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Record Supreme Court female presence
Judges Mary Irvine, Elizabeth Dunne, Iseult O’Malley and Marie Baker with Chief Justice Frank Clarke (centre) Pic: Collins

17 Jan 2020 / courts Print

Supreme Court history as four women on the bench

The Supreme Court sat yesterday (Thursday. 16 January) with a record number of women judges on the bench, providing an illustration of how female representation has increased in Ireland over the past 25 years.

On previous occasions, three female judges have sat – and twice in the past, women made up all of a three-judge panel. On Thursday, however, four female judges sat with the chief justice for the first time.

Yesterday’s court consisted of Chief Justice Frank Clarke, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, and Ms Justice Marie Baker.

63 women judges

In 1996, female judges comprised just 13% of the total across all the courts, but that figure has now risen to 38%. There are currently 167 judges in Ireland, of whom 63 are women.

As well as holding four of the nine Supreme Court positions, seven of the 15 Court of Appeal judges – almost half – are women.

This was the first time a panel of five judges of the supreme Court consisted of  four female judges. 

In recent years the numbers of female judges in the court has been high – and four have sat before as part of a full court of seven. Yesterday was the first time such a large percentage of the court sitting was female – 80%. 

In the High Court, there are 11 female judges out of 40 in total, while 16 of 38 Circuit Court judges are women. In all, 23 of 63 District Court judges are female.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland