Ireland: Barristers to walk out again over criminal legal aid fees

Ireland: Barristers to walk out again over criminal legal aid fees

Pictured: Bar Council chairperson Sara Phelan SC

Criminal barristers in Ireland are set to strike again next month following the government’s failure to follow through on a promise to review fee levels.

It follows last year’s unprecedented one-day withdrawal of services on Tuesday 3 October, which forced government ministers to the negotiating table.

The action was taken in pursuit of an independent, meaningful, time-limited and binding mechanism to determine the fees paid to criminal barristers by the DPP and under the criminal legal aid scheme.

Fees paid by the government to criminal barristers were, at the time, more than 40 per cent below 2002 levels in real terms, following a range of cuts applied during the financial emergency.

This was despite a government-commissioned review in 2018 acknowledging that the reversal of the cuts was justified given the level of reform and flexibilities delivered by the profession.

A 10 per cent restoration of fees was subsequently announced in Budget 2024, representing an unwinding of the 10 per cent cut that was uniquely applied to barristers in 2011.

However, even after this 10 per cent was restored, the full range of FEMPI-era cuts that were applied across the public sector continue to apply to the profession, and the unilateral breaking of the link in 2008 to public sector pay agreements has yet to be restored.

Bar Council chairperson Sara Phelan SC said: “The council has at all times made clear, both to government and to our members, that we would be willing to allow a period of time up to June 30th 2024, for the review proposed by the minister for justice in October 2023 to be completed.

“In light of the fact that this review has not yet even commenced, frustration has been growing amongst practitioners. We are simply looking for fairness. We have been seeking pay restoration for eight years.”

Share icon
Share this article: