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Síofra O’Leary to deliver EU50 Lecture in Iveagh House on St Brigid’s Day

The Department of Foreign Affairs will today mark St Brigid’s Day with a special EU50 Lecture at Iveagh House, delivered by Justice Síofra O’Leary on her first official visit to Ireland since being elected President of the European Court of Human Rights.

Following her lecture, President O’Leary will be joined by Senator Fiona O’Loughlin, Chair of the Oireachtas Women’s Caucus, and Professor Aoife Nolan, recently elected President of the European Committee of Social Rights, to reflect on how membership of the Council of Europe and the European Union has changed Ireland, including by advancing equality.

Ahead of meeting President O’Leary, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Micheál Martin TD said:

‘‘Justice O’Leary has served with great distinction since her appointment to the European Court of Human Rights. A reflection of the esteem in which she is held by peers across Europe, her election as the Court’s first female President is also a source of great pride to us in Ireland. So too are Professor Nolan’s recent election as President of the European Committee on Social Rights and Senator O’Loughlin’s continued leadership at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly. Through their efforts, Ireland’s standing in Strasbourg has never been stronger.’’

Minister of State for European Affairs and Defence Peter Burke TD, who will host the lecture, added:

‘‘On St Brigid’s Day, we celebrate the remarkable contributions of Irish women, at home and abroad. Part of our EU50 programme, this lecture honours President O’Leary’s outstanding personal achievement. But it also celebrates the contribution Irish women have made – and continue to make – across other international organisations, above all the European Union and the Council of Europe. Through their efforts and through membership of these same organisations, Ireland, for all our continued challenges, has become a far more equal and tolerant place.’’  

The event will be livestreamed here

Press Office
1 February 2023

Notes for editors

About the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights

  • Established in 1949, and headquartered in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe is the continent’s largest and oldest intergovernmental organisation.
  • Although it works closely with the EU, the Council of Europe is separate from it, being both older and larger in membership. 
  • Ireland was amongst the organisation’s ten founding members. Today, following the expulsion of the Russian Federation on 16 March 2022, it comprises 46 member states, including the 27 EU member states, the United Kingdom, Türkiye and Ukraine.
  • The organisation plays a leading role in the protection and promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law across Europe and beyond – notably through the European Court of Human Rights, which ensures the observance by member states of their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • The European Convention on Human Rights is also a key element of the Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement saw the Convention’s incorporation into Northern Ireland law, ensuring citizens have direct access to the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Following election by her peers, Síofra O’Leary assumed the office of President of the European Court of Human Rights in November 2022, having served as Vice President since January 2022. She has been a judge at the forty six member Strasbourg Court since 2015, having previously worked at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
  • The Committee of Ministers is the principal intergovernmental decision-making body of the Council of Europe. Chaired on a rotating basis by member states over six month terms, Ireland held the Presidency from May to November 2022.
  • Other bodies of the Council include the Parliamentary Assembly, which last year elected Senator Fiona O’Loughlin to lead an Ad-hoc Committee in planning for a fourth Summit of the Council of Europe Summit in Iceland this May.
  • The European Committee on Social Rights oversees member states adherence to the European Social Charter, which protects European citizens’ social and economic rights. Professor Aoife Nolan was elected as its President on 26 January 2023.

EU50 Iveagh House Lecture Series

  • Since 2012, the Department of Foreign Affairs has hosted a series of commemorative lectures at its headquarters at Iveagh House in Dublin, with distinguished speakers invited to consider seminal events in our state’s history. 
  • Within that tradition, the EU50 Iveagh House lecture series is devoted to reflecting on how, over half a century, membership of the European Union has shaped Ireland and how Ireland, in turn, has shaped the European Union.
  • Part of the Government’s wider EU50 programme, the series features a range of leading voices from across the European Union or, as in the case of President O’Leary, its key partners.
  • For more information see

St. Brigid’s Day

  • Ireland’s diplomatic network, in partnership with local communities, host a series of festivals each February celebrating the remarkable contribution Irish women have made – and continue to make - across the world.
  • In 2024, the state will celebrate the 1500th anniversary of St Brigid’s passing with a special programme of events worldwide.
  • This year, however, is also momentous, with St Brigid’s Day celebrated for the first time by a public holiday, the first named in honour of a woman.
  • For more information, see 

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