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Ex-High Court chief Peter Kelly under pressure to quit Dubai court role after colleague Frank Clarke pulls out

Donncha O’Connell, a professor of law at NUI Galway, said Mr Justice Kelly’s (pictured) position had become 'completely untenable' following the resignation Frank Clarke. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

Donncha O’Connell, a professor of law at NUI Galway, said Mr Justice Kelly’s (pictured) position had become ‘completely untenable’ following the resignation Frank Clarke. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

August 01 2022 02:30 AM


Pressure is mounting on former president of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly to consider his position on the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts (DIFC).

Controversy erupted after the appointment of two of Ireland’s best-known judges to senior court roles in the United Arab Emirates.

But former Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, resigned from the DIFC Courts over the weekend. It came after questions were raised about whether his new position was compatible with his existing role as president of the Law Reform Commission.

  • The decision of Mr Justice Clarke and Mr Justice Kelly to take up senior roles in a commercial court based on common law in the UAE – a country with a chequered record on human rights – has been criticised by several well-known legal figures in Ireland.
  • The head of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Liam Herrick, said the appointments were concerning given the pattern of widespread and serious human rights violations in the UAE. “It is a matter of legitimate concern that two of Ireland’s most senior retired judges were appointed to judicial roles by the UAE government,” he said.

Mr Justice Clarke clarified over the weekend that he had informed the Government via the attorney general, Paul Gallagher SC, about his appointment.

Donncha O’Connell, a professor of law at NUI Galway, said Mr Justice Kelly’s position on the DIFC Courts had become “completely untenable” following the resignation of his colleague.

In a social media post, Prof O’Connell, a former member of the Law Reform Commission, also called for an examination by the Judicial Council about how the controversy arose.

Former government minister and senior counsel, Alex White SC, said the decision of two retired members of the Irish judiciary to take up appointments to the DIFC Courts demonstrated “a major absence of judgment”.

Meanwhile, a retired barrister and human rights campaigner, Bill Shipsey SC who wrote a highly critical article on the appointments last week, said he had texted Mr Justice Clarke to commend him on his “brave and correct decision” to resign..

Labour leader and law lecturer, Ivana Bacik, told the Sunday Independent that she was “flabbergasted” by the two judges taking up the roles in Dubai given both the UAE’s and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s well-documented abuses of human rights.

Mr Justice Kelly, who retired as president of the High Court in June 2020, has made no comment on the issue to date.

Attempts were made to seek a comment from Maynooth University, where Mr Justice Kelly is an adjunct professor of law, without success.

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