Chief Justice of Ireland

The Chief Justice of Ireland (Irish: Príomh-Bhreitheamh na hÉireann) is the president of the Supreme Court of Ireland.[1][2] The current Chief Justice is Frank Clarke.

Chief Justice of Ireland
Príomh-Bhreitheamh na hÉireann
Frank Clarke

since 28 July 2017
Member ofCouncil of State
Presidential Commission
NominatorGovernment of Ireland
AppointerPresident of Ireland
First holderHugh Kennedy

Under the Constitution of Ireland, the Chief Justice also occupies certain ex officio positions:

Statutory roles

Under s. 2(5) of the Referendum Act 1998, the Chief Justice nominates the chairperson of the Referendum Commission.

List of Chief Justices

No. Name Term of office Nominated by Appointed by Notes
1. Hugh Kennedy 1924 1936 W. T. Cosgrave (4th Dáil) Timothy Healy Died in office
2. Timothy Sullivan 1936 1946 Éamon de Valera (8th Dáil) Domhnall Ua Buachalla
3. Conor Maguire 1946 1961 Éamon de Valera (12th Dáil) Seán T. O'Kelly
4. Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh
(Carroll O'Daly)[3]
1961 1973 Seán Lemass (16th Dáil) Éamon de Valera Resigned on appointment to the European Court of Justice
5. William FitzGerald 1973 1974 Jack Lynch (19th Dáil) Éamon de Valera Died in office
6. Tom O'Higgins 1974 1985 Liam Cosgrave (20th Dáil) Erskine H. Childers Resigned on appointment to the European Court of Justice
7. Thomas Finlay 1985 1994 Garret FitzGerald (24th Dáil) Patrick Hillery
8. Liam Hamilton 1994 2000 Albert Reynolds (27th Dáil) Mary Robinson
9. Ronan Keane 2000 2004 Bertie Ahern (28th Dáil) Mary McAleese
10. John L. Murray 2004 2011 Bertie Ahern (29th Dáil) Mary McAleese
11. Susan Denham 2011 2017 Enda Kenny (31st Dáil) Mary McAleese First woman Chief Justice
12. Frank Clarke 2017 Incumbent Leo Varadkar (32nd Dáil) Michael D. Higgins

See also


The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was created under the Courts of Justice Act 1924. Before 1922 the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was the highest judicial office in Ireland.[4] Between 1922 and 1924, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was the most senior judge in the Irish Free State. The Supreme Court sits in the Four Courts. When the Supreme Court sits, as it mostly does, in two chambers, the second chamber sits in the Hugh Kennedy Court, named after the first Chief Justice.[5]


  1. "The Role of the Chief Justice". Courts Service. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  2. "Chief Justice of Ireland" is the name under which all Plenary Summonses are issued: "Rules of the Superior Courts, Appendix A, Part I, Form 1". Courts Service. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  3. During his legal career, Ó Dálaigh was known as Carroll O'Daly. See for instance The Irish Law Times and Solicitors' Journal, vol. 103 (1970), p. 289: "The Chief Justice the Hon. Carroll O'Daly"
  4. Source: The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 by Francis Erlington Ball (ISBN 1846300746)
  5. The Supreme Court of Ireland: A History by The Courts Service (ISBN 075571766X)
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