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'Barristers cannot discriminate': Bar Council responds to criticism of FF TD who advised Gerry Adams

In other #GE2020 news, Sinn Féin accused Mairéad McGuinness’ Auschwitz comments of revealing a ‘panic and desperation’.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated Feb 7th 2020, 2:25 PM

THE BAR COUNCIL of Ireland has weighed in on a squabble over an article in the Irish Independent about Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, being hired to act in a defamation case by former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

The article stated that O’Callaghan helped draft a statement of claim in a defamation action against a national newspaper.

O’Callaghan, who is a barrister, responded by saying that it would be a breach of the barrister’s code of conduct to refuse to represent someone legally because of their politics.

Canvassing in Ennis, Co Clare today on the last day of the campaign, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said to RTÉ News that it is “further proof to me that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are just itching to get into bed together”.

This afternoon, the Council of the Bar released a statement saying it is the duty of barristers to be independent and free from any influence. Citing the code of conduct, it said:

“Barristers cannot discriminate in favour of or against any person availing, or seeking to avail, of the services of the barrister on the grounds of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, politics, religion, nationality, national or social origin, national minority, birth or other status.”

Although not referring to the Independent article or Taoiseach’s comments specifically, the Bar Council said that all its members were “bound” to this Code of Conduct to stay in line with the provision that “everyone is entitled to access to justice”.

Elsewhere, Fine Gael MEP Mairéad McGuinness’ remarks about a recent trip to Auschwitz – highlighting the importance of voters being careful with democracy and how they cast their ballot – have been blasted as “desperation” by Sinn Féin.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Cavan earlier this week, the European parliament Vice President reportedly said that a speech she gave outside the Nazi death camp in Poland brought home the importance of being “very careful” with democracy.

The comments came amid the recent surge in poll support for Sinn Féin but McGuinness told reporters that she wasn’t referring to any particular political party when she made the remarks.

“I’m not sure who these comments refer to, but Fine Gael are clearly in a state of panic and desperation if this is the kind of stuff they are resorting to,” a Sinn Féin spokesperson said.

Our democracy is of paramount importance and on Saturday people will have the opportunity to cast their judgement on Fine Gael’s abysmal record in office.

A spokesperson for Fine Gael said it was not surprised that Sinn Féin was trying to “manufacture distractions” and called on the party to explain why a van canvassing for its candidate in the Cavan/Monaghan constituency, Pauline Tully, was filmed loudly playing a pro-IRA song.

Instead of attempting to manufacture distractions, Sinn Fein should explain why their candidate was playing pro-IRA anthems just after the party was forced to address its disgusting treatment of the Quinn family after the murder of Paul Quinn.

It comes after a vehicle emblazoned with the Sinn Féin logo and “Tully” played a Wolfe Tones song featuring the lyrics ”ooh ah, up the Ra” while canvassing in Kingscourt, Co Cavan. 

Footage of the incident was shared on social media and featured on The Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster.

TheJournal.ie has asked Sinn Féin if they have any comment on the incident.

Today is the last day of campaigning in the general election ahead of polling stations opening at 7am tomorrow.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin canvassed in the Turners Cross area of Cork where he grew up and Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald appealed to voters in her home area of Cabra in Dublin.

Labour’s health spokesperson Alan Kelly said health has been the forgotten issue of the campaign and Fine Gael has “nothing done to tackle this persistent and unrelenting issue.”

- With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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Ceimin Burke

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