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Late Moya Quinlan honoured in room-naming ceremony
Law Society President Maura Derivan, with past-president Michael Quinlan and Chief State Solicitor Maria Browne at the dedication ceremony for the late Moya Quinlan Pic: Cian Redmond

12 Oct 2023 / law society Print

The late Moya Quinlan is honoured in room-naming

A Law Society Education Centre lecture theatre has been dedicated to late past-president and trailblazing solicitor Moya Quinlan in an unveiling ceremony on 11 October.

Council member and Chair of the Education Committee Richard Hammond said that it was an honour to be present at the naming ceremony, the first in the Law Society to memorialise a prominent woman.

Fitting

It was absolutely fitting that the Law Society’s keynote space should be dedicated to its first female president, he said, and his proposal had been adopted unanimously by the Education Committee.

“It is absolutely essential that we mark the significance of Moya Quinlan in such a manner,” he added.

Law Society Director General Mark Garrett said that it had been 100 years since women first entered the solicitors' profession and, in that time, women had played a significant role in the profession.

Moya Quinlan had also been instrumental in the purchase of the Blackhall Place building and campus, he said, among many other initiatives in the legal-education sector.

It was appropriate, he said, to welcome the Chief State Solicitor Maria Browne as keynote speaker at the room-dedication ceremony.

Maria Browne said that she was honoured to celebrate the contribution of Moya Quinlan to the Law Society, and to the country at large.

Pinnacle

An individual woman who made it to the pinnacle of the legal profession should be celebrated, because so much of the contribution of women in history had been unwritten for so long, she stated.

She commended the Law Society for its initiative in recording the stories of the first women solicitors, and revealing their hidden histories – thus raising awareness and “filling in some of the blanks”.

“We might take a moment to reflect on the blanks that remain for all those women who never got to achieve their ambition – those who did not have a father, brother, or an uncle in a firm where they could become apprenticed, and those who had no connections or access to higher education,” she said.

Browne commented that she herself had been discouraged from studying for law, during recessionary times, because of a lack of family connections.

“I was almost stopped in my tracks of becoming a solicitor because it was so difficult to secure an apprenticeship,” she said.

The Chief State Solicitor added that she now had the honour of serving in her current role – only the second woman to hold this position after Eileen Creedon, who is now a High Court judge.

The ratio of females to males in in the CSSO is now 62% to 38%, with that ratio rising to 67% to 33% in the professional-solicitor grades.

The CSSO board is made up of five women and two men.

“In fact, we sometimes get complaints that there aren't a lot of men around,” Browne commented.

Law Society President Maura Derivan said that the late Moya Quinlan had been “a wonderful first woman president, a fantastic Council member, and a friend and colleague”.

“Moya was my sponsor when I went on Council; she nominated me, encouraged me, advised me, and gave me the benefit of her experience in how to deal with certain sticky situations.

“She was a font of wisdom and knowledge,” the Law Society President said.

“She considered herself to be nothing really special, but she was very special to all of us, and she was a dear friend,” she added.

Trailblazer

When Moya Quinlan first qualified as a solicitor in 1946 she was just one of two women in a class of 15 men, the president continued.

“She would go on to become the first woman ever to be elected to the Council of the Law Society in 1968, and its first woman president in 1980,” she said.

Moya Quinlan served on the Employment Appeals Tribunal from its inception in 1977 until she was 93. She was appointed by Government as a member of the Legal Aid Board in 1979.

She served on the Law Society Council until the age of 91, regularly topping the poll.

“This is the only instance, I think, that a person in their 90s was actively contributing to the governance of the legal profession anywhere in the world,” Derivan said.

Her son Michael Quinlan was also subsequently elected as Law Society President – to date, the first and only mother and son to hold that position.

“When she passed away peacefully at the age of 98 on 12 February 2019, she left behind a transformed solicitors’ profession in which over half of all practitioners were women,” President Derivan said.

The quiet power of her example and her gentle encouragement contributed much to the profession, the president added.

Moya Quinlan also chaired a primary schools curriculum review and served on the first board of the Irish Hospice Foundation.

 “I would like to thank Moya Quinlan for all she has done for women in law in the past, present, and for future lawyers,” she concluded.

Greatest honour

Moya’s son Michael spoke with some emotion about how important the occasion was for the Quinlan family, and he warmly thanked all of those involved for the tribute to his mother.

Michael quipped that it was ironic that a lecture theatre had been named after Moya, who was known to like to keep things brief and succinct.

The Law Society and the legal profession was extremely dear to his mother’s heart, he said, and being elected president was her greatest honour.

“She had a particular interest in the well-being of the profession and its future,” he added.

“She was once asked, in her 63rd year of practice, what kept her going and why she hadn't yet retired, and she said, ‘I don't regret one day I spent in the legal profession’.”

After the purchase of the Blackhall Place building from the King's Hospital school, his mother toured the country to raise money for its refurbishment from “unconvinced colleagues”, Michael Quinlan said.

“The story goes that this caused fear in many a town as the colleagues thought there were mass audits on the way,” he joked.

Dream

“She was always very appreciative of all those colleagues who contributed at the time – they were brave because they had to follow her dream,” her son said.

Moya Quinlan wanted solicitors to have a base, and she was very protective of Blackhall Place, and was its custodian in the true sense of the word, he said.

It was wonderful to see the Blackhall Place building being widely used, for parchment ceremonies, dinners, CDP events and so on, he said.

The eventual appointment of solicitors as judges also gave her great pleasure, he added.

The Law Society had an education facility that was the envy of most professional bodies, he added.

“It all started with a dream to have a home for the solicitors’ profession,” he said.

Moya Quinlan’s legacy endures in the many colleagues she guided and mentored, he concluded.

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