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Use tax breaks to fund pro-bono work – Supreme Court justice
Supreme Court judge, Mr Justice John MacMenamin Pic: RollingNews.ie

17 Feb 2020 / courts Print

Use tax breaks in order to fund pro-bono work – judge

The eligibility limits for legal aid should be updated, a Supreme Court judge has said.

Giving the annual Brian Lenihan memorial address in Trinity College Dublin on Saturday, Justice McMenamin said he had concerns about the high number of lay litigants coming before the courts.

The annual address marks the life and contribution of former Fianna Fáil minister and TCD law graduate and lecturer Brian Lenihan junior, who died in 2011.

“You have this odd situation where if you’re very wealthy, you’re fine,” Justice McMenamin said.

“If you’re someone who is very disadvantaged you get legal aid, but people who are just floating in society, or not floating in society, are left in a very critical situation.”

Building block of democracy

One third of litigants in the lower rung of family courts is not represented, on one side of the case, he said, presenting issues in terms of access to justice, which is a “fundamental building block of democracy”.

He suggested that pro-bono work could be incentivised by tax breaks. Justice McMenamin also praised the character of the late Brian Lenihan, saying he was political “but never partisan”.

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