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Jim O'Callaghan: A great lawyer, a shrewd adviser and a true friend

Although he attained the highest law office in the State, Rory Brady SC never lost his Dublin roots. He was born in Gray Street in the heart of the Liberties, the child of parents who worked in Guinnesses and the grandson of a former Dublin football captain.

His father, John Brady, contested the 1948 General Election in Dublin South Central on a Clann na Poblachta ticket that included Joe Barron, whose granddaughter, Siobhan, Rory was to marry some 40 years later. Rory's politics were moulded by his parents and the Liberties -- he was a republican all his life. He viewed partition as a sectarian solution to a political problem.

Although he had no family connection with the law, after leaving Synge Street he studied it in UCD and the Kings Inns from where he was called to the Bar in 1979. Having trained under Vivian Lavan, he very quickly developed an outstanding junior practice which saw him involved in many high profile commercial disputes. He became a Senior Counsel in 1996 and his meteoric rise continued.

In a profession which can attract affectation, it was always a pleasure to enter a courtroom to hear the unaffected Dublin accent of Rory Brady. His success as a lawyer derived from two qualities. First, he had an outstanding intellect. Second, he had an ability to explain complex matters simply. Being able to combine these qualities with great charm and wit meant that he was a formidable opponent.

Rory's career as a senior counsel commenced with him representing in 1996 the Tribunal of inquiry into the Blood Transfusion Service Board. This Tribunal, chaired by former Chief Justice Tom Finlay, was established in October 1996 and reported in March 1997. It was our least costly Tribunal of Inquiry and was completed within six months. Part of the reason for its efficiency was Rory Brady's ability to get to the point quickly.


One of his other high profile cases saw him representing the boxing promoter Barry Hearn against the Irish world boxing champion Steve Collins. This case produced so many moments of hilarity that the Judge's usher recommended one Friday afternoon that the case be adjourned to the Gaiety. Steve Collins deservedly won that case -- but only after being exposed to a cross-examination by Brady that I doubt he has forgotten to this day.

In 2002, Rory was appointed Attorney General by Bertie Ahern and he served that office with great distinction until 2007. As Attorney, he designed the statutory frameworks for the smoking ban and the mandatory alcohol testing regime. He also took the unusual step of personally representing Ireland against Britain in the international Courts in the Hague in cases concerning Sellafield. Those cases secured for Ireland an enormous increase in cooperation between Ireland and Britain on important issues of nuclear safety.

He was also the architect of the "free to air" legislation which has kept competitive Irish soccer and rugby internationals on free television.

These are some of the achievements of Rory Brady the lawyer when he was AG. However, it was his role as adviser to Bertie Ahern during the course of the peace process that was Rory's defining, although little known, achievement. Yesterday Bertie Ahern said that Rory Brady was his most trusted colleague at the cabinet table and that he was a key adviser right through the entire peace process. His sense of history would have made him an irrepressible force in any negotiations on the national question.

It was also this sense of history that led in 2006 to the Government following his proposal to reinstate the military parade for the 90th anniversary of 1916.

Behind all these successes was a private family man who never wanted any publicity from his close involvement in high politics. His adoring wife, Siobhan, and his beautiful daughters, Maeve and Aoife, have been robbed too soon of their wonderful husband and father. His many friends from the law have lost one of their most convivial and kind colleagues.

Rory Brady served this country as Attorney General -- when he could have remained as a high-earning barrister -- because he believed in public service. He was a great Dubliner, a proud Irishman, an outstanding lawyer, a shrewd political tactician and a loyal and great friend.

Jim O'Callaghan was one of Rory Brady's many friends