John McDaid has stepped down as chief executive of the Legal Aid Board (LAB) after eight years in charge of the organisation.
McDaid has spent 20 years working for the independent body, which is responsible for the provision of civil legal aid and advice to people unable to afford a solicitor.
Last month, Minister for Justice Simon Harris described McDaid as “a consummate professional, who has shown strong leadership since he was first appointed in 2014”.
“This was particularly evident during the difficult period of COVID-19, when he ensured that front-line services were maintained, especially in the area of domestic and family law,” said Minister Harris.
McDaid has been replaced by Joan Crawford, who will be the LAB’s first female chief executive.
As well as COVID-19, McDaid faced a number of other challenges during his time as chief executive – including what he described as ”exponentially increasing” demand for legal aid for international-protection issues.
There has also been criticism of the fees paid by the LAB to private solicitors, with some experts warning that a “vicious cycle” of low pay and overwork was undermining morale at the board.
In the LAB’s annual report for 2021, published in October last year. McDaid paid tribute to the “contributions of those private solicitors who often work for fees that could be in no way described as generous … and the civil legal-aid system depends on them.”