Profile: Yvonne Murphy

By Carol Coulter
Irish Times
July 14, 2011

WHEN THEN minister for justice Michael McDowell set up a Commission of Investigation to examine the abuse of children by priests in the Dublin diocese, he chose Circuit Court judge Yvonne Murphy to chair it.

Following the completion of this widely praised report, she was asked to examine the abuse of children in the Cloyne diocese.

The commission was set up under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, which allowed for the setting up of a type of inquiry which was more cost-effective and efficient than a tribunal, and so it proved to be.

Judge Murphy was assisted by barrister Ita Mangan and solicitor Hugh OíNeill. The commissionís task was to investigate the handling of allegations of clerical child sex abuse in Dublinís Catholic archdiocese by church and State authorities covering the period January 1st, 1975 to April 30th, 2004 (when Cardinal Desmond Connell stepped down as Archbishop of Dublin). It was expected to cost ą5.7 million and to investigate a representative sample of cases. It examined the contacts between the church, State and local authorities once allegations had been made, or before they were made.

The commissionís work was done in private, with confidentiality expected from and assured for participants. This hugely reduced its costs. Owing to the volume of material dealt with, it sought an extension of time and produced a devastating report on the Dublin diocese in 2009.

One of characteristics of the report was its clarity of expression and the uncompromising nature of its conclusions.

Born in Co Donegal, Judge Murphy was educated in boarding school in Kiltimagh, Co Mayo. She began working in the Civil Service after leaving school in 1967, studying law part-time in UCD. There she met Adrian Hardiman whom she married in 1974. They have three sons.

Although she was called to the Bar in 1971, she did not practise immediately, working in Aer Lingus and later with the National Social Service Board as its head of information. In 1979 she joined RTE, where she worked for three years. She left RTE to work as special adviser to former Labour Party tanaiste Michael OíLeary.

When he lost his seat, she edited the specialist publication Industrial Relations News for two years. She began practising as a barrister in 1984, initially focusing on employment law. She was vice-chair of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Employment Equality Agency.

In 1998 she was appointed as a judge of the Circuit Court. From 2003 until her appointment as commission chair she also sat on the Special Criminal Court.

Ita Mangan was called to the Bar in 1987 but never practised, working in welfare rights until her appointment to the commission.

Solicitor Hugh OíNeill qualified in 1980 and worked with solicitor Marcus Lynch prior to his appointment.


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