Timeline of key FLAC casework and campaigns:
24 February 2019
1969 FLAC is established by four law students with the immediate aim of providing free legal advice to those who cannot afford it and opens in the offices of Saint Vincent de Paul on Mountjoy Square.
1974 Within five years FLAC has eight centres in Dublin and has taken on over 8,000 cases. The threat to withdraw its services leads to the Government to form a working party on legal aid.
1975 The first community law centre, Coolock Community Law Centre (now Community Law & Mediation Northside) is established.
1976 FLAC engages in significant litigation with cases such as The State (Healy) v Donoghue which establishes the right to criminal legal aid, and C v C which dealt with family law remedies including a wife’s entitlement to a beneficial share in the family home.
1977 The Government committee on legal aid publishes the Pringle Report with recommendations that reflect FLAC’s blueprint of civil legal aid in Ireland.
1979 In Airey v Ireland, the European Court of Human Rights finds that Ireland has not guaranteed effective access to the courts as a result of its failure to provide legal assistance to Josey Airey in her judicial separation proceedings.
1985 FLAC establishes its first Welfare Rights Centres which have a focus on social welfare and employment law.
1992 FLAC is involved in a series of cases seeking equal treatment for married women in social welfare, pursuant to Directive 79/7/EE, three of which are referred to the European Court of Justice. FLAC takes the largest representative action in the history of the State acting on behalf of 1,800 married women claiming arrears of social welfare payments.
2003 FLAC publishes its report ‘An End Based on Means?’ which criticises existing procedures for dealing with debt enforcement as outdated and confrontational.
2009 FLAC established PILA, the Public Interest Law Alliance, to develop public interest law in Ireland.
2011 The High Court decides in Gabriel v Financial Services Ombudsman that it is not a legal requirement for a Hirer to pay up front any monies owed to end a Hire Purchase agreement under the Consumer Credit Act 1995.
2014 FLAC produces a report, ‘Redressing the Imbalance’, on the need for more robust rules to govern the provision of consumer credit and complaints mechanisms against financial service providers.
2015 After nearly 20 years of litigation and campaigning, the Gender Recognition Act 2015 is introduced. Lydia Foy receives her long awaited birth certificate in her female gender, following the first Declaration of Incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights in Ireland.
- 29,000 people receive legal information/advice from FLAC’s telephone information line or free legal advice clinics. There are now 66 FLAC legal advice clinics around Ireland, mainly based in and facilitated by the Citizens Information Services and with the commitment of almost 600 volunteer lawyers.
2017 FLAC secures a number of significant outcomes in cases involving social welfare, direct provision, debt and homelessness. The High Court awards compensation to a woman and child in Direct Provision for the excessive delay in determining her application for subsidiary protection resulting in a loss of child benefit. It also brings the first cases of discrimination by a landlord for refusal of the Housing Assistance Payment to an existing tenant.
- FLAC participates in a pilot project to facilitate legal clinics for Roma and Traveller communities. A significant number of cases arise from these clinics. In 2018 FLAC establishes a weekly legal clinic for Roma in its head office.
- The High Court vindicates the right to a secret ballot for people with a visual impairment in Sinnott v The Minister for the Environment. The case, supported by PILA, is brought by founding member of the Blind Legal Alliance, Robbie Sinnott.
2018 The financial contribution to civil legal aid for victims of domestic violence in the district court is abolished following a successful campaign by FLAC.
2019 In its 50th year President of Ireland Michael D Higgins opens FLAC’s new headquarters at 85/86 Upper Dorset Street.