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McAleese: lawyers must take a stand

21 September 2006

Lawyers must uphold the rule of law in the face of the threat to national security, Irish president Mary McAleese stressed in an address at the Law Society in London.

“Lawyers have choices,” she told delegates at the debate, entitled ‘Lawyers’ independence, the rule of law and national security – striking the balance’. “To be courageous champions of a rule of law which never loses sight of the individual no matter what, and to stand, often lonely and misunderstood in the role of vindicator, judge or advocate for the despised, or to simply be operators of whatever the system decides, like death camp soldiers, the obeyers of orders without whose help husks cannot be hollowed out.”

McAleese said, following the recent terrorist attacks, it is in the “tight spot between the noisy clamouring world... of an understandably angry public and the more reflective confines of the courtroom that an independent legal profession performs probably the noblest role”.

“It is in articulating a determined adherence to the rule of law along with a determined adherence by the rule of law to basic and inviolable precepts of human rights that lawyers performs that essential duty,” she continued. “They are a crucial part of the checks and balances which keep our free, egalitarian, democracies precisely that, free egalitarian societies.”

In the face of perceptions that the Human Rights Act is a ‘charter for terrorists’ and that, as national security is increased, human rights must be eroded, McAleese said: “The rule of law and national security are not opposing forces, nor are they in any sense mutually incompatible.”

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