FG Senator explains law body censure

Cork solicitor and Fine Gael Senator Colm Burke has sought to explain the events which led to him being censured by the Law Society of Ireland.

Mr Burke, a former Lord mayor of cork, was found guilty by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal of misleading an applicant client. He was ordered to pay €3,000 to the society’s compensation fund as well as €500 towards the expenses of the applicant.

In a statement, Mr Burke told how, in 2004, his legal practice and another found that the deduction of 80% of the pensions of public nursing home patients was illegal. He said as a result, emergency legislation was passed a short time later by the Government of the day, “to protect the procedure that was in place and also legalised the previous deductions”.

After the firms threatened a constitutional challenge, the legislation was referred to the Supreme Court, which found in 2005 that it was unconstitutional, and the Government was later forced to bring in new legislation to provide for the refund of nursing home charges illegally deducted from pensions. He said the legislation provided for a refund where a person lived on or after December 9, 1998 in a public nursing home or contracted bed in a private home.

Mr Burke said in the case at the heart of the tribunal, the complainant sought advice on the possibility of issuing proceedings in respect of the estate of one of her late parents who had died in 1995. He said given the year, it did not fall under the new legislation. “I am satisfied I verbally communicated the correct legal advice... at all times. I acknowledge the verbal advice was not followed with a written communication. “The Tribunal has found there was a failure of formal written communication in the case but was satisfied and held that I did not give any undertaking to issue proceedings on behalf of the complainant.”


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