Limerick man who served as Chief Justice was a champion of legal rights

Former Chief Justice John Murray, who also served as University of Limerick Chancellor.

FORMER Chief Justice and Attorney General, John L Murray, was a champion of legal rights and protections for ordinary people, and a dedicated purveyor of public service, the congregation at his funeral Mass heard yesterday (Monday).

The Limerick City native, (79), died in St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin last Wednesday after he suffered injuries in a tragic fall.

His friend and former Attorney General Paul Gallagher, said Mr Murray was an extremely gifted lawyer, whose belief in democracy and the institutions of society informed all he did and motivated him to a life of public service.

“John was kind, thoughtful, compassionate, he was devoted to public duty, and he believed in honour and truth.”

A former prosecutor in the Limerick criminal courts, Mr Murray later defended the late Independent Fianna Fáil TD Neil Blaney in the 1971 Arms Trial, rose to the highest rank in the Irish judicial system, serving as Chief Justice, from 2004 until 2011, and retiring as a judge of the Supreme Court in 2015.

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As well as serving twice as attorney general between 1982 and 1991, he also carved out an international career as a judge in the European Court of Justice, which Mr Gallagher said was marked by his involvement in many important cases that improved the lives of citizens.

“In particular, he was involved in cases that extended the protections in European law that removed barriers to the internal market; that extended rights of equal pay; and that created the environment in which the future development of the Europeans union could prosper.”

John Murray served as chairman of an anti-fraud committee attached to the European Central Bank, as well as advocacy committees on Ethics and Elections at the European Commission and European Court of Human Rights.

Mr Gallagher said the Limerick lawyer was “a “deep thinker” who “developed ideas”. “He believed in freedom, he believed in rights, he understood obligations, and he saw the law not as restrictive, but as empowering, as a means of improving the lives of citizens.”

Mr Murray represented the State in opposing the action by Independent Senator David Norris aimed at decriminalising homosexuality and,  in his first term as Attorney General, he drafted the wording of what became the 1983 anti-abortion amendment, the Eight Amendment to the constitution.

Mr Murray, who is survived by his wife Gabrielle, and children, Catriona and Brian, brothers Michael, Hugh and Eugene, was laid to rest in Priestnewtown Cemetery, Kilquade, County Wicklow.