligibility for civil legal aid, the minster added.
A public consultation will be launched shortly, and the group will start work this month for a 12-month span.
The Irish Traveller Movement has said it welcomes the appointment of its director Bernard Joyce to the review group.
Joyce said that reform has the potential to improve accessibility for Travellers and others who have encountered “unnecessary structural obstacles”.
Vindicating Traveller rights
Gaps must be identified to allow Travellers full legal basis for vindicating their rights, he added.
Solicitors in legal-aid centres are also not trained in “cultural competency”, he said.
Housing Assistance Payment also puts large families over the threshold for legal aid, and there is too much emphasis on family law matters in such services, Joyce said.
Other nominees to the review group are:
- Thomas O’Mahony – Legal Aid Board nominee,
- Sara Phelan SC – Bar of Ireland nominee,
- Áine Hynes – Law Society nominee,
- Liam Coen – Department of Justice nominee,
- Professor Niamh Hourigan – sociologist and VP of academic affairs, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick,
- Tom O’Malley – NUI Galway,
- Professor Frances Ruane – Economist and former director of ESRI,
- Eilis Barry – Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC)