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Ten barristers share €3.15m in State case fees

A massive €3.15m in fees relating to medical negligence cases were shared by a total of 10 barristers last year.

One individual alone received more than €725,000.

The revelation comes as it emerged that the taxpayer footed a €62.5m bill in 2013 in settling such negligence cases.

New State Claims Agency (SCA) documents identify that five senior counsel each received payments far in excess of the salary paid to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his senior Cabinet ministers.

RATE

The fees are paid to barristers who represent the State in cases where medical negligence was alleged. Under legislation, barristers, who are sole traders, are paid a daily rate, and the law prevents the Government from hiring them directly on a salary.

The spend has led to calls for the Government to change the legislation to limit the fees being paid to barristers working for it.

The spend has been highly criticised by Public Accounts Committee (PAC) member Sean Fleming, who had been seeking their disclosure for several months.

According to the figures, the highest earner was Murray McGrath, who received €757,728. Mr McGrath has been a senior counsel since 1974 and is an expert in tort and personal injury law. Their fees are inclusive of VAT at 23pc, but even when that is taken into account, Mr McGrath's fees last year came to €583,451.

The next highest paid senior counsel were Emily Egan who received €694,841 in 2013; Patrick Hanratty who received €468,413; Declan Buckley who got €363,911 and Ronan Dolan who received €227,333.

LEGISLATION

The five highest earning junior counsel in 2013 were: Paul McGinn who got €179,357; Brian Foley who received €143,764; Conor Halpin who received €125,080; Pearse Sreenan who received €97,621 and Denise Brett who received €91,982. PAC member Mr Fleming said the figures were "outrageous and a disgrace".

"This gravy train must be de-railed immediately.

"I want a change in legislation to allow the State to hire barristers on salary directly, so the taxpayer isn't having to stomach such extravagant fees," he said.

In total, in 2013, 389 clinical indemnity cases were settled out of court and finalised at a total cost to the taxpayer of €60.1m, €24.5m of which related to legal and expert fees.

A further six cases which went to trial and resulted in a defeat for the State, costing the taxpayer €2.5m and an additional €15m was paid out in settlement in cases by way of mediation.

In 2013, 19 cases were settled by mediation resulted in an average settlement of €776,000.

Fees paid to barristers in 2013

The top 5 Senior Counsel

Murray McGrath - €757,728

Emily Egan - €694,841

Patrick Hanratty - €468,413

Declan Buckley - €363,911

Ronan Dolan - €227,333

Top 5 Junior Counsel

Paul McGinn - €179,357

Brian Foley - €143,764

Conor Halpin - €125,080

Pearse Sreenan - €97,621

Denise Brett - €91,982

TOTAL €3,150,030

HNEWS@HERALD.IE


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