Irish judge elected first female President of European Court of Human Rights

Síofra O’Leary will take up the three-year role in November
Irish judge elected first female President of European Court of Human Rights

Irish judge Síofra O’Leary has been elected President of the European Court of Human Rights, the first woman to hold the position.

The Dubliner, who has been vice-president of the court since January, will take up the three-year role in November. She succeeds Iceland’s Robert Spano in the position.

Judge O’Leary studied civil law at University College Dublin until 1989 before completing a PhD at the European University Institute of Florence, Italy.

She then taught in universities around Europe including at the University of Cádiz, University of Cambridge, and University College Dublin before joining the Cabinet of a judge at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

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.

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