Supreme Court pays tribute to 'quintessentially fair' late Chief Justice Thomas Finlay
The Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, has said Ireland and the courts have lost “a truly great man” following the death of the former Chief Justice, Thomas Finlay.
Mr Justice Frank Clarke was speaking during a special sitting today of the court to pay tribute to the late Chief Justice, who died at the weekend.
The Presidents of the Court of Appeal and the High Court, respectively Mr Justice Sean Ryan and Mr Justice Peter Kelly, joined their Supreme Court colleagues while an empty chair marked the absence of Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan, daughter of the late Chief Justice Finlay.
Mr Justice Clarke noted Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan is the most recent appointment to the Supreme Court, having made her formal declaration as a judge of the court just last Friday.
Her father was aware before his death of the fact of her appointment and he was sure that was a matter “of great pride” to the late Chief Justice, he said.
Mr Justice Clarke said this was a “poignant” occasion for the Supreme Court but it would be a short ceremony because, in common with the late Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, Thomas Finlay was a man who would not have wanted “any fuss”.
The late Chief Justice was “modest, quiet, helpful, quintessentially fair”, he said.
He was also “one of the leading advocates of his generation” who had appeared in several great cases of his time. It was “extraordinary” to recall that Thomas Finlay, as a result of his appointment as President of the High Court in 1974, which position also renders its holder a member of the Supreme Court, was a member of the Supreme Court for more than 40 years.
As a judge, the late Chief Justice was able “to make the complex simple” and his judgments read as common sense to the general reader while also being legally precise for the specialist.
The death of Thomas Finlay was a poignant occasion for the Supreme Court and particularly poignant for Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan, Mr Justice Clarke said. The court extended its condolences to her, to her husband Hugh Geoghegan, who retired some years ago as a Supreme Court judge and to her uncle, retired Supreme Court judge John Blayney.
Mr Justice Clarke finished the ceremony with the closing words often used by the late Chief Justice Finlay in the Supreme Court: “So be it.”
The ceremony was attended by the Chairman of the Bar Council, Paul McGarry SC, and other members of the legal profession.