'Rights meaningless without access’ says Chief Justice

7 July 2014

July 2014- Susan Denham, 2013 Annual Report Launch
Launching FLAC's annual report 2013, Chief Justice Susan Denham. Photo by Derek Speirs

Chief Justice Susan Denham today said that rights without access to them are meaningless. Speaking as she launched FLAC’s (Free Legal Advice Centres’) annual report for 2013 the Chief Justice said: "My wish is that justice is done for the people of Ireland in terms of their access to the legal system.  Rights are meaningless without access. FLAC is playing an important role in making rights a reality for thousands of people.”

 Both the Chief Justice and FLAC’s chairperson Peter Ward SC highlighted the vital contribution made by volunteer lawyers who gave their time and expertise to the free confidential FLAC clinics run in partnership with Citizens Information Centres around the country. The Chief Justice said “Each lawyer is a representative of the profession.  Each time they treat a client with courtesy, respect and professionalism, that is a victory for the justice system. I have no doubt that this is what happens in all FLAC centres across the country".

 FLACs 2013 Annual Report shows that there are free legal advice centres in 81 locations around Ireland of which 73 return data to the organisation. This data shows that there were at least 13,805 visits to FLAC centres in 2013. FLAC’s Director General Noeline Blackwell said that the overall increase in queries was 10% over 2012 and showed a continuing pressure for people to have timely access to the information and access they need to deal with the many legal relationships everyone has in our society.

 A former  FLAC volunteer  herself,  the Chief Justice commented that  "it is quite obvious  that the  Great  Recession, which has blighted  the lives of so many Irish people, has created an increasing workload  at FLAC.”  Quoting what she called ‘eye-opening’ statistics from the report, she went on to say that the rise in credit and debt queries to FLAC is not surprising in these challenging times” and she noted that FLAC was “continuing its work advocating fairness for those on low incomes dealing with personal over-indebtedness, in these very difficult times”.

 The FLAC annual report shows that the legal rights group has directly helped some 27,546 people around the country with their legal queries in 2013.



Editors’ notes:

  1. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice for all. As an NGO, FLAC relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.
  2. We offer free, confidential basic legal information on our lo-call telephone line at 1890 350 250, and free legal advice through a nationwide network of volunteer evening advice centres (see for a full listing). FLAC also campaigns for legal reforms on a range of issues including personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
  3. The 2013 annual report is available to download from the FLAC website. New information leaflets were also launched today. These leaflets cover: Divorce, Separation, Maintenance, Family Law & Children, Domestic Violence, Wills & Intestacy, Probate, Enduring Power of Attorney, and Landlord & Tenant Law. The leaflets are also available on the FLAC website.
  4. FLAC has released photos from the launch by Derek Speirs for free repro.
  5. You can read the full text of the Chief Justice’s speech.
  6. A briefing on the report’s highlights is available to download.
  7. A more detailed breakdown of data used to compile statistics on centres around the country is also available to download.