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Seamus Sorahan

COLOURFUL barrister Seamus Sorahan SC who died a week ago was a republican who was not shy of hiding his political leanings, in private or public.

He was probably best known a lead counsel for John Kelly, a Belfast republican sympathiser in the arms trial of 1970, when, along with Charles Haughey and Captain James Kelly, his client was acquitted of illegally importing arms into the Republic.

Mr Sorahan died at the age of 84 last Sunday.

A senior member of the Irish Bar, he was born in Sean McDermott Street, Dublin, in 1924, the son of a shopkeeper and publican. After O'Connell Schools, he studied at University College, Dublin, and the Kings Inns.

Along with Charles Haughey and a group from UCD, in Earlsfort Terrace he pulled down and burned a Union Jack flag flying outside Trinity College on VE day in 1945 after Germany surrendered to the Allies.

He was a close college friend of the late Joe Crystal, who blew up Nelson's Pillar in O'Connell Street and later became a professor of Law.

According to the writer Ulick O'Connor, 'Jim', as he was known to friends, was "the star turn" at the Literary & Historical Society. "I would put him in the tradition of O'Connell and Larkin -- he spoke without notes, every sentence constructed in his head as he gazed at his audience." In the Seventies he was threatened with contempt of court when he attacked the Offences against the State Act, in what the judge described as "soap-box oratory."

In 1976, he represented Noel and Marie Murray in their successful appeal against the death sentence for the capital murder of Garda Michael Reynolds in Dublin, and he also represented one of the four men charged with the Sallins mail train robbery who was convicted but later acquitted on appeal. He appeared in a number of other high-profile cases during that era.

He was a vigorous supporter of the H-block protests in the early Eighties, addressing public meetings and speaking in support of their cause.

Although he was a noted eccentric, he was also a 'Bencher' of the Kings Inn's, the fraternity which runs the Bar in Ireland. Because of his flamboyant character and his long white hair, as well as his turn of phrase, he was a noted figure around the Four Courts in Dublin. He enjoyed good company and, according to Ulick O'Connor, was extremely generous to friends.

Until his recent retirement, he was also one of the few remaining orators at the bar, which he had seen in his life-time become a far more business-like place than when he started his long career.

Mr Sorahan is survived by his wife, Maureen, and his sister Una.

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