European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly delivers 11th Annual Dave Ellis Memorial Lecture

28 November 2017

Peter Ward Emily O'Reilly and Eilis Barry Speirs271117Dublin019

FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) has this evening (27.11.17) hosted its 11th Annual Dave Ellis Memorial Lecture at The Pillar Room, Rotunda Hospital. The annual event celebrates the memory of Dave Ellis, a community activist who dedicated his career to promoting access to justice in Ireland.


The memorial lecture was delivered by European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, who through her work as a journalist, as Ireland’s first female Ombudsman and Information Commissioner, and now as European Ombudsman promotes access to justice for the citizens and residents of the EU.


Speaking ahead of the lecture Ms O’Reilly said: "We should not be naive about justice and about the institutions which are there to serve justice. We need to have a realistic understanding of the context - political, social and global - in which these institutions operate. We need to be vigilant to ensure - in order to avoid what is happening elsewhere - that these institutions retain their independence and their high standards."


Peter Ward, SC Chairperson of FLAC, reflected on the work of FLAC in 2017 at the event and stated that FLAC were particularly pleased that the Chief Justice identified access to justice as an area of priority for the judiciary over the next year, in his recent speech to mark the beginning of the New Year.


Mr Ward added: “It has been extremely difficult to secure political support for adequate funding of civil legal aid. It is quite simply not a compelling political issue. Politicians do not feel any need to prioritise or champion the civil legal aid scheme or access to legal services.”


A presentation was made to Kate Heffernan, the winner of the Thomas Addis Emmet Fellowship 2017, along with the recipients of the FLAC Volunteer Awards and the PILA Pro Bono Awards. The Fellowship is awarded to an Irish law student interested in working on critical social justice issues and developing skills in public interest law practice. Run in conjunction with the University of Washington, the Fellowship allows the recipient to work with a public interest law justice centre at the forefront of human rights and social change in Seattle, Washington.




Notes for Editors:

  • Photos by Derek Speirs will be available for free repro after the event. Please text your e-mail address to 086-2618543 to be added to mailing list for photos.
  • Peter Ward’s comments will be available to download on the FLAC website after the lecture on 27th November at 


About FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres)

FLAC is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice or 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. FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250). Free legal advice is available through a network of volunteer evening advice centres – more at  It also campaigns and does policy & law reform work on a range of issues including consumer credit, personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.


About Emily O’Reilly

Emily O’Reilly was elected as the European Ombudsman in July 2013 and took office on 1st October 2013. She was re-elected in December 2014 for a five-year mandate. She is an author and former journalist and broadcaster who became Ireland’s first female Ombudsman and Information Commissioner in 2003. In 2007, she was also appointed Commissioner for Environmental Information. As former political editor, broadcaster and author, her career attracted significant domestic and international recognition, including a Harvard University Fellowship in 1988 and multiple national awards. She has written three critically acclaimed books on Irish politics and media and is a member of the International Advisory Board of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism. In the course of her journalistic career, she won two awards: Journalist of the Year and Woman Journalist of the year.


About Dave Ellis

Dave Ellis was a community activist who dedicated his career to working with community groups in areas including welfare rights, legal aid, legal education and legal entitlements generally.  Dave was Community Law Officer at Coolock Community Law Centre (now Community Law & Mediation) for more than 20 years.  He subsequently established Community Legal Resource to provide information, training and support for the not-for-profit and community sector.