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AG says barristers must 'wake up to reality'

THE Attorney General has told barristers to "wake up to the reality" that the public believes the profession is an overpaid elite who has sailed through the recession.

Senior counsel Maire Whelan, in her first major public address since she became chief legal adviser to the State, was speaking ahead of the imminent publication of new laws aimed at increasing competition and reducing fees in the legal sector.

The Government has given a commitment under the EU-IMF deal to introduce, by September, legislation to provide for changes in the regulation of the legal profession and to increase competition in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors.

All three professions have been described as "sheltered".

At the Bar Council of Ireland's conference in Galway on Saturday, Ms Whelan mounted a robust defence of the barristers' profession, insisting that the current arrangement offers the public a low-cost, high-quality service at competitive prices.

She said that the idea of barristers "riding the gravy train through life" had distorted the economic reality of the profession.

Ms Whelan said members of the bar had responded in a dynamic way to the crisis by taking strategic cases to challenge the legality of the actions of the banks.

"Now more than ever, we need to ensure that if decisions are being made that affect the way we operate, the truth about the professional service to wider society must be told," she said.

She also encouraged the bar to explain to the public the basis for legal fees.

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