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Solicitor John Gaffney appointed to EU trade dispute panel
Solicitor John Gaffney

30 Jun 2022 / EU Print

Irish solicitors appointed to EU trade-dispute panel

The European Commission has issued a list of almost 400 lawyers selected to serve as potential arbitrators for dispute-settlement panels under trade agreements to which the EU is a party.

Among the successful applicants are John Gaffney, formerly an EU competition and regulation partner at William Fry in Dublin, and leading aviation lawyer Dr Donal Patrick Hanley (FRAeS).

Gaffney, who was admitted as a solicitor in 1994, currently works as senior counsel with arbitration group Al Tamimi and Co, in Abu Dhabi. He is also admitted in England and Wales, and is an adjunct law professor at UCC.

Dr Donal Hanley (small picture) has had a distinguished transglobal aviation career, spanning every continent, with world-leading companies where he has served at both executive and non-executive level.

WTO matters

Europe-based, Irish-educated lawyer Bernard O'Connor, who specialises in WTO and trade matters, has also been selected as an arbitrator.

A member of the Law Society of Ireland, O'Connor studied at Trinity College in Dublin. He manages the Brussels office of Nctm, teaches at the State University of Milan, and is a founding partner at O'Connor and Company European Lawyers.

Other Irish appointees include:

  • Susan Ahern (FCIArb),
  • Stephen Moran BL,
  • James Bridgeman SC,
  • Patrick Leonard SC,
  • Patrick Mair BL,
  • Colm Ó hOisín SC,
  • Joseph Richardson BL,
  • Gillian Cahill BL,
  • Michelle Smith de Bruin BL,
  • Michael Mulcahy SC, and
  • Louise Reilly BL.


The pool is the result of a new selection mechanism, addressing demands for a more transparent process.

The selected candidates include legal practitioners and academics globally and across the EU.

The European Commission will draw on the new pool to make proposals for the appointment of arbitrators and trade-and-sustainable-development (TSD) experts in specific cases, or for pre-agreed lists (rosters) under the relevant bilateral agreements with third countries.

The European Council will then make the final decision on such rosters.

The European Commission is responsible for representing the EU in any dispute settlement procedures. 

In December 2020, the Commission called for applications in connection with the renewal of the pool of arbitrators; and the separate pool of TSD experts.


A selection panel of experienced international judges and academics examined the candidates to confirm their suitability for appointment.

Successful candidates could request not to have their names published in the pool list.

Disputes concerning the application of trade-and-investment agreements are typically submitted to an arbitration panel, composed of an uneven number of arbitrators, appointed with the agreement of the dispute parties. 

Similarly, trade-and-sustainable-development experts may be called to be part of an expert panel tasked with settling disputes arising in the context of the implementation of the trade-and-sustainable-development chapter of the EU’s trade agreements.


In accordance with the relevant trade agreement, the arbitral tribunal or expert panel may make an award, or a recommendation.

Candidates may be appointed to both pools, if they have the necessary qualifications.

They will also have the ability to conduct arbitration and expert panel proceedings, and to draft an arbitration award, or a recommendation in the working languages of English, French or Spanish.

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