Attorney General leads tributes to Justice Feeney after sudden death
THE President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns has held a poignant, silent tribute in honour of the late Mr Justice Kevin Feeney.
Attorney General Maire Whelan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter also led tributes from the Government for the popular High Court judge, described by colleagues as one of the greatest lawyers of his generation.
The High Court judge (61), an avid sportsman, died suddenly at his holiday home in Ballycotton, Co Cork, on Wednesday.
Ms Whelan said that Mr Justice Feeney, who was appointed to the High Court in 2006, was a man of great ability and integrity. "His sudden and unexpected death leaves a great void in the Irish legal community," said Ms Whelan in a statement.
"As counsel, he acted in a series of landmark commercial actions, and he was unquestionably the leading defamation lawyer of his generation, making the sometimes recondite nature of libel law accessible for a jury," said Ms Whelan adding that his judgments were informed by his deep knowledge of the law, his robust common sense and his zeal for fairness.
Mr Shatter said that given Judge Feeney's dedication to public service – he chaired the referendum commission during the Fiscal Stability Treaty referendum last year – his death at such a young age is "a loss for the entire country".
"He will be sadly missed by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him," said Mr Shatter.
As a barrister, Kevin Feeney was, for many years, standing counsel to Independent Newspapers, acting for the news group in many of its landmark cases.
Last night Simon McAleese, whose law firm advises Independent Newspapers, said that Mr Justice Feeney was "an exceptionally gifted lawyer" who was the group's "barrister of choice" prior to his appointment to the bench.
"He was brilliant, unfailingly courteous and imperturbable no matter the legal issue facing us," said Mr McAleese.
"A font of sporting knowledge, his razor-sharp wit and irreverent sense of humour made him the best of company. As a judge, he was remarkably talented and hard working. He will be very sorely missed by all of us. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family."
Yesterday, a shaken Mr Justice Kearns held a moment's silence in the Four Courts.
"I would just like to say we have all learnt with deep shock and sorrow of the death of Mr Justice Kevin Feeney," said Mr Justice Kearns before he commenced his list.
"He was a judge held in the highest esteem by the entire judiciary and legal profession and his many friends."
Mr Justice Kearns, who asked the court to stand for a moment's silence in honour of his late colleague and friend – Judge Feeney was a godfather to one of Judge Kearns' sons – said that over the coming days there would be many "well deserved" tributes.
He was married to Geraldine, and had four adult children: Kevin, Andrew, Peter and Barbara.
His brother, John Feeney, was a journalist with the 'Evening Herald' who died in the Beaujolais air crash in November 1984 with eight others.
Another brother, Peter Feeney, is a former head of television current affairs at RTE.
Ms Whelan said that Mr Justice Feeney combined enormous intellectual ability with compassion and courtesy.
"His deft handling of the Criminal Assets Bureau cases was illustrative of his absolute professionalism and his mastery of a developing area of the law," said Ms Whelan.
"He leaves a legal legacy of incalculable value in his body of reported case law, which will continue for many years to be the bedrock of jurisprudence in matters which concern the recovery of the proceeds of crime."