Human rights lawyer defended the underdog

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Tributes have been paid to human rights lawyer Pádraigín Drinan following her death aged 75. She has been praised as someone who “championed the rights of others throughout her entire life”.

Ms Drinan, who was a close friend of murdered human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson, died of a heart attack on Saturday at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

An advocate for human rights across the world, the west Belfast woman represented residents’ groups in the Garvaghy Road area of Portadown and Lower Ormeau areas of Belfast in the 1990s in their opposition to Orange Order marches.

Before her law career, Ms Drinan was involved in politics from a young age, joining the Republican Labour Party and the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.

Following the murder in 1999 of Rosemary Nelson by a unionist death squad, Ms Drinan took on her friend’s work. In 2000, she was refused police protection by then British Direct Ruler Peter Mandelson, despite receiving threats from unionist paramilitaries.

Pádraigín worked in the Association for Legal Justice, which dealt with many cases involving internees and their families. They also worked with families in Derry after Bloody Sunday in January 1972, taking statements that later laid the foundation of the Saville Inquiry.

Throughout her career, she represented republican prisoners and struck up a friendship with former prisoner Marie Flynn. Speaking about their friendship, Marie said that they first met over 60 years ago.

“She used to drive her car in her bare feet and I used to think she was mad,” she said.

“Pádraigín always wanted to help the underdog and she was never motivated by making money. She set out to defend people and she defended them to the bitter end.”

UNDER THREAT

In a separate development, another Irish human rights lawyer has said she has been subjected to anti-Irish death threats as well as a personal assault in her chambers in London.

Senior barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher said an unknown individual has been sending her photographs of herself with targets, suggesting she will be murdered like Pat Finucane, the Belfast defence lawyer who was shot dead by an MI5/unionist death squad at his home in 1989.

“I have had an individual targeting me in recent weeks with photographs of me and targets on top and saying you are a human rights lawyer, and I should be like Pat Finucane and other lawyers who have been killed,” Ms Gallagher said.

“There is partly an anti-Irish element to that, and I am afraid there is a growing trend towards anti-Irish rhetoric in the UK a lot of us are ­ seeing at the moment.

Gallagher, who is from Dublin, said other Irish colleagues contacted her with similar stories after she spoke out.

“I personally think it’s related to Brexit and the irresponsible language linked to Brexit.”

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