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Legal eagle has impressive CV and party credentials

OLIVER J Connolly, the new confidential recipient for garda complaints, is a Blueshirt barrister whose hugely successful legal education company, Friary Law, once trained Justice Minister Alan Shatter in the fine arts of mediation.

Defending Mr Connolly's appointment, Mr Shatter -- who received a €1,000 donation from the lawyer in 2007 -- said Mr Connolly had been appointed because he had a superb reputation and was an individual of great competence and integrity.

Mr Connolly certainly boasts one of the most impressive CVs in the Irish legal domain.

He is a member of the Bar in Ireland, New York, England and Wales and Northern Ireland, but is perhaps best known as the business brains behind Friary Law, the country's leading private legal-education body.

Mr Connolly is highly regarded in legal as well as political circles. The Trinity College Dublin law lecturer is a member of the American Arbitration Association, the American Bar Association, and the International Bar Association. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (Fellow), a member of the London Court of International Arbitration and the Swiss Arbitration Association.

Mr Connolly is also a Fine Gael "party man" although his local constituency, Dun Laoghaire, was last night coy about his membership of the group. Frank Butler, the constituency chair, told the Irish Independent that he would "investigate" Mr Connolly's membership.

But senior figures in the party have confirmed that he is a Fine Gael supporter who has attended numerous fundraisers and also canvassed for former Fine Gael senator Eugene Regan.

Mr Connolly, who lives on the Sorrento Road in Dalkey, is described by party members as "a larger-than-life character". He has "made a fortune," according to colleagues, by putting young Irish law graduates and lawyers through intensive study courses to pass the highly coveted New York and California bars.

Mr Connolly was himself a foreign intern with a New York law firm in the early 1990s where he qualified as a New York attorney. Students pay up to €5,000 to complete the New York and California bar programmes where Mr Connolly, the course's director, has won huge acclaim because of the pass rates of Irish students for the notoriously difficult exams.

Friary Law ADR also specialises in training people in mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It is Ireland's largest mediation body and boasts Alan Shatter and Anne Colley, chairwoman of the Civil Legal Aid Board, amongst the eminent legal eagles who have passed through its doors.

Irish Independent