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Barristers in €140m payout over 10 years

ALMOST €140m has been paid to barristers over the past 10 years by the Attorney General with some earning more than €3m.

From January 2002 to August 2013, two barristers were paid €3.2m while seven made between €2m and €3m.

A further 27 barristers earned between €1m and €2m, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show.

RECESSION

The annual spend reached a high of almost €1m in 2008 but has been dropping ever since when the recession hit.

In 2012, €9.5m was paid out to barristers for civil work, including constitutional challenges, judicial reviews, legal advice and commercial litigation involving the State.

Asylum cases have been the busiest area of activity for the Attorney General's office, making up 23pc of all cases it dealt with over the past decade.

Barristers specialising in the asylum area are among the highest earners, with some paid close to €500,000 a year to represent the State in court.

The two barristers who earned more than €3m from the attorney's office since 2002 are senior counsels Siobhan Stack and Sara Moorhead.

The next biggest earner was Feichin McDonagh (€2.9m), followed by Maurice Collins (€2.7m), Robert Barron (€2.6m) and James Connolly (€2.5m), figures in today's Irish Times show.

The highest earner for the past two years has been Emily Farrell, who was paid €520,000 in 2012 and €409,000 in 2011, the figures released show.

Not all the barristers on the list earned high fees, however.

Of 333 individuals on the 2012 list two-thirds were paid less than €20,000. The chairman of the Bar Council, David Nolan SC, said any assessment of barristers' incomes from the State has to incorporate the 50pc cut in fees over the past five years.

"The State should have in place a system where as many barristers as possible are briefed in these types of cases," Mr Nolan said.

EXPERTISE

"That spreads around the expertise and spreads around the income," he added.

The high expenditure on asylum cases, despite the drop in asylum seekers, is expected to renew debate on how to ease the backlog of judicial reviews and improve the system.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said he will enact legislation this year to streamline the application process.

cfeehan@herald.ie


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