Alumni Stories – Diane Sutton speaks to Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh BL
Welcome to the 11th edition in the series of Alumni Stories with our Member Relations Officer, Diane Sutton. The last conversation in the Series was with Dr Kevin Duffy BL, former Chair 2003–2016, and Louise O’Donnell BL, current Deputy Chair of the Labour Court.
Read their interview with Diane HERE >
In this Series, Diane is chatting to our alumni community focusing on the degree of Barrister–at–Law first before we delve into other course graduates. This initiative will hopefully embrace the diversity of our alumni and members who are practising in the Courts in Ireland and internationally, but also working in many other professions like communications, politics, the public sector, education, and policy. See the full Series so far HERE>
If you are interested in being part of our alumni series, drop Diane an email at MEMBERS@KINGSINNS.IE.
Diane Sutton in conversation with Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh BL
Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh BA, MA, LL, BL, graduated from NUIG and was called to the Bar in 1998. He practices both civil and criminal law in Irish and English and is qualified in Mediation. In addition, he is the Law and Irish Academic Coordinator at King’s Inns, a position he has held since 2010.
A former President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Dáithí has been central in the campaign for the Irish language to gain full official and working status in the institutions of the EU, finally realised on January 1, 2022. He has written on a wide range of legal topics both in Irish and English.
Dáithí’s interest in Irish formed at an early age. Educated at CBS Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, he loved the structure and different dialects, as well as discovering the origin of words weaved through the English language, although he did not achieve fluency until he went to university.
TV programmes such as Crown Court on ITV and Rumpole sparked his interest in law, leading him to a BA in Law & Irish language and Literature at NUIG. He felt no disadvantage not coming from an Irish–speaking or law–related background. He says;
“There was no baggage, no weight to carry. I had family support whatever choice I made”.
University of Galway
Spending a total of ten years at NUIG, in addition to the BA, Dáithí also completed an MA in Modern Irish, and the LLB Bachelor of Laws, to study at King’s Inns. As Education Officer and subsequently President of the Students’ Union, he implemented a bilingual policy within the Union and succeeded in improving the quality and range of services as Gaeilge through several initiatives.
An Erasmus in Wales provided more opportunities to create links to promote and strengthen the practice of bilingualism and learn conversational Welsh in an intensive course in Wales in the summer of 1992.
Dáithí completed the 2–year degree of Barrister–at–Law (BL) course at King’s Inns, then taught in the evenings holding down a part–time job and looking after his young child during his studies. He simply says it was worth it because of this busy time and the hard work involved.
He was drawn to become a barrister as he felt there was a certain freedom in that career path as a sole practitioner. He loved the social side of the Inns and the unique experience that is Dining. He cracked the cutlery conundrum with the mantra, ‘start on the outside and work your way in!’.
Dáithí says he felt a bond and loyalty with people from his class as everyone had the same aim. ‘Any kind of stressful shared experience will bring people together’. Called to the Bar in 1998, he continues to have that collegiality and affinity now; many of his fellow students are now colleagues at the Law Library.
I was interested to know if anything had much changed at the Inns since Dáithí’s time as a student. Although he feels the busy schedule is perhaps more serious and intense, he says;
“The high–quality of current materials provided by experts in their field and the change from a lecture system to collaborative work on the BL flagship course are all extremely positive.”
Daithí has seen massive growth and development over the years in a number of areas.
Life at the Bar
As a fresh–faced graduate devilling under Séamas Ó Tuathail AS, Dáithí remembers the buzz at that time, lunchtime crammed with people settling cases, being ‘at the cutting edge of law‘. Nowadays, he feels the Law Library has a different dynamic, post–Covid, with more colleagues working from home and many court applications being made online. So while it’s still busy, it’s no longer overwhelming.
He cites resilience as a critical skill for anyone starting out at the Bar and the ability to respond to a changing environment. A specialist knowledge to offer will set you apart. New graduates should always be mindful that the case you are handling could potentially be the most significant case of your client’s lifetime ‘and certainly, your client deserves that you do your best’.
Law and Irish Coordinator at King’s Inns
Dáithí is the Law and Irish Academic Coordinator at King’s Inns, responsible for the Advanced Diploma courses in lawyer–linguistics (for employment with EU institutions), legal translation and legal practice through Irish.
Irish course participants study trip 2022 to Brussels and Luxembourg with CEO/Under Treasurer Mary Griffin, Dean Dr Eimear Brown, and Law and Irish Academic Coordinator Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh BL.
Involved in the campaign to include Irish as an official EU language, which commenced in 2003, Dáithí says he knew he also had to be part of the implementation to fill positions once Ireland was granted this status in 2007. Already a tutor at King’s Inns since 2004, Dáithí initially proposed a 6–week course to fill the gap. However, the course expanded to the Diploma level, Dáithí a natural choice for Academic Course Coordinator given his educational background and experience of litigating through Irish. The course has been running since 2010.
Each year Dáithí hosts the Irish language Dining Night for his students and members at King’s Inns, preceded by the Gael Linn debate. Bonn an Phiarsaigh (the Pearse medal) is awarded to the winner, where a sense of humour is advantageous to the participants. The medal is named after the King’s Inns’ alumnus, barrister, teacher and educationalist, writer, poet, scholar and President of the Provisional Government during the Easter Rising 1916, PH Pearse, who fought two Irish language rights cases in the old High Court under British rule as a barrister.
Bonn an Phiarsaigh winner Senan Crawford with Dean Dr Eimear Brown, barrister Rónán Munro SC and Law and Irish Academic Coordinator Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh BL
Each year Dáithí organises a recruitment conference in conjunction with the European Court of Justice to highlight the opportunities for lawyer–linguists with the Court and other EU institutions as well as in the field of legal translation and interpretation in general.
After a hiatus, he is delighted to have it in–person again this year on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. View the conference details here >
Celebrating 25 years at the Bar this year, it’s evident Dáithí enjoys what he does. His accomplishments for the Irish language are many, but he is particularly proud of his involvement in the first case taken through Irish in the European Court of Justice, a judgment which was fittingly given on St Patrick’s Day 2021.
When asked what motivates him in relation to Irish language engagement, he says;
“I was inspired by people such as Douglas Hyde, who was central to the Irish language revival in the late 19th century and who spoke about the recovery of our intellectual and cultural sovereignty, and how the Irish language contributes to an inclusive Irish identity beyond colour or creed.”
Dáithí is married with three children and resides in Ráth Chairn. Some of Dáithí publications include An Ghaeilge sa Dli, aimed at anyone interested in the role of the Irish language in the Irish legal system in Europe and internationally, and Essentials of Irish Law written with the former Dean of King’s Inns, Mary Faulkner.
You can buy the book direct from the publishers here >