06 March 2020
The Bar of Ireland-commissioned portrait now on permanent display at King’s Inns
A portrait of Ms Justice Mary Laffoy by the award-winning artist Hetty Lawlor, has been unveiled as part of The Bar of Ireland’s International Women’s Day celebrations.
The portrait, which was commissioned by The Bar of Ireland in honour of Justice Mary Laffoy’s extraordinary contribution to the legal profession, will be on permanent display on the walls of the King’s Inns.
Ms Justice Mary Laffoy is a former Supreme Court judge and current President of the Law Reform Commission. Called to The Bar in 1971, she was appointed a judge of the High Court in 1995 and the Supreme Court in 2013. She chaired the first Citizens’ Assembly from July 2016 to 2018, and she was also appointed the first Chairperson of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, in 1999.
Justice Laffoy addressed The Bar of Ireland’s Annual International Women’s Day Dinner on the issue of gender equality in legal practice and wider society. Expressing her support and optimism for the work of the Citizens’ Assembly, Justice Laffoy called for a collective response to the issue of gender equality, inviting the invited guests at the event to be ‘each for equal’.
The portrait, which took just over two months to complete and is created in the realistic yet magical and vibrant style synonymous with the 20-year-old artist from Westport, will be the third portrait of a female judge to hang on the walls of the King’s Inns, joining the portraits of Susan Denham and Mella Carroll. Hetty’s portrait of Ms Justice Laffoy is only the seventh portrait painted by a woman which will be on permanent display in the King’s Inns.
Ms Justice Mary Laffoy said; “The race is on for gender equal boardroom, a gender equal government, gender equal media coverage, gender equal workplace, gender equal sports coverage and more gender equality in health and wealth. The legal profession is not immune to gender inequality, with females currently representing 38% of practicing barristers, 17% of senior counsel, 38% of the judiciary, and 52% of practising solicitors. It is encouraging that steps have been taken at a national level to achieve gender equality, in the current Citizens’ Assembly. The Assembly has a very difficult task but the appointment of Dr Catherine Day in the role of Chairperson, formerly the EU’s top public servant, suggests to me that the Government and Oireachtas genuinely want to make gender equality happen. I am honoured to have my portrait join that of others on the walls of the King’s Inns, and I am especially honoured that it is the creation of such a talented, young female artist as Hetty Lawlor.”
Chair of The Bar of Ireland Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee Moira Flahive BL, said; “Ms Justice Mary Laffoy is one of the most distinguished and accomplished figures in the legal profession and we are delighted to honour her tonight, as part of The Bar of Ireland’s International Women’s Day celebrations. She has been a fearless advocate for justice throughout her career and she has made a remarkable and indelible mark on the legal system. She is renowned for her integrity and she is a true role model for anyone, not just females, with aspirations for a legal career. The beautiful portrait by Hetty Lawlor will be a constant reminder of the contribution that she has made, for all future students passing through King’s Inns. Initiatives to enhance the visibility of leading women are emerging across a number of sectors and the Bar is playing its part to celebrate and to enhance the visibility of prominent female members of the legal profession.”
Artist Hetty Lawlor, said; “I was delighted to be approached by The Bar of Ireland to undertake this commission. When I first visited the King’s Inns in March of last year, I was struck by the lack of female subjects in its vast collection of artwork. It was therefore great to have been involved in enhancing the profile and the visibility of women in law. I am also personally delighted to see my work displayed alongside renowned Irish female artists Sarah Purser and Sarah Cecilia Harrison.”