The Supreme Court

The Chief Justice's Working Group on Access to Justice

The Chief Justice's Working Group on Access to Justice


Equality before the law is a fundamental principle in a democratic state. To achieve it, there must be equal access to justice. Against the backdrop of this principle and recognising the potential for the judiciary to work with some of the other key actors with an interest in advancing access to justice, the former Chief Justice Frank Clarke established a Working Group on Access to Justice in January 2021, which the current Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell, continues to lead. Other members of the Working Group include: Mr Justice John MacMenamin, former judge of the Supreme Court; Eilis Barry, CEO of Free Legal Advice Centres; John Lunney, nominee of the Law Society of Ireland; Joan Crawford, CEO of the Legal Aid Board; and Joseph O’Sullivan BL, nominee of the Council of The Bar of Ireland.

Conference in October 2021

In October 2021, the Working Group hosted a two-day hybrid conference aimed at informing its views and identifying its strands of work. The conference was borne out of a desire to bring together a wider group of people and organisations with an interest or expertise in access to justice issues, to hear from those with experience of unmet needs, and to facilitate a meaningful conversation about what is needed to improve access to justice. A report compiled after the conference, detailing the various papers and presentations delivered, was launched by the Chief Justice on 22nd March 2022 at the Ballymun Community Law Centre and can be read here.

Conference in February 2023

Arising out of the success of the first event, a second conference was hosted by the Working Group in Dublin Castle on 24th and 25th February 2023. This conference focused on the system of civil legal aid and examined how the review currently being undertaken by the Civil Legal Aid Review Group, led by former Chief Justice Frank Clarke, presents an opportunity to develop a model system in Ireland.  A report detailing the speeches and panel discussions which formed part of that conference was launched by the Chief Justice and presented to the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee T.D., at Montague Court Law Centre on 12th July 2023. That report can be read here.