The death of a leading Irish lawyer was tonight described as a devastating blow to the country’s legal system.
Senior counsel Eamon Leahy, 46, was taken ill suddenly in his Donegal hotel early today and died on his way to hospital in Co Donegal.
His wife, Mary Hanafin, the Government Chief Whip, was travelling on business to Chile when the news was broken to her.
Mr Leahy was senior legal representative for the Garda Siochana at the Morris Tribunal into garda corruption allegations.
Tributes poured in for Mr Leahy from politicians and lawyers across the country.
Justice Minister Michael McDowell said he learned of the “sad and untimely death” of Mr Leahy with a profound sense of shock.
He said: “Mr Leahy was a brilliant lawyer who exemplified the best in the profession he so loved.
“While he was well known for his superb skills of advocacy in representing the State or individuals in criminal cases, Mr Leahy also made an enormous contribution in recent years to the development and modernisation of the wider criminal justice system.”
The lawyer served as a member of the Release of Prisoners Commission and the Expert Group appointed to consider changes in Ireland’s criminal law recommended in a recent report.
He was also chairman of the Legal Aid Board.
Mr McDowell offered his condolences to Mr Leahy’s widow, his family and friends.
Morris Tribunal chairman and former High Court President Mr Justice Frederick Morris called Mr Leahy’s death “an appalling and devastating blow,” and adjourned the inquiry until tomorrow, when the position will be further reviewed.
Before assembling today, the hearing was delayed because of “unforeseen reasons“, and later lawyers and officials gathered in Donegal courthouse to pay tribute to their dead colleague.
Mr Justice Morris said Mr Leahy had been an esteemed colleague, adding: “For the bar to be deprived of his talents at such an early age is nothing short of tragic.
“For his friends, his death is shattering. I and my colleagues on the bench have recognised in Eamon for many years his special and outstanding qualities.”
The tribunal chief said Mr Leahy and his wife’s devotion to each other was “something on which friends constantly remarked“.
Anthony Barr, representing the tribunal, said his senior colleagues Peter Charleton and Paul McDermott had stayed at the hospital together with Mr Leahy’s remains.