The former eminent defence counsel Donagh McDonagh, who, on behalf of the Irish Government attended the inquest in Gibraltar into the shooting dead by the SAS of three IRA members, stepped down as a judge of the Circuit Court yesterday.

His calm, professional, and polite approach to everyone who appeared before him in the civil and criminal courts masked a steely character who, as a former Army Ranger, had been a member of the country’s special forces.

While sitting with Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke at the Easter Rising centenary celebrations at the GPO less than three weeks ago, Judge McDonagh remarked that he had taken part in the march past during the 50th anniversary celebrations in 1966.

Judge Groarke, who was joined yesterday by judges, barristers, and senior counsel to mark the retirement, said Judge McDonagh’s life had been most eventful and filled with great variety.

He said Judge McDonagh had been an instructor in mathematics and theory of flight and ancillary subjects in the Apprentice School at Casement Aerodrome in 1968 and held the qualifications to be a commercial pilot.

He was called to the Bar in 1977 and was judge advocate general of the Defence Forces for more than a decade.

Judge Groarke said he had a vast and varied practise in all aspects of legal work — prosecutor for 15 years, and having taken silk in 1999, became an eminent defence counsel before leaving the Bar for the circuit court bench in 2005.

Judge McDonagh thanked his friends at the Bar and solicitors and family, especially his wife, Marie, for constant support.

“A new phase of life begins when a career comes to an end. I wish you all my most sincere goodbyes,” he said.


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