Irish judge creates history by becoming the first woman to lead European Court of Human Rights

Irish judge Síofra O’Leary, who has been elected as the first female president of the European Court of Human Rights, has been hailed as “historic” and “a source of pride” for Ireland.

The Judge from Dublin, who has been vice-president of the court since January, will take up the three-year role in November. replacing Iceland’s judge Robert Spano.

Judge O’Leary completed a Ph.D. at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy after studying civil law at University College Dublin till 1989.

Before joining the Cabinet of a judge at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, she lectured at institutions around Europe, including the Universities of Cádiz, Cambridge, and Dublin.

She was proposed as Ireland’s judge at the European Court of Human Rights and elected for a nine-year term in 2015.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said Judge O’Leary’s election as President was “a mark of the high regard” in which she is held.

“It is a source of pride that the first female President of the Court should be an Irish judge,” he said.

The president of the Law Society of Ireland, Michelle Ní Longáin, congratulated Judge O’Leary on her “historic appointment”.

“As the first woman to be elected to this position, Judge O’Leary will lead the shaping of the future of the European Court of Human Rights. It is very important for women at all levels in the legal profession in Ireland and internationally, and for society as a whole, to see the appointment of a woman judge to such an important role.”

A separate institution that predates the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights was established in the 1950s with the aim of preventing a repeat of the abuses of the Second World War.

Ireland assumed the rotating Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 20 May, a position it holds until November this year.

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